Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ivan Kristic's challenges

I also agree that Ivan Kristic's recent blog, sic-transit-gloria-laptopi, is a must read, warts and all, for its passion and the challenging way in which it airs some important questions, such as:

Can constructionism scale?
As far as I know, there is no real study anywhere that demonstrates constructionism works at scale. There is no documented moderate-scale constructionist learning pilot that has been convincingly successful; when Nicholas points to "decades of work by Seymour Papert, Alan Kay, and Jean Piaget", he's talking about theory.

Is there any evidence that "free software does any better than proprietary software when it comes to aiding learning?"

This insight:
There are three key problems in one-to-one computer programs: choosing a suitable device, getting it to children, and using it to create sustainable learning and teaching experiences. They're listed in order of exponentially increasing difficulty
This assertion:
A Windows-compatible Sugar would bring its rich learning vision to potentially tens or hundreds of millions of children all over the world whose parents already own a Windows computer, be it laptop or desktop. To suggest this is a bad course of action because it’s philosophically impure is downright evil.

This proposal:
I’m trying to convince Walter not to start a Sugar Foundation, but an Open Learning Foundation. For those who still care about learning in this whole clusterfuck of conflicting agendas, the charge should be to start that organization, since OLPC doesn’t want to be it. Having a company that is device-agnostic and focuses entirely on the learning ecosystem, from deployment to content to Sugar, is not only what I think is sorely needed to really take the one-to-one computer efforts to the next level, but also an approach that has a good chance of making the organization doing the work self-sustaining at some point


Tony Forster said...

Can constructionism scale?

What is constructionism? I suppose it is pretty much embodied in Logo and more particularly in the way Logo was intended to be used by Papert, as described in the case studies from the team in the 80's.

Logo failed mainstream deployment, it worked when enthusiastic advocates taught kids but failed when the enthusiastic advocates taught rank and file teachers who then taught the kids.

Pea and Papert disagreed on the reasons. Pea said you couldnt do higher order thinking when you were mired in syntax. Papert said that education was too embedded in the old ways to adopt a new paradigm.

Things are maybe different now, syntax free languages, Scratch Etoys and Game Maker are a natural evolution from Logo, the internet is the disruptive technology that can introduce a new teaching paradigm. The OLPC is also disruptive technology.

The penetration of Game Maker in Victoria Australia is quite high. Is it being used in constructionist ways or has the system absorbed it into conventional teaching? Is constructionist learning with GameMaker getting results? If it was getting results, would we recognise them? Has the second wave, enthusiasts teaching teachers teaching students worked? Has it scaled?

Bill Kerr said...

hi tony,

I agree that "syntax free" further lowers the barriers and OLPC as a concept increases opportunities and expectations - as does the internet

Before we can answer some of your questions I think we might need to take a step backwards first - and respond to Edward Cherlin's challenge :
"I defy anybody to write down a definition of Constructionism or Constructivism that the others here will agree with"

Tony Forster said...

Logo and more particularly the way Logo was intended to be used by Papert, as described in the case studies from the team in the 80's

Bill Kerr said...

hi tony,

another way to look at it would be, what to say to a teacher who comes along to say, a scratch inservice session and asks, "why learn this?"

possible answers:
a) read papert's case studies
b) it enables you to do simulations in any traditional subject domain
c) it's hard fun, taps into kids motivation
d) it builds on children's natural ways of learning in powerful ways

Of these answers I think (a) is the least likely to succeed - teachers are not famous for their willingness to read educational theory - when I mention "Papert's constructionism" or "genetic epistemology" to teachers I seem to see their eyes glaze instantly - but maybe that is my overactive imagination :-)

Answers (b) and (c) work to an extent because they complement and extend what teachers already do and promise to make their teaching more interesting

(d) is the only one that implies that we have to rejig the whole system, to re-examine just about everything we do

All the answers are legitimate but I'd most like to explore ways to achieve (d) and (a) - but in practice I often say (b) and (c)

Just thinking about and discussing it, not a definitive statement