[IAEP] Sugar Digest 2008-12-29

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Fri Jan 2 21:45:49 EST 2009

In addition to the essential ideas discussed below, we need to have a
discussion of skill, and the appropriate kinds of practice for
achieving it. We have ample proof that reading cannot be taught simply
as a classroom subject. Those who catch the reading bug, and read all
sorts of things that no teacher assigns, will be our best readers, and
in many cases our best writers. But we also need to practice the arts
of speaking and listening. We know that keyboarding is a skill where
drill is of value. We know that daily practice is essential for
developing musical skill (except in some cases of prodigies and
savants). We know that the best way to become fluent in a language is
to have people to talk with, so that the skills become habit rather
than knowledge. We know that calculation of various kinds can benefit
from drill.

But we cannot suppose that doing every possible drill in the best
possible way constitutes an education.

Also, when we speak of critical thinking, we need to introduce the
appropriate standards, and teach our students how to adhere to them,
and how to tell when somebody is failing to do that: logic and proof
in mathematics, the scientific method, rules of evidence in law, and
many others, to begin with, but also the deeper questions, how those
got to be the rules, and whether we can make further progress. The art
and logic of discovery, which is quite different from proof. Effective
methods of collaboration. And so on.

Earth Treasury and its partners propose to re-invent the textbook for
the one-to-one age, making use of all of these powerful ideas,
together with our current moderately powerful hardware and wonderful
but still preliminary software. We invite participation, discussion,
and criticism.


On Mon, Dec 29, 2008 at 6:35 AM, Walter Bender <walter.bender at gmail.com> wrote:
> As 2008 comes to an end, it gives me an excuse to do some reflecting
> on what we are doing as a project and foundation. Most of the
> following you've read before, but it is helpful—at least to me—to
> revisit these ideas periodically.
> The world faces many seemingly intractable problems: war, a faltering
> economy, an energy crisis, global climate change, to name just a few.
> My generation has failed to solve these problems. Our children will
> inherit them from us. But we can leave them something in addition: the
> means to become a generation of critical thinkers and problem-solvers.
> The investment that we can make on their behalf that will have the
> most return is learning. It has a bearing on all of the challenges we
> face and is essential if our children are to excel in an ever-changing
> world. Providing every child with the opportunity to learn learning
> will allow them both to achieve a clarity of purpose and to develop
> independent means towards their goals.
> What should children and learn and how should they learn it?
> Information is about nouns; learning is about verbs. Of course
> learners should have access to power ideas (I won't debate here which
> ones we should teach). But they should also engage in exploration and
> collaboration, appropriating knowledge while engaging in authentic,
> open-ended problem solving. This can be accomplished within a
> framework of accountability, one that complements rigorous national
> standards where learners engage in a process of reflection, public
> expression, and critique—a "portfolio" approach. What am I learning?
> How did I learn it? Why is it important? Can I teach it to others?
> We have some simple, universal points of leverage:
> * Everyone is a teacher and a learner.
> * Humans are social beings.
> * Humans are expressive.
> You learn through doing, so if you want to learn more, you want to do more.
> Love is a better master than duty—you want people to engage in things
> that are authentic to them, things that they love. Internal motivation
> almost always trumps external motivations.
> These ideas are not immiscible with current norms within schools, but
> too often we fall back on what we "know". I challenge you to think of
> a great learning moment in your life: was it sitting in a classroom,
> all eyes forward, listening to a lecture or was in when you were
> trying to solve a problem that was important to you?
> We know of no better tool for learning than a computer—it is a "thing
> to think with" when it is used as a means of knowledge creation.
> (Unfortunately, it is too often thought of and used as simply a
> mechanism for information retrieval and rote learning in our
> schools—the modern equivalent of the mimeograph machine, AKA the
> "purple" plague.)
> Three experiences can characterize a computer-enhanced learning platform:
> Sharing: The interface should always shows the presence of other
> learners. Collaboration is a first-order experience. Students and
> teachers dialog with each other, support each other, critique each
> other, and share ideas.
> Reflecting: A "Journal" should record each learner's activity. The
> Journal serves as a place for reflection and assessment of
> progress—the basis of a portfolio.
> Discovering: We can accommodate a wide variety of users, with
> different levels of skill in terms of reading, language, and different
> levels of experience with computing. It is easy to approach, yet it
> doesn't put an upper bound on personal expression. One should always
> be able to peel away layers and go deeper and deeper, with no
> restrictions. This allows the direct appropriation of ideas in
> whatever realm the learner is exploring: music, browsing, reading,
> writing, programming, or graphics. The student can always go further.
> These are the core ideas behind Sugar. By embodying these ideas
> directly into the affordances provided by the user interface, we can
> skew the odds that teachers and learners will engage in more than the
> accumulation and transfer of information.
> In Sugar, have in hand the tools to reinvent how computers are used
> for education. Collaboration, reflection, and discovery are readily
> integrated directly into the learning experience. Children and
> teachers have the opportunity to use computers on their own terms,
> reshape, reinvent, and reapply both software and content into powerful
> learning activities. Learning can be focused on sharing, criticism,
> and exploration. We have a lot of work ahead of us to refine these
> tools and to refine the practice around them, but we have a solid
> beginning.
> We can raise a generation of critical thinkers, armed with the
> complementary tools of science and the arts. (Relatively speaking, it
> is a trivial investment—probably less than the cost of a single
> "bridge to nowhere". All of the necessary tools are freely available
> under free software licenses. But we do need to invest in engaging
> teachers, parents, and children in learning learning.) So let's make
> it happen.
> ===Sugar Labs===
> Gary Martin has generated another SOM from the past week of discussion
> on the IAEP mailing list (Please see
> http://sugarlabs.org/go/Image:2008-December-20-26-som.jpg).
> Happy New Year.
> -walter
> --
> Walter Bender
> Sugar Labs
> http://www.sugarlabs.org
> _______________________________________________
> IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
> IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org
> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep

Silent Thunder (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) is my name
And Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, The Truth my destination.

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