Monday, December 03, 2007

the grammar of school reforms the reforms before the reforms can reform schools

It is interesting to compare these two articles:
The Laptop Revolution Has No Clothes by Larry Cuban

The Laptop Revolution not only has clothes but also will change the fashion of learning by David Cavallo

Best to read all of both articles. The reforms quote apparently comes from Seymour Papert and is quoted in David Cavallo's article

one laptop per child skeptic, Larry Cuban:
The University of Southern California psychologist Richard E. Clark put it succinctly: Media like television, film, and computers "deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition." Alan Kay, who invented the prototype for a laptop in 1968, made a similar point when he said that schools confuse the music with the instrument. "You can put a piano in every classroom, but that won't give you a developed music culture, because the music culture is embodied in people." The music is in the teacher, not the piano.
- The Laptop Revolution Has No Clothes
Reply by OLPC advocate, David Cavallo:
Alan Kay is exactly right when he describes that the development of the culture is key, that the culture is embodied in the people. However, Alan Kay is a key participant in OLPC. Why? Because 1:1 access to laptops creates the environment with the greatest potential for a culture for learning to be developed. The music is not only in the teacher, as Cuban claims. Teachers, music that people have already created, devices to enable listening to music, discussion and criticism about music, musical instruments, radios, concerts, stereos, CDs, MP3s, and so on comprise the culture into which a child can enter. The child learns by participating in the culture, by playing music, by learning. This is what needs to be developed for better learning environments. And ubiquitous access to laptops for learning is a fundamental element towards creating a rich, robust, equitable learning culture.
- The Laptop Revolution not only has clothes but also will change the fashion of learning
How do we resolve this tension between "the music is in the teacher, not the piano", on the one hand, and, "personal laptops create great learning environments", on the other?

I think the answer is that we don't resolve it but we live with it and do our best according to our circumstances. There is some truth to both sides of this argument. Personal laptops are good. Great teachers are good. Having both is even better.

Is that too simple? Possibly, I'd be interested in a deepening of this dialogue. I don't think either side won this exchange.


Darius said...

What if we work it in reverse? What if we take all the current pianos away? Would that affect our cultural development? I think... perhaps.

Asian pianists had been better that Americans recently because of a strong sense of competition. When one's on top, the drive to compete is minimal, no mater the teachers or equipment.

There's a principle that there must be a broad infrastructure in place or broadly adopted before culture follows. Internet before web. Ships before Hellenization. Roman roads before Roman Empire. Books before literacy. Why is this too hard to see?

Bill Kerr said...

hi darius,

Yes if you take the infrastructure away then that makes everything much harder and many things impossible.

So, laptops provided significant infrastructure and that's great. Kids can learn computers up to a point on their own without adult help. (Indian hole in the wall experiment ) This is good too.

But it's much harder to persuade teachers to use computers in new ways that transforms the curriculum into something more powerful. In some sites where tremendous gains were made it has been rolled back once some key leadership people moved on elsewhere. eg. some of the early laptop schools in Australia

Social being determines social consciousness - fundamentally - but social consciousness does also impact back onto social being. I don't think we can get away from the dynamics of this inter-relationship.