The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is an global education project that is working to make it possible for developing countries to purchase laptops for their children. OLPC was founded by Nicholas Negroponte with a core of Media Lab veterans, and is based on the pioneering work of Seymour Papert, the father of educational computing and constructionism, who has spent his life putting the power of computational technology into children’s hands.Very recently, beta laptops were delivered to children in Nigeria. This would seem to be a cause for celebration, however there has been much skepticism about the plan. It’s too complicated to go into all the arguments for and against this plan, but two of them are of particular interest to us here at Generation YES.
One objection seems to be centered around the personality of Mr. Negroponte. He’s been called “pushy” “overbearing” “self-aggrandizing” and much worse. This sounds really familiar to us. I’ve heard many of these things said about Dennis Harper and others who have a passionate belief that it is their responsibility to change the world for the better. It takes a big personality to dream up big changes, challenge the status quo, and make them happen.
The second objection is that the OLPC implementation plan is based on “magic” – that handing out laptops to children will fail because there is no implementation plan. This is of course ridiculous and silly name calling. People may not like the plan–it’s clearly revolutionary because it focuses on children, not the adults. Read more here.
The alternative plans often touted typically involve first teaching teachers how to use the laptop, giving them carefully scripted lessons to teach the children, developing educational software for them, and then carefully phasing in laptop use by actual children. (Sound familiar?)
I was recently asked to do a guest blog on the OLPC News website (not affiliated with the OLPC project.) OLPC News tries to be an “independent source for news, information, commentary, and discussion” of the OLPC project. Although it skews towards skepticism, they do try to be fair overall. They asked me to share some insight on how our Generation YES experience might shed some light on the OLPC project. I did so in this guest blog post on their site.
I realized it would be a somewhat hostile audience, but it’s worth it to get the message out that Dr. Papert’s pioneering work and belief in “Kid Power” is not magic. Generation YES schools are testaments to that.
I hope I made some good points and don’t get hammered too hard in the comments!
Join colleagues in a daylong celebration of creativity, computing & constructivist learning at the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden on June 24th, 2007. This is the day before the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Atlanta, GA starts.
The Constructivist Celebration is the inaugural event for the newConstructivist Consortium, an industry cooperative designed to showcase software and curriculum products that support creativity, constructivist learning, and student empowerment.
Peter Reynolds and Gary Stager kick the day off with an inspirational keynote address. Then it’s your turn to jump into exciting hands-on projects led by some of the nation’s finest ed tech leaders. The day ends with an opportunity to share your creations and a panel discussion, Sustaining Constructivist Learning, featuring leaders of LCSI, Generation YES, Schoolkit, Tech4Learning, and Fablevision.
In addition to a day full of learning adventures, your registration includes a southern barbecue lunch and a fabulous collection of materials.
LCSI will provide each participant with a single-user license copy of MicroWorlds EX & MicroWorlds Jr.
Tech4Learning will provide each participant with a single-user licensed copy of Frames, Pixie, ImageBlender, WebBlender & Twist.
Materials from other members of the consortium will also be available.
We have invited the TechYES students and teacher from nearby Barber Middle School to participate as well.
The Constructivist Celebration @ NECC
June 24, 2007, 9:00 – 4:00 PM
Atlanta Botanical Garden
This video was created by Karl Fisch, technology coordinator at Arapahoe HS in Colorado for a back-to-school presentation for his staff. Karl runs a staff development blog where he and his staff (and many times, students) discuss constructivism and 21st century learning.
The video is a mashup of different facts about globalization and predications for the future. I’d love to hear about student reaction to this video and any classroom discussion. I don’t think students will see it as being “scary” as adults might. Students might want to make their own videos about their vision of the future.
The version embedded here has been slightly modified by Scott McLeod to remove the school specific references that Karl originally had in the video. Scott’s blog posting also has it in various downloadable formats.
Safe and nurturing environment – do you create a classroom environment where students feel free to think critically and express their views without fear?
Public speaking – do you structure lessons that require and nurture public speaking, in pairs and small groups as well as in front of the entire class?
Opportunities for success – do you provide every student with frequent opportunities to experience “success”?
Validation of student work and responses – do you let each student know when his or her efforts are praiseworthy?
The Exploratory Phase
The beginning of the lesson or unit
Grab attention – do you begin class in a manner likely to encourage students to look forward to what comes next?
Prepare students to engage – do you create activities that focus student thinking, excite their imaginations, and prepare them to meet and exceed the learning standards.
Assess and access prior knowledge – do you design activities that will help students (and you) to access and assess their prior knowledge, interests, and needs?
The Discovery Phase The part of the lesson in which students learn and demonstrate they are meeting the learning objectives of the lesson
The learning objectives – do you clearly state the one, two, or three specific things you want your students to learn? Have you cast these specific objectives in terms of what your students will understand, relate to, perform or create? Are the objectives aligned with appropriate learning standards?
Authentic task – do you frame learning tasks that are as authentic as possible and that will allow students to demonstrate their skill with or understanding of the learning objective(s)?
Ownership – do you create learning tasks that enable students to feel pride and assume responsibility for their own learning?
Options – do you offer students optional ways to accomplish the learning task, and therefore reach the learning objectives(s)?
Multiple intelligences – do you offer students frequent opportunities to utilize their stronger intelligences (recognizing that there are going to be times when they will also have to rely on their weaker ones)?
Appropriate resources – do you make sure that the resources necessary to accomplish the assigned student-centered activities are available, or can be made available, to students?
Interventions – do you look for opportunities (teachable moments) to intervene either in response to student questions or in reaction to student work, by “working the room” while students are engaged in an activity?
Cognitively rich questions – do you seize every opportunity: to intervene in student work with questions that require students to think critically; to phrase task questions to require critical thinking; and to require students to create their own cognitively rich questions that create disequilibrium?
Reflection – do you, during a learning experience, create opportunities for students to think about their thinking, to assess their progress and their decisions thus far? Do you, at the end of each day’s lesson, provide students with a brief closure activity that elicits evidence of something students have learned as a result of the lesson?
Assessment measures – do you utilize multiple forms of assessment to judge student performance, including effective use of rubrics? Is instructional improvement the primary reason you assess students? Is teacher observation structured to be the most meaningful form of assessment?
Copyright (c) 2005, Institute for Learner Centered Education.
The Institute of Learner Centered Education website offers a number of valuable resources for the constructivist educator, including definitions, resources for applying standards-based constructivism to lessons, a journal, and an email newsletter that always includes thoughtful information like these 17 Intentions. A nice opportunity for constructivist educators is the Institute’s annual summer conference (July 23 – 27) at Grand Island, New York, within sight of Niagara Falls. This unique conference models constructivist teaching and learning — no talking heads here! Visit The Institute for Learner Centered Education for information.