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

Caryl Bigenho cbigenho at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 21 18:06:31 EDT 2010

In essence, every child deserves an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) which are expensive and time consuming to develop and thus are reserved for an elite group: the special needs children.  Every child has special needs. Every child needs an IEP. But where will the funds, personnel, and curriculum come from to provide it? 


From: caroline at solutiongrove.com
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2010 17:00:22 -0400
To: yamaplos at gmail.com
CC: subbukk at gmail.com; iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org
Subject: Re: [IAEP] Data vs Critical Thinking - Can Sugar give schools both?

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
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 students.

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,
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.

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

  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. :)


  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

> Why can't computers for children both give them the means for

> 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

We don't think of mixers, juicers, grinders, washing machines etc as

machines, do we?  Kids don't think of mobile phones as computers. They

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

>data and share it to determine what works to teach those skills to


Just a few weeks back, I had a discussion with village school teachers

using smart machines to enliven language lessons. The discussion veered

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

four-five years of language lessons. Neither teachers nor 6-9 year olds

of them as computers.


We could also think of using portable mp4 players (for visual lessons)

smartphones (for data collection). These machines don't exclude the use

laptops for authoring lessons and give more options for children to

languages, math and science.


[Apologies if this is OT on a RTI thread]






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.org

Caroline Meeks
Solution Grove
Caroline at SolutionGrove.com

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