Talk:Learning Learning/Parable 2
What is foo and foobar? These terms are often seen in American documents about programming where they are often used as items in examples. Are they phrases from some well-known American children's book or something like that, something which Americans have known about since childhood yet which are unknown as regards their origin to people elsewhere?
- Foobar derives from an acronym, FUBAR, that was used by the American (and British) military during World War II. It is commonly said to stand for Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition, although there is a much less polite interpretation. I don't know the history of how it became popular in computer science, but by the time I came to MIT in the mid70s, it was quite commonplace as a variable name in programming examples. (See the Wikipedia entry). Walter 21:11, 30 April 2006 (EDT)
For an actual historical example of rapid attainment of literacy, it is said that when Sequoyah brought his new alphabet to the Cherokee people, they all became literate within two months. Whether or not that is factual, the literacy rate was high, and there were a number of regular publications in Cherokee within the year.
For another, the most effective method of raising literacy in India turns out not to be classes or computer software, but Karaoke-style captioning of Bollywood movies. People routinely go to watch the same movie five or more times, and the whole audience sings along with the musical numbers.
Raymond Kurzweil has pointed out that English has more than 2,000 spelling rules with more than 2,000 individual exceptions such as 'rough' and 'though'. In languages with a closer correspondence between letters and sounds, literacy follows almost immediately after learning the alphabet.
One person who got the connection between computers and literacy early was psychologist Omar Khayyam Moore [sic], who programmed an IBM 360 in the 1960s to teach his 3-year old daughter to read and write.
adoption of pencil and paper
The adoption rate of pencil and paper by *all* of the people in Foobar would be given a huge boost by using the pilot school model. The one pencil per class model would not create the centers of influence or social acceptance needed to spread adoption. I'll bet the pricnipal had his own pencil on a table near his desk so visitors and empoloyees could see how progressive he was. Bob calder 20:30, 2 December 2006 (EST):
- (comment) The rhetorical trick behind this learning parable is quite obvious, and it is supposed to make you despise the befuddled politicians that just cannot see the radical goodness of pencils and papers. Poor confused politicians. While we, the smart readers, laugh. And we are supposed to apply this parable to the OLPC machine. But let us suppose that there was one Foobarian politician that said Say, why don't we try this radical pencil and paper tech in a couple of pilot schools? After all, it is not as if it were cheap, and in a few years we will see whether it is good or not. We don't want to repeat the mistake made when we tried massive adoption of the chisel-hammer-slab technology, and kids kept getting their fingers squashed. Not to mention the noise.
- Would that politican be doing a service or a disservice to Foobar?
- (comment from a highschool math teacher) One pencil/pad in a classroom sounds ridiculous but there is a very closely related technology which evolved into this configuration. In the 19th century most classrooms had a slate blackboard as well as individual writing slates for student use. Then, as paper became more affordable, tablets replaced slates for student use, but blackboards remained ubiquitous as a presentation tool. The question educators must always ask themselves is: How can students best learn? I have much technology available in my classroom including laptops for all, handhelds for all, digital projectors, etc. and I do use digital technology frequently, but sometimes students learn best by just going to the blackboard and working.
- (comment) An important point to consider about this parable is the impact of the new technology to the culture, traditions and creative processes of the people of Foobar. Might it no align the parable with the OLPC project more closely the parable to add that this new technology or pencils and paper and reading and writting was brought into the country by well-meaning missionaries from abroad? Also, the introduction of two technologies is really being discussed; Pencil/Paper and Reading/Writing. These are discrete inovations and to take both on in a single leap from an oral tradition might not be a very natural evolution. And what about those oral works? How can the impact to the cultural heritage of the society be measured? What if the missionaries had brought tape recorders or video cameras? The children could skip right over laerning to write. Or hey, how about laptops with cameras?
from a self-proclaimed (anonymous) grumpy vandal
Moral: Never forget that we're marketing $200 Pencils to the desperately poor, and calling it charity.
See also: One Blackboard Per Classroom for a more realistic view of 3rd world education needs and budget shortfalls, One Genius Per Classroom for the dangers of overestimating the value of an approach based on the successes of pilot programs run by highly involved, motivated, and talented researchers, Don't Bother Teaching Arithmetic To Children In Scrap-Tin Slums, Since Everyone Can Always Just Use A Calculator, and When The Fool Pokes His Finger At A Child's Eye, The Sage Bites It.