Educational activity guidelines
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The Educational Activity Guidelines cover similar ground to the OLPC Human Interface Guidelines but are targeted to a different audience-- the community of educators interested in creating activities, lesson plans, and/or curricula for the XO laptop. These guidelines provide an in-depth view of various features of the XO and its user interface, and focus closely on aspects of the XO that pertain directly to the development of educational activities.
- Expand "Key Design Principles." See: Educational_activity_guidelines#Key_Design_Principles
- Expand feature walk-throughs ("The Laptop Experience") and "Additional Features." See: Educational_activity_guidelines#The_Laptop_Experience and Educational_activity_guidelines#Additional_Features.
- Add links to example activities.
Educational Activity Guidelines
This document is a work in progress. In particular, some of terminology has not yet been finalized. In order to signal that we have not yet decided on the particular language of certain terms, we will place the terms in brackets like [this].
Who Should Read This Document
These guidelines cover similar ground to the OLPC Human Interface Guidelines but are targeted to a different audience-- the community of educators interested in creating activities, lesson plans, and/or curricula for the XO laptop. These guidelines provide an in-depth view of various features of the XO and its user interface, and focus closely on aspects of the XO that pertain directly to the development of educational activities.
How to Read This Document
Each of you brings a unique set of ideas and experiences to OLPC. Nonetheless, we strongly suggest that you read the this document in full. Many of the terms it contains will be familiar to you, but we urge you to review them anyway. Our approach to [computer-based learning] shifts away from some traditional models, and this document may introduce some unfamiliar ideas around such otherwise familiar terms.
While we suggest that you to read this document once from start to finish, extensive use of both internal and external hyperlinking also allows you to peruse its contents at will. Hopefully, this will make revisiting particular parts of the guidelines quick and easy, and will allow you to move naturally through the details that most pertain to you.
You can view the document in three ways-- in its entirety, by chapter, or by page. To get a broad picture or to print a hard copy, you can view the document in full. Alternately, you can use the integrated navigation to move through one chapter or page at a time.
In order to make the relationship between theory and practice more clear, we often include links to sample activities and to anecdotes from our pilot countries. Please take advantage of these examples as you develop your own.
This document remains in flux as the project moves forward. We value any feedback that you might have, and ask that you share your thoughts and suggestions via the talk pages. Discussions surround each tier of the document; if you have specific comments, please post them in the discussion for the corresponding page. For more general comments, feel free to use the talk pages at the chapter level or for the EAG as a whole. Links to the talk pages reside next to the section headers.
On the laptop, there are no software applications in the traditional sense. Instead, the XO focuses children around the concept of the activity. Programs, projects, lessons, games-- these are all activities. On the XO, they are linked in their shared focus on collaboration and expression, and in their common methods of implementation, emphasizing journaling and iteration. Our hope is that children will come to recognize the activity as an intrinsic part of their learning experience.
The concept of the journal as a written record of daily life is generally understood across cultures, albeit in various forms. Typically, a journal records the activities and events of a particular person on a particular day. We have chosen to adopt this metaphor-- the metaphor of the journal-- as our approach to organizing files on the XO.
Our Journal embodies the idea that the laptop should record a history of the things its user has done, or, more specifically, the activities the child has participated in. The Journal naturally lends itself to chronological organization (although it can be tagged, searched, and sorted by a variety of means). The Journal reads like a portfolio or scrapbook, recording not only the files, photos, and other digital objects that a child has saved, but also the child's interactions with the laptop and with his or her peers. The Journal combines entries intentionally created by the child with entries that are automatically created through participation in Activities. Educators should think about the ways in which they can incorporate the journal into their activities. need example.
Communication and Collaboration
Everyone has the potential to be both a [student] and a teacher. In order to realize this potential, we have chosen to put collaboration at the core of the XO experience. The presence of other members of the learning community on each laptop will encourage children to take responsibility for their [classmates] learning as well as their own. This exchange of ideas both engages children in the learning process and stimulates their critical thinking skills.
In order to facilitate this collaborative learning environment, the laptops employ a mesh network that connects all laptops within a certain range. Because of the mesh network, every activity can be a networked activity. We aspire towards activities that take advantage of the opportunities for communication and collaboration that the mesh network allows. If your activity does not currently take advantage of the mesh network, please consider rethinking it in terms of this connected environment. For instance, need example. Whenever possible, activities should embrace this connectivity and emphasize the full range of collaborative processes that it makes possible.
Starting from the premise that we want to make use of what people already know in order to make connections to new knowledge, our approach focuses on thinking, expressing, and communicating with technology. The laptop is a "thing to think with." We hope to make the primary activity of the children one of creative expression, in whatever form that may take. To that end, activities should focus on the creation of some type of object, be it a drawing, a song, a story, a game, or a program.
As most of us would agree, the best way of learning is by doing. We hope to apply the principle of "learning by doing" to all types of creation. For example, we emphasise composing music over downloading music, writing programs over running them. An essential part of the process of learning by doing is the process of collaborative critique, and the subsequent process of iteration that incorporating relevant revisions entails. A classroom activity based on the model of "learning by doing" should incorporate all three phases-- creation, critique, and revision. A sample activity might be: need example.
