[IAEP] Data vs Critical Thinking - Can Sugar give schools both?

Caroline Meeks caroline at solutiongrove.com
Wed Apr 21 17:00:22 EDT 2010

On Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 3:16 PM, Yamandu Ploskonka <yamaplos at gmail.com>wrote:

>  I highly respect you initiatives, Caroline, not just because they start as
> a basically good idea, but then you do great follow-through that I wish I
> will learn more from.  And this is a great initiative, your email waiting a
> long time in my inbox because it was so good I wasn't figuring out how to
> contribute, though I felt I needed to at least share a couple thoughts.

Thank you for your kind words :)

> Something sort of along these lines I have been pursuing pretty much since
> forever, but in my case it has not passed from being a gedankenexperiment,
> alas.
> My reflection goes along these ways
> 1) each child (and each teacher!) is unique in abilities, giftings,
> potential and actual skills, learning styles...
> from this we can infer that "one-size-fits-all" education is not as good -
> for the child - as education that fits each child's way.
> one-size-fits-all education is cheaper,

The interesting thing is that RTI is actually being implemented as a cost
savings measure in the US.  In the US schools often identify up to 15% of
their students as needing "special education". They are then
generally segregated into separate classrooms or pulled out of class into
resource rooms where they receive instruction with highly qualified teachers
in small class sizes.  Lots of money is spent on this but the outcomes for
the students are generally extremely poor.  In addition,  many students with
reading problems are not referred until they start failing, often around 3rd
or 4th grade.  The referal process itself is expensive, involves tests and
lots of meetings.

 With RTI policy makers are hoping to teach more students in their normal
classroom and remediate learning problems early, reducing identification of
special ed students and reducing costs.  Although the results of the studies
show that improves performance for all students, cost savings by reducing
special ed is a major driver in adoption.

> seems to work, is the way it is done everywhere... arguments hard to beat,
> though for generations it was SOP, for those who could afford it, to have
> tutors to work with their kids one-on-one, something obviously impractical
> and impossible to scale-up to the needs and the rights we recognize now.
> enter differentiated instruction, which sadly has meant often some kind of
> apartheit, where the "A" tier gets attention, funding, the best teachers...

Again an interesting cultural difference. In the
US differentiated instruction, when its being used to refer to a single
classroom, seems to usually mean more attention to the lower performing

We do definitely also have tracking where students who test high enough go
to separate classes and receive more of everything. But that is not what the
people here in the US usually call differentiated instruction.

> It is now SOP that there are "better" schools parents fight to get their
> kids in.  Contrariwise, many classrooms are by design mixed-things and some
> sort of forced integration has been a fashion for a while, and for a while
> failing schools got more funding, a trend that took a while to turn around
> since it was discovered that it encouraged failure.
> Your proposal indicates "more intensive instruction" for the "students that
> are struggling", which is nice, no doubt for those, but maybe unfair to the
> others.  It appears many more "scholar athletes" lately are getting
> diagnosed for disorders that allow them to use chemicals that otherwise are
> banned...  I am concerned that if the way to get better schooling is to be
> lower tier, there might be a rush for it.

Nod, I agree. I think there is a fundamental dilemma that society and indeed
every teacher faces around who gets instructional attention. My hope working
with technology is to raise the general level and the amount of resources, I
don't imagine that we will ever really eliminate this dilemma.

Interestingly I worry about it on the other side in this case.  In the
kindergarten class I observed the struggling students had an hour of small
group phonics lessons. The other students had shorter reading groups and in
the rest of the time they played with blocks, math games, used computer
software and read.  I worry about the struggling students having enough time
for exploration and play.

To me our goal needs to create technology that provide the best possible
experiences for students receiving the intensive instruction and those who
are left with more time for individual activities and I think Sugar can
absolutely support both.

Personally I'm more impressed with the data collection and analysis part of
RTI.  I the goal I'd like to see us work towards is to sue the data used to
give every student instruction right in their zone of proximal development
and to make it easy for teachers to find alternative teaching approaches for
students who don't respond to the first way something is taught.

I do think there is power in learning from  research
backed pedagogical methods like RTI, especially when
they emphasize something like Data which is a good match for technology.
However, this is a good conversation because part of RTI is very based in
the US public school culture of spending more resources on special ed
students.  So we need to dissect it and take the pieces that create better
learning for all students.


