Are we finally Learning Learning after 3 years?

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Presentations

Education is a world problem; people want to solve this; many ideas are put forward for what to do about it; sometimes effort gets so focussed on one idea, like educating teachers or building schools, that they fail to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Different speakers discussed lessons learned:

  1. Walter Bender
    1. Informal time with the machine is always going to amplify the learning. This is the most important thing we can do. This should include informal time at school when the teachers and other students are around as well as when they take the laptops home.
    2. 1-1 time for the children with the laptops cannot always be achieved. In this case, finding ways so they can have at least some 1-1 time, even if it is taking turns using the laptop in the class environment.
    3. Stories
      1. Kids put stickers on their XO laptop... despite the laptop actually being designed to prevent them from doing this... they found a way, and increased their sense of ownership through personalisation.
      2. A boy was using chat in class. It turns out he was chatting to his girlfriend... who was sitting across the table from him. Perhaps the children had said they could not talk... so he was using chat to talk. He was writing. Playful yet still learning as a natural side effect of having to use the technology to express himself using the written word.
  2. Morgan Ames
    1. The Scratch and Turtle Art activities lend themselves to constructionism especially if students are deeply involved in using them
    2. Producing ‘works of art’ in applications like paint, scratch, and turtle art can be a strong source of self esteem for them. Many students have become self styled creative thinkers expressing themselves through the art of turtle graphics. They call themselves ‘scratcheros’ and ‘etoyseros’.
    3. Currently upgrading the software on the XO laptop results in the loss of the childs data, such as programs they have written in turtle art. Some children are so proud of the work they have done that they copy the programs into their paper books so they can recreate them once their laptops are upgraded.
    4. Websites
      1. http://tinyurl.com/Analisis-actividades (http://wiki.paraguayeduca.org/index.php/Analisis_de_Uso_de_Actividades)
      2. http://tinyurl.com/Inventario-en (http://wiki.paraguayeduca.org/index.php/Inventario_manual/en)
      3. http://Morganya.org
  3. Bernie Innocenti
    1. It is very important to prepare the families before allowing the children to take the laptops home as this can be very disruptive; many homes do not have any form of technology or even power
    2. A local news paper in Uruguay is running regular news articles on turtle art showcasing different programs you can create to draw different shapes and patterns
    3. Children are able to use multiple activities in concert to do what they want to do... they find a way. For example, taking a photo of themselves with the camera and then retouching the image in eToys to make the image more cartoon like before adding it to scratch to be a character in a story.

Q&A

  1. To what extent do the games the children are downloading help with their education?
    1. It really depends on the nature of the games and also where they came from; for instance there are video games available for the XO that were developed by children in the XO community; this is a creative process and one of sharing and learning where children can see what is possible – what other children have achieved, and also get feedback on what they have done and how to improve it; this in itself encourages communication and learning, in how to express, and read, and write, and express themselves.
    2. In general educational games are popular now. It’s important to make sure the games are designed in the right way to ensure the kids are learning the right things. For example, a game where the kids are asked to click on the even numbers as various numbers falls from the sky ends up teaching the kids nothing if the game always paints even numbers blue and odd numbers red.
  2. How can we actually achieve a constructionist approach?
    1. Don’t try and describe it and sell it. It’s difficult to describe and anyway its about behaviours, so experiment and highlight the cases where people are being naturally constructionist in their behaviour. It’s not OLPC’s job to sell constructionism, its more our duty to observe and see what is happening – how are they learning? What does this new technology mean to them and how does it enable them to learn in ways they could not learn before?
  3. Where should the border between the educational system, the government and OLPC?
    1. We should all go in thoughtfully, respectfully, looking at what is going on on the ground and see how we can help and be involved in the diaglogue
    2. In Uruguay and Paraguay they have had a strong technical team who has been able to do a lot themselves but in other cases it may be necessary for others to go out and help train people and raise awareness
    3. We want to try to make good things happen.... not try to prevent the bad things from happen, but skew the odds so that the things we believe are important to learning do happen... We do this by
      1. The way Sugar works
      2. Insisting there is informal time available in the learning
      3. Enabling collaboration
      4. Enabling reflection; in the journal, and in the way we support the sharing of content, activities and lesson plans
    4. Within any deployment, those of us that are involved can try to emphasize these things.
    5. We can give kids books in the form of a PDF or a wiki. Either way they read the book... but if we give them a wiki then they are much more likely to make comments and share notes... and make good things happen more often
    6. We should not be neutral about these things, we should be explicit and proactive
    7. It is important that we consider caring for the whole child... not focussing too much in one area and challenging details but ensuring the overall process of learning is more effective... there are ways that we can keep developing and stretching the software to make the XO more able to support the kids who are coming up with the ‘How can I do this?!’ questions
  4. If you are trying to convince somebody of this higher purpose how do you describe it other than by individual anecdotes about the learning experiences of particular children?
    1. You can see that children are becoming participants rather than consumes of the products. They are consumers, but they are becoming producers. For instance, we have a developer in the room who is 14, and is already uploading developed activities to the sugar website. This is also happening in Paraguay. There is a 16 year old who has become productive and able to create activities that other children younger than them can use. This can happen in any place. This is the full circle. This year this is happening. It has taken 2-3 years to get there.
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