Know Your Audience
The goal of OLPC is to provide children with new opportunities to explore, to experiment, and to express themselves. Many children in need of such opportunities have had little or no access to computing, and-- at least initially-- will be unfamiliar with the laptop and how to interact with it. This means, on the one hand, that educators should focus energy on making their activities intuitive, and on building metaphors that clarify and strengthen the connection between the laptops and the overall learning experience. On the other hand, this means that activities do not have to adhere to traditional models or behaviors, since the XO will be the first experience of computing for many of the children. This should free you to innovate.
Many of the children receiving laptops will be as young as five or six; others will be in their mid-teens. Those that receive laptops at a young age will continue to use them throughout their education. Therefore, it is important to develop activities for a range of ages, or that scale well across age levels.
The OLPC initiative, by its nature, requires international involvement and participation. Educators must keep in mind the broad range of cultures and languages that the laptops must transcend. In particular, activities should not (necessarily) depend on western modes of thinking. Rather, they should abstract ideas to concepts that are familiar to children worldwide. For instance, consider the camera button on the keyboard. Though one might be inclined to label this key with a small image of a camera and lens, the eye graphic speaks directly to our human capacity for vision, providing a cross-cultural icon that represents the computer's ability to capture what it sees. As an example of an activity, need example.
Key Design Principles
We believe that children learn best by doing-- that is to say, when constructing new knowledge for themselves. The goal of the XO, and of the activities designed to accompany it, is to give children more opportunities to construct new knowledge, and in better ways than they could before.
Constructionist activities are often freeform and involve aspects of play. Activities designed for the XO should incorporate time for children to explore on their own and in groups of peers.
Collaboration lies close to the core of the XO experience. The presence of other members of the learning community on each laptop will encourage children to take responsibility for their [classmates'] learning as well as their own. This exchange of ideas both engages children in the learning process and stimulates their critical thinking skills.
Activities should build in opportunities for collaboration-- in the classroom, over the mesh network, and on the internet.
Iteration and Constructive Critique
Children learn by doing, and by doing again.
Adaptability and Localization
The XO laptop will be used in a range of environments to meet a range of educational needs.
Activities should anticipate and, if possible, provide suggestions for location-specific adaptations, as well as adaptations for varying levels of internet connectivity.
As with all portable computers, a general notion of mobility is intrinsic to the laptops. In the hands of children, however, the concept of mobility takes on an additional level of importance. We can expect that children will carry their computers to and from school, on hikes, onto playgrounds, and to any number of other locations where they can learn and experience the world.
The XO has been designed with ruggedness in mind. The important thing to consider is the effect such mobility can, and should have on the activities themselves.
OLPC hopes to extend its own ethos of exploring below the surface to the children who use its laptops. The XO keyboard includes a "view source" key, enabling children to explore below the surface of the Activities they use from day to day.
Along the same lines, any lesson plans that accompany an activity should be written in language that kids can understand, as they will be bundled with the actual activity.
HIG Key Design Principles
Many of the key design principles for software development are relevant as well.
The Laptop Experience
Each XO has "mesh" networking capabilities that allow it to connect to any laptop around it. This makes it easy to kids to collaborate on activities.
See Bulletin Boards.
See View Source.
See The Journal.
See Global Search.
The following activities are currently included on XO.
The Read activity provides an intuitive interface for viewing all kinds of text- and image-based book-type materials. It has a separate set of simple navigation controls used during hand-held mode, and has extremely low power consumption. For more information, see Read.
The Write activity serves as the basic text editing application on the laptops. Its simple interface provides an easy starting point for children, presenting tools that make writing a story, poem or essay simple and straightforward. It also supports basic tools for inserting images, creating tables, and performing basic layout operations. For more information, see Write.
The XO web browser. For more information, see Browse.
A Tetris-like game for the XO. For more information see Block Party
eToys is a media-rich authoring environment based on a simple, powerful scripted object model. eToys incorporates 2D and 3D graphics, images, text, particles, presentations, web-pages, videos, sound and MIDI, and more. eToys users can share their desktops in real-time, enabling many forms of immersive mentoring, collaboration, and play. eToys is multilingual, and has been successfully used in the USA, Europe, South America (Brazil, Colombia, Argentina), Asia (Japan, Korea, India, Nepal), and elsewhere. For more information, see eToys.
TamTam is a suite of four music- and sound-related activities for the XO.
miniTamTam is an introductory music activity aimed at younger children. Children choose amongst dozens of different sounds that can be played polyphonically on the XO keyboard. There is a small "beatbox" to generate rhythms, and a simple sequencer to record short snippets of keyboard playing.
synthLab is a more advanced application for children who are ready to venture into sophisticated sound design. synthLab is a physics lab and sound synthesizer modeled on Max/MSP.
TamTam Edit features a powerful music generator, the ability to create, modify and organize notes on five virtual “tracks”, a "palette" of nearly one hundred sounds, and a music construction model that allows virtually limitless variations in all musical styles.
TamTam Jam consists of a collaborative playing and composing tool. It will be forthcoming as soon as the mesh network technology stabilizes.
For more information, see TamTam.
For more information, see Calculate.
Additional Activity Bundles
The XO comes with several pre-installed Activities. Others can be downloaded and installed. OLPC is particularly interested in activities, lessons, and curricula that make use of these applications.
Microphone and Speakers
Each XO comes with a built-in camera, so taking pictures and making videos are easy to do. The camera can also be used for videoconferencing.
The XO has a "hand-held" mode, so that kids can take their laptops out of the classroom and into the real world. In tablet mode, the screen outputs high-resolution black and white graphics that are visible in the brightest of sunlight.
See Hand-held Mode.
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