> On 04/20/2010 09:29 AM, Caroline Meeks wrote:
> Hi Subbu,
>  Not off topic in my opinion.
>  RTI consists of:
>  1. *Scientific, Research-Based Instruction- Delivered in Tiers, with
> students who are struggling getting more intensive instruction.*
> *2. Screening of all students.*
> *3. Progress monitoring (about every 2 weeks) for the students getting the
> more intensive instruction (the 'intervention').*
> *
> *
> *US based discussions of RTI focus on how it effects the pipeline to
> special education.  But in many OLPC contexts I don't think there is a
> special education to be referred to. I think if kids can't make it in the
> general classroom they drop out.  Thus a system that keeps more kids on
> track is valuable.*
> *
> *
> *Discussions of how to improve instruction is very on topic for RTI.  In
> RTI terms you could think about it in two ways.  Are the materials part of a
> Tier I (all students) instruction or are they for Tier II, for struggling
> students.  The great thing about technology, be it a laptop or a mp4 player,
> is that it could be used in both ways.  The whole class could use it, and we
> could help teachers match up specific weakness in students with specific
> learning objects for a Tier II like intervention.*
> *
> *
> *I'm focusing a lot on the screening and progress monitoring pieces of RTI
> because, thanks to huge, long, high stakes tests that teachers don't see
> results back from for months, assessment has gotten a bad name.
> RTI assessment is quick and results are immediate, specific and actionable.
>  *
> *
> *
> *Yes, on the cell phones/hand helds for doing the assessments.  In the US
> palm pilots are used. I do think setting it up on a cell phone would be far
> more economical.*
> *
> *
> *Thanks for responding. :)*
> *
> *
> *Caroline*
> On Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 9:36 AM, K. K. Subramaniam <subbukk at gmail.com>wrote:
>> On Tuesday 20 April 2010 06:01:33 am Caroline Meeks wrote:
>> > Why can't computers for children both give them the means for creation,
>> > independent learning, collaboration etc etc. and give their teacher
>> > detailed, nuanced, actionable data on what skills they have mastered and
>> > what they are still struggling with?
>>  Computer-centric vocabulary is becoming obsolete today. Talking about
>> computers today is a bit-like talking about DC/Induction motors in our
>> homes.
>> We don't think of mixers, juicers, grinders, washing machines etc as motor
>> machines, do we?  Kids don't think of mobile phones as computers. They
>> think
>> of them as phones, cameras, voice recorders, mp3/mp4 players etc.
>> >Problem solvers, groundbreaking pioneers and visionary leaders need to
>> know
>> >their phonics and their basic math skills.  We have the capability to
>> build
>> >tools that help teachers know and track which students are struggling
>> with
>> >what skills, and provide the collaborative framework for them to collect
>> >data and share it to determine what works to teach those skills to all
>> >students.
>>  Just a few weeks back, I had a discussion with village school teachers
>> about
>> using smart machines to enliven language lessons. The discussion veered
>> around
>> using mini-speakers with mp3 player in classrooms. The players, about 4"
>> cube
>> take in 2GB USB flash, SD card or micro-SD cards and play for 5 hours on a
>> single charge. They cost about $8-$10 here and 2GB card can easily hold
>> about
>> four-five years of language lessons. Neither teachers nor 6-9 year olds
>> think
>> of them as computers.
>> We could also think of using portable mp4 players (for visual lessons) or
>> smartphones (for data collection). These machines don't exclude the use of
>> laptops for authoring lessons and give more options for children to learn
>> languages, math and science.
>> [Apologies if this is OT on a RTI thread]
>> Subbu
> --
> Caroline Meeks
> Solution Grove
> Caroline at SolutionGrove.com
> 617-500-3488 - Office
> 505-213-3268 - Fax
> _______________________________________________
> IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
> IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.orghttp://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep

Caroline Meeks
Solution Grove
Caroline at SolutionGrove.com

617-500-3488 - Office
505-213-3268 - Fax
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/iaep/attachments/20100421/821b0da3/attachment-0001.htm 

More information about the IAEP mailing list