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

Tony Forster forster at ozonline.com.au
Mon Jul 7 03:55:10 CEST 2008

Bryan wrote:

the consistent feedback they came back w/ was

1) The teachers want lesson plans integrated w/ the activities

2) The parents don't see the learning activities as anything more than 

Edward wrote:

Writing lesson plans needs to be a whole program in itself, integrated with 
rethinking textbooks to make use of the available software and to implement 
Constructionism, or possibly just creating textbooks within available 
software. This is Alan Kay's domain, among others. I haven't heard of 
anybody seriously taking up this vital part of the program, and I haven't 
even gotten answers to my queries about previous work in
this vein..Has anybody taught any of the programming language tutorials to 
the children?

Underlying these comments is the question of how does constructivism/ionism 
work in classrooms. The call for lesson plans and tutorials by teachers can 
often indicate a difference in teaching style with a preference for a more 
didactic or instructionist style.

The activities in Sugar, of themselves, have no particular merit, their 
power is in their potential for deep thinking and problem solving. So, much 
of their power is lost if they are "taught" in the sense of "follow me, 
today we are going to learn Etoys". The call for lesson plans and tutorials 
often indicates this teaching approach.

The power of the Sugar activities is in the opportunities they give for 
self-directed problem-based learning. Achieving this is much more about how 
teachers "set up" their classes and not about following a preset plan. 
Self-directed problem-based learning does not always follow a preset plan, 
the teacher, the "guide on the side" gives things a nudge from time to time, 
more recognising when learning is working well than following a preset plan.

Students, teachers, administrators and parents all have expectations of what 
school is about and these are usually more didactic than the learning 
offered by Sugar activities.

Experienced teachers (not me) put a lot of effort into "setting up" classes 
at the beginning of the year creating an environment where collaboration, 
discovery and risk taking are the norm. It is probably better to look at how 
successful constructivist teachers set up expectations and use activities 
rather than to lock down to lesson plans.

See Bill Kerr's blog. He talks of creating an environment where students 
know they can demand the whiteboard markers from him at any time and work 
things out at the front of the class and how this took weeks.

He quotes Konrad Glogowski who gets students to select music tracks to go 
with their literature study, Bill says "Can this be duplicated at another 
School site, through an education plan or an assessment rubric? No"

Another teacher, Roland Gesthuizen, gives students broken programs, games, 
and gets them to debug them. He uses this as "scaffolding", a bridge to more 
self-directed creation where students program their own games.

Another, Margaret Meijers, selects topical issues from the newspapers, for 
example traffic accidents, and gets kids to hypothesise the underlying 
mechanisms and then program a simulation.

Alan Kay has linked to resources for teacher guided discovery learning which 
are maybe a bit more choreographed than my personal style but still 
demonstrate the importance of the teacher being the "guide on the side" 
rather than the "sage on the stage". He has a sequence of activities where 
students can discover acceleration for themselves. The beauty of this 
sequence is that it is not about following a narrow path but guided 
discovery which will work well with a teacher who understands this learning 
method and who will provide guidance sparingly.

So in summary I don't think lesson plans and textbooks are needed so much as 
case studies of teachers who understand the art of teaching well.

PS I have never had any resistance from the parents of the young kids 
(grades 5&6) that I teach to program computer games, they have always given 
100% support once they see firsthand the engagement and learning. I have had 
resistance from teachers who don't see past the activity itself, which has 
no great merits, to the underlying learning of problem solving, 
organisational skills, mathematics and kinematics.


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