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Re: [olpc-software] age target?



Good question --

I believe that the "OLPC project" is still thinking about its specific aims. Earlier is better, but governments sometimes deal with politically hot problems (such as teenagers, job markets, etc.)

There are tradeoffs between most desirable ages for starting with children and what's required of the mentoring environment (usually adults) to get best results. The younger the better is most desirable for children, but the adults have to be very good to make best practices work. As the children get older, they start to get more set in their commonsense views of the world, and some of the special viewpoints (that science requires for example) start becoming harder and harder to acquire. OTOH, the older children can start to help bridge some of the gaps between what adults are willing to learn and what children are willing to learn. We've tried most ages over the last 35 years, and have gradually homed in on "4th to 6th graders" (about 9 - 12 years old) as a pretty good compromise. They can do quite a bit with less than ideal adult guidance. But depth experiences are always a problem without good mentors.

So most of the stuff on http://squeakland.org is aimed at this age group. To bring you up to date on what we've been doing with children the last 10 years or so, here are two white papers about Squeak Etoys that you can go to directly: http://www.squeakland.org/pdf/etoys_n_learning.pdf , http://www.squeakland.org/pdf/etoys_n_authoring.pdf . There is an excellent book by Kim Rose and BJ Conn that covers a sequence of about a dozen projects that were tested for three years on 5th graders. The system is multilingual, and there are installations in many parts of the world.

Interestingly (in general and wrt the HDLT project), a very large number of the actual uses in the US and the world do not follow the "learn science and math" stuff, but are used as ways to solve the often more limited aims of the particular teachers (for "computer literacy", "creativity", etc.). We believe this happens primarily because most teachers of this age range have very limited science and math backgrounds. I think this will be a huge problem with the HDLT as well. It will be immediately used for "human built-ins" (such as communication, stories, games, etc,) but the use for learning "non-natural knowledge" (like science, mathematics, etc.) will languish. We've seen this pattern very strongly in the use of the web in US, Europe and Japan, and there is no reason to suppose that things will somehow automatically be better in the 3rd world. So I think that "mentoring" (in all the forms that we can devise) is the most important "UI problem" to be solved on the HDLT.

Cheers,

Alan

At 04:38 AM 3/21/2006, Joshua N Pritikin wrote:
A million units is a drop in the bucket for a country like India.  Is
the OLPC project aiming for a specific age group for the first year?
For example, sixth grade?

I didn't see this question in the wiki or FAQ.  Answering this question
might help focus discussion of other questions.

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