[IAEP] What is a Lesson Plan?

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Wed Jul 9 04:24:59 CEST 2008

On Tue, Jul 8, 2008 at 4:35 AM, Antoine van Gelder <antoine at g7.org.za> wrote:
> On 07 Jul 2008, at 20:19, Edward Cherlin wrote:
>>>> 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.
>> Nobody has anything to say about this program?
> There appears to be some kind of invisible and impregnable force-shield
> surrounding South African schooling which deflects anyone wanting to try
> original approaches to a problem which stubbornly resists solving despite
> repeated applications of the same medicine which has had a 100% failure rate
> for decades now...
> ...so I ended up deciding to spend a large-ish chunk of last year working
> with a lecturer in the chemical engineering department at one of our local
> universities doing a preliminary investigation into developing curriculum
> using dynamic media.
> So, this work deals with undergraduate students but I do think that a lot of
> it would apply to developing dynamic media curriculum for any age human.

Anything that works for anybody is better than what we have now.

> Some technical considerations:
> * That said, I honestly think that eToys is the best of all the possible
> available options right now for any serious curricula development work as it
> involves neither a laborious (but enormously enjoyable) reinvention of the
> wheel, nor waiting-for STEPS to mature and - most importantly - understands
> what you mean when you say "Smalltalk inspect." [1]

Works for me.

> Some insights gained:

> * By far the largest part of the work was spent dismantling curricula into
> its component concepts and figuring out how those concepts related to each
> other.

Yes, that is indeed the key point. With the background of
Constructivist child development research plus the awesome power of
software (Awww!) it becomes a considerably more fraught enterprise.
The whole modern curriculum grew out of medieval roots in ways that
have nothing to do with the connections of ideas and everything to do
with who published what when. We are not supposed to teach any math
significantly later in origin than the 17th century to secondary
students, no matter how easy it is to learn and no matter how much it
would help.

When we know the fundamental ideas of a branch of mathematics or any
of the sciences and can express them in various "age-appropriate and
intellectually honest" ways (Bruner), we are nevertheless not allowed
to present them before the age at which conventional wisdom says a
subject can be started. We can explain the fundamental concepts of the
calculus (direction of curves, maxima and minima, area under a curve,
and others) visually to preschool children using no symbols and
performing no calculations. We could add to that understanding year by
year as the children get to be able to handle more advanced geometry,
arithmetic, algebra, and proofs, so that when the time came to teach
full formal calculus, we could do the current first-year course in a
month or less. But no chance.

Similarly with computers, where society will not permit Boolean
algebra to be taught in school, so that students coming to Boolean
logic in programming have no foundation for understanding it.

> This is important to understand because I think a lot of folk have
> have the intuition [3] that the hard work is coding up the simulation system
> or the simulations themselves but it's not.

This delusion is not specific to education. Coding is the easiest part
of any problem. Understanding what the problem is ils always much
harder, but industry long ago settled on a metric (lines of code) that
makes the real work invisible.

> The really really hard part of
> the work is getting over the realization that you, yourself, actually don't
> understand the curricula nearly as well as you thought you did, figuring out
> how the curriculum translates to a simulation, how to represent it in such a
> way that it can still run on something smaller than a 2048 processor SGI
> cluster and how to integrate peacefully with sensitivities to the fact that
> there are limited teaching hours available each semester!

There is reason to think that the proper sequencing and relation of
ideas in a curriculum could make it much easier to get through with
adequate understanding. There is reason to think that going for fairly
full understanding slows down individual topics at first but speeds up
the overall process dramatically once students have had the experience
of understanding something, and know what they are trying to do.

> Conclusions:
> * Developing curricula using dynamic media is hte awesome.
> * If the institutional environment you are working with are still caught up
> in the moodle-y [4] excitement it is likely that a successful preliminary
> investigation will be met with looks of incomprehension, nervousness and
> even outright hostility.
> * The world is big, the dust shakes easily off our feet and until
> TheDayWhereAllMayFreelyLearnOnline [5] arrives no one is in any danger of
> running out of other institutional environments [6] wherein students may be
> found to roam.

We have had our educational Copernicus, and we may now be in the age
of Tartaglia, Gilbert, Galileo, Huygens, Kepler, des Cartes, Leibniz,
Hooke, and so on, but our Newton has not yet manifested. Perhaps she
will appear among our schoolchildren, who will in due course have a
chance to grow up with fewer of the prejudices that were foisted on
most of us.

>  - antoine
> [1] Yeah, I know. Everyone has an opinion and wants to defend it vigorously.
> Well this one is mine. Nyah!
> [2] with apologies
> [3] Well, I know for a fact that I at least had that intuition before I
> started! :-)
> [4] moodle rocks. really. but it's already been done. very well in fact.
> because moodle really. rocks.
> [5] Oh wondrous, oh happy day!
> [6] Applications are open. Maybe _your_ institution will be the next to feel
> hte awesome!

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

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