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

Yamandu Ploskonka yamaplos at gmail.com
Wed Apr 21 22:54:07 EDT 2010

On 04/21/2010 05:06 PM, Caryl Bigenho wrote:
> 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?
> Caryl

Haha!  that was to be point number 2, that I somehow forgot and the 
message went into drafts and I sent it later without checking....  
Thanks Caryl, good catch, that was missing


2) As per 1) (now below somewhere in the earlier messages), each child 
and educator is unique.  Just like Caryl mentions it, to do an IEP is 
complicated, expensive, etc, but in essence it is about gathering data 
and reactions to stimuli from an individual and following certain 
protocols to interpret them and then act certain interventions that 
correspond to the said individual.

You know what?  Computers are grrrreat! at handling data, interpreting 
it by following algorithms, and then giving an output that corresponds 
to the inputs entered.  In slightly better English, a computer could 
present certain activities to a child, and from the way the kid 
responds, determine the course of action to help said kid to learn.  And 
computers don't mind at all to help Johnnie one way, and then help Sally 
a very different way, keeping strict track of each one, and not just 
adapting the way things are presented to each child's style of learning 
(uh, I believe the current buzzword is neural cognition something).  Of 
course this might have a chance if the programmers are not 
one-size-fits-all lusrs.

example: 310 - 220
Right answer is 90, OK, next.

but, among the "wrong" answers some do tell us some things.  Like 
someone answered 110.  That is not a random error, but something that 
needs a *specific* intervention, not just telling the kid he needs to 
"do more math problems".  Another telling error would be 190.  Also, 
some exercises would be presented in audio, others involving putting 
things in places, etc, trying to figure out what style a kid is best at 
- then using that style as a good road for learning new stuff, but also 
a chance to catch up some other styles he is less strong in.

Yes yes yes, this involves some AI, something sort of dead after the 
dot.com bubble.  But it could be done - some such computer-based 
interactive tools already exist for some diagnoses, and also for some 
therapies, interestingly enough some of the software in use is the same 
version released in the late 90s...

Now for the very best thing:

Computers can be immensely patient.

They can be immensely customisable.  A computer doesn't care if it needs 
to work slowly-like with Matt, doing good reinforcing with little pink 
dinosaur dances to keep him interested, and they still are just the same 
old pile of gray metal, just as good, even if they sit in front of Josh, 
who might just beat Doogie Howser by graduating UCLA at 8.  It just 
feeds him more stuff faster, thus not just helping him learn, but 
keeping him out of boredom trouble, and best of all, out of Mrs. 
Crabby's hair, does she /hate/ show-offs.

Is this just a gedankenexperiment 

It obviously hurts any chance of getting this to work that my people 
skills and my grant-application skills are both extra low, because this 
would need some money to put together a prototype.  Unless this hits 
some wave of viral networking, and this message gets passed on to 
someone who could fund it...

An IEP /and/ made-to-size interventions, for every one, for every single 
one of those very special, very uniquely created kids, whatever 
abilities, skills, giftings, interests they have.  And also, very 
important, to help the teacher - not replacing him by any means, but 
taking away the routine, the drudgery, the need to be a specific fit to 
every child, letting the teacher focus in human relationship, behavior, 
communication, while the detail and step by step work is helped by the 


> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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 
> <mailto: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 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.
> Thanks!
> Caroline
>     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 <mailto: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 <mailto: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 <mailto:IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org>
>         http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep
> -- 
> 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
> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep
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