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Re: [olpc-software] age target?



On Tue, Mar 21, 2006 at 08:05:27AM -0800, Alan Kay wrote:
> 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

I read them. I played with squeak. I like the fact that there is a
real computer language underneath (smalltalk). I like how it works
seemlessly in my web browser.

> 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.

"better in the 3rd world"?  Ha! Here's an example. Do you know how they
are teaching multiplication in Maharashtra?  Children are expected to
memorize multiplication tables _in_sequence_ and recite them like a
song.  So:

1x1=1, 1x2=2, 1x3=3, 1x4=4, etc
2x1=2, 2x2=4, 2x3=6, 2x4=8, etc

What will probably happen with OLPC is that these teachers will devise
software to teach multiplcation _in_the_same_way_.  Farfetched?  You are
invited to watch a VCD I found which presents multiplication tables to
music.

> 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.

Perhaps.

I don't intend to come across as discouraging.  However, it will be
easier to report that the OLPC project is a success if we limit
ourselves to modest expectations.  It may take a full generation (or
longer) before the sophistication of most teachers rises much towards
their potential.

I see Squeak as a utopian environment.  Personally I love things
like Squeak, but it is a missed opportunity not to cater to
all conceivable tastes. I read Seymour Papert's books and that's where
I disagree with his emphasis.  He seems to argue that utopia software is
more important than the software license.  I disagree.  Both are
important but the license is the trump card. In other words:

  http://www.gnu.org/education/education.html

But anyway I digress. I'm probably preaching to the choir, as they say.

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