[IAEP] Lesson plans needed (was Re: Release 8.2.0 -- pls add critical features (Greg Smith))

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Mon Jul 7 03:05:36 CEST 2008

On Sat, Jul 5, 2008 at 10:40 AM, Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Actually, it's not really "my domain", and we wish we were better at this
> very difficult stuff.

Yes, indeed. You are not the expert in the sense of "knowing all about
it". That expert does not and cannot exist, according to fundamental
theorems of mathematics concerning decidable questions. But you are
the one in this discussion who has the most experience with this
process, and as you demonstrate below, the one to demonstrate to the
rest of us a reasonable starting point.

> The process we have done is:
> 1. someone (often me, or Yoshiki, or ...) thinks of a way to use the simple
> facilities of EToys as part of having children learn a powerful idea in math
> or science and wind up constructing a from scratch simulation (i.e. "dynamic
> math" formulation) of the result.

Let's do that in public somewhere. I would like to hear a discussion
of Constructionist education of teachers, textbook writers, curriculum
developers, and the rest by constructing our proposed processes in
public, with public feedback. Let us draw on the vast store of models
and simulations written in every other kind of software from FORTRAN
to Mathematica, and see what is worth adapting and adopting.

What do all these people need to understand, and what is the most
effective way for them to arrive at that understanding?

> 2. Kim Rose and I think about how this might go in a classroom with a real
> teacher.

Likewise, let us have more of this, more publicly.

> 3. Kim, the teacher (and sometimes I) will "have tea" and kick it around.

Lots more of us can do that. No doubt some of us will come up with
different versions.

> 4. The teacher will try doing it including the constructions.

Let's test all the plausible versions, and compare them. Let us allow
for the possibility that the implausible will turn out to the the

> 5. We will test this process for three years in the classroom in order to
> get a decent assessment of whether it is really a good way to do things.

The hard part, indeed. I'm getting a glimmering of how we might do
that more efficiently.

> (Unfortunately, there are lots of artifacts of every kind from single
> trials, including the real learning that the teacher needs to do ...)

I don't know what that means. It doesn't parse well. Do you mean that
inadequate trials produce spurious results, and fail to indicate the
proper role of the teacher?

> 6. We have written up sequences of these for 5th graders.

Where are they?

> 7. One particularly good example is the process of going from learning about
> motion and the math of motion using computer programs and moving graphics,
> to an investigation in the real world of falling bodies, to measuring videos
> of falling bodies, correlating this with the "math", coming up with "dynamic
> math" to move a simulated falling body the way gravity does, comparing frame
> by frame the simulation and the video to see matches and mismatches.

> "Squeak Etoys, Children and Learning" by yrs truly
> http://www.vpri.org/pdf/etoys_n_learning.pdf for an example.

Also demonstrated at the Country Workshop.
Beyond the Printing Press: Computers as Learning Environments for All Children
Alan Kay, President, Viewpoints Research Institute, Inc.
Ogg: http://download.laptop.org/content/conf/20080520-country-wkshp/Video/2008-05-20/13-Beyond-Printing%20(medium).ogg
SWF: http://download.laptop.org/content/conf/20080520-country-wkshp/Video/2008-05-20/13-Beyond-Printing%20(small).html

> 8. Talking about why a successful result might not be the end of the
> investigations

Of course. This is science, where no successful theory goes
unchallenged, and the challenges strengthen the discipline.

> 7 [sic]. Also see the book: "Powerful Ideas in the Classroom" by (teacher) B.J.
> Conn, and (researcher) Kim Rose for many more examples

Is there a repository of such examples that the profession can contribute to?

> Our experience has been that this is by far the most difficult part of
> introducing different ideas into education (with or without a computer).

I have been suggesting that we create a larger version of this process
and invite everybody into it, including the children. Now that we know
for sure that computers will be in the classroom, and that one per
child is the only acceptable ratio, we should have a bit less
resistance from the establishment. We also need to design the process
to accommodate teachers and students speaking a variety of languages.

Sugar software and Constructionist education practice is at the stage
that movable-type printing was in from 1450-1500. Everything printed
in that period is a museum piece known as an incunabulum. We cannot
avoid the coming decades of software incunabula, of groping and trying
and trying again. But we know that the immediate benefits are huge,
that a period of sound professional practice can follow with vastly
greater benefits, and that sound practice will never be able to stand
still for long.

The last century has seen confident predictions of the end of science,
the end of mathematics, and the end of history. Poppycock. Our
ignorance is by definition vastly greater than the sum of all
knowledge, and always will be.

> (Good news) 5th graders will often wind up understanding the content quite a
> bit better than the teachers who are helping them

This bodes well for the next cohort of 5th graders

> (Not so good news) By in large, what the children wind up learning is quite
> constrained by what the teacher tries to do

Thus the need for usable lesson plans, and a rethinking of schools of education.

Edward Cherlin
End Poverty at a Profit by teaching children business
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."--Alan Kay

More information about the Its.an.education.project mailing list