[IAEP] Thoughts on Pedagogy and supporting activity creators

Caroline Meeks caroline at solutiongrove.com
Sun Jan 4 12:01:22 EST 2009

These are some of my thoughts in response to both Walter's New Year's
message and Bryan's threads on supporting easier activity creation.

Before I started Education school my background was all technical and one
of my "Ah Ha" moments in my first  semester was understanding that
Educational Theory is not like scientific theory.  Scientists actually
believe that each new model of the atom is fundamentally more correct then
the previous ones.  I think this is not so with educational theories.  My
analogy is that they are hills from which to survey the battle, each giving
you a different perspective on what actions you might take to improve

Sugar's pedagogical foundation is Constructionism.  Wikipedia states:
"Constructionism holds that learning can happen most effectively when people
are actively making things in the real world."

One of the huge values that computers bring to education is the ability to
create more learning artifacts that are both better and more authentic. By
authentic I mean that the many artifacts a student can create with a
computer to show what they have learned about a topic are fundamentally
similar to the work products many information workers create.  Computers let
us keep and organize more work products per student more easily than folders
of paper.  Our goal, that Walter and Evangeline  are currently working
towards with the portfolio project, is that keeping and organizing these
artifacts results in reflection and thus supports learning.

Computers in general, and Sugar in particular, also support collaboration.
Vygotsky is a source of pedagogy that stresses the importance of social
relationships and context in learning.  Notice how, though it might change
what an activity would emphasize, this is = not contradictory to the
importance of actively creating things.

Thus my goal for Sugar would be that it encourages:
1. Creating rich artifacts.
2. Sharing and learning in a social context

3. Reflection

So our goal for supporting activity designers is as they transfer their
ideas from the Mimeograph world to Sugar that the process of "Sugarizing"
the mimeograph content encourages movement towards what we consider

I like concrete user stories that help situate thinking.  So let's make up
a story of the young teacher and the similarly aged aunt/uncle of one of the
students who has recently graduated from a local technical computer skills
program and has the desire to volunteer to spend hours with the young
teacher helping to create a Sugarized activity that the students will use.
You can set this story in Nepal or Birmingham but take a minute to make a
mental picture of these people working together; Situated Cognition theory
says that you will learn better and remember more if you have rich
imagery.   :)

So the teacher wants to help the students with a problem that they will be
tested on using standardized testing. Perhaps it's using a grammatical
structure that is present in the official formal language but not present or
different in the local venacular,  e.g. "I ain't got no pencil" to "I don't
have any pencils".  The teacher has a bunch of zeroxed sheets of exercises
that have been used since the mimeograph ages and the school has always
gotten very low standardized test scores in this area.

Yes we need to think about whether these people are using Python, eToys,
JavaScript or Flash to convert these worksheets into a Sugarized activity,
but we also need to think about how the process of Sugarizing can help them
create a more effective learning experience for these students then the
original mimeographed exercises.

If our documentation on sharing activities includes examples and
information on why social learning is important perhaps this pair will
decide to create an activity where students correct each other's work, or
make challenges for each other to change from informal to formal

If our documentation about saving things to the journal includes
information on how the students use the journal for reflection and how it
improves learning the pair may get ideas on how to create an activity that
allows the students to progress and see how their work has improved from one
month or year to the next.

So as we discuss how we are going to make it easier for activity developers
to use what they know, such as Flash, JavaScript etc. let's also keep our
eye on the goal of helping them to create better learning experiences by
sharing, in context and in an accessible manner, what the Sugar developers
know about pedagogy and learning.

Caroline Meeks
Solution Grove
Caroline at SolutionGrove.com

617-500-3488 - Office
505-213-3268 - Fax
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