[IAEP] Sugar Digest 2010-06-10

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Sun Jun 13 07:30:48 EDT 2010

On Sun, Jun 13, 2010 at 12:01 AM, Yama Ploskonka <yamaplos at gmail.com> wrote:
> I wonder what name is given in rhetoric to assuming out of a few
> disconnected and exceptional examples that the whole operates in a
> certain way.  I would want to name what I often see among those who
> assume anecdotes mean the whole OLPC / Sugar project works.

I'll have to get back to you on that one as I gave my copy of Cathcart
and Klein's book to Peter Robinson. They also have a term for the
argument you are making in your lead: re-framing your debate
opponent's position in order to make it seem unsupported. Although I
believe that OLPC / Sugar does work, that was not the subject of my
blog post. I was discussing the flaws in Warschauer's assertion that
it doesn't work because of a gross mis-characterization of who OLPC
approaches its deployments.

> Mark's biggest sin was not to qualify his answers.  You quote, "No
> planning, no training, no teacher engagement... "  Had he said
> "insufficient planning, little training, scant teacher engagement... "
> he would be home free.  As is, things are NOT working mostly because
> people refuse to see the naked king, even though it is really plain.
> Yes, we DO have some be-au-ti-ful stories to share.  I should know, I
> have helped put some of those together and shared them.  But the whole
> thing is messed up as long as we try to force America's ways where
> there is no context for them.  Elsewhere kids really, really depend
> for their own personal future in being molded to a certain profile,
> that will be required of them to enter University.  Making people be
> good at Doom and MP3 playing will not help them, will actually hurt
> them enormously.  I fear the pain that is being brought to them by
> nice, intelligent, educated people who actually do not know what it is
> to have to grow there.  And how their refusal to see and engage the
> problems that come up are actually effective elements in us all losing
> credibility.

I think Cathcart and Klein also have a term for your debate technique:
characterzing an opponent's position as one that is distorting the
truth through the poor use of statistics by engaging in an equally
poor use of statistics. Show me the numbers. Demonstrate to me, with a
"scientific attitude", that the only thing that kids are learning is
how to play Doom. (This is a great debate to have -- what are the kids
learning -- and wholly unrelated to anything in Warschauer's article.
But if we are going to have this debate, let's do it properly, rather
than through speculation and innuendo.)

> While I do not agree with all Mark has to say, I believe we need more
> of those who follow ideas with a scientific attitude, reporting what
> they see on both sides.

Back to the topic of my post: Warschauer followed no scientific method
or procedure in his analysis. First, he began by saying he had studied
US laptop programs, so presumably his thesis is not relevant to the
"America's way" argument you are making. Second, he failed to cite any
data to back up his argument, hardly "scientific." It was purely a
rhetorical argument meant to cast the OLPC project in a bad light. I
don't know what motivated him to write such an article or why a
website that is "exploring ICT and learning in the developing world"
would host such non-scientific musing. I won't speculate here.

Yama, I presume you didn't mean to characterize the only major OLPC
deployment in the United States as "disconnected and exceptional". The
longitudinal data are still out, but the Birmingham experience is
nothing at all like either Warschauer's or your description of an OLPC

> I admire Walter's and others half-full attitude.  Nice.  To be really
> useful, let's also dare see that objective information is scant.
> Let's wonder and think why it is so.  Let's advocate more information
> be shared, for the good and credibility of the project.

I don't think anyone will argue with the "mom and apple pie" -- pardon
the Americanism -- of gathering more "objective" information and
sharing data and experiences. I don't think anyone is advocating
otherwise. But how about toning down the rhetoric in the meanwhile?


> On 6/10/10, Walter Bender <walter.bender at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 4:41 PM, Christoph Derndorfer
>> <e0425826 at student.tuwien.ac.at> wrote:
>>> Am 10.06.2010 21:38, schrieb Daniel Drake:
>>>> On 10 June 2010 16:13, Christoph Derndorfer
>>>> <e0425826 at student.tuwien.ac.at> wrote:
>>>>> I hate to play devil's advocate here (naaa, not really;-) but one might
>>>>> argue that based on what little we know about OLPC in Peru, arguably the
>>>>> 2nd largest OLPC / Sugar project at the moment, this ("simply passing
>>>>> out XOs and getting out of children’s way.") is pretty much exactly what
>>>>> seems to be happening.
>>>> While the deployment info is less public (and less publicized?) than
>>>> most, and while like any deployment it faces a fair share of
>>>> challenges and difficulties, it's not like this.
>>> Glad to hear you're getting a good hands-on impression down there! :-)
>>> Out of curiosity: Which provinces are you visiting?
>>> From the information that I've gathered from Oscar Becerra, last year's
>>> interns and a researcher who spent several weeks in the Ancash area in
>>> 2008 and 2009 the difficulties that the project faces in Peru seem to be
>>> quite a bit more extensive than in other countries. Two of the most
>>> striking examples I've heard are that it often seems to take up to 3
>>> months for broken XOs to be repaired and that between 2008 and 2009 30%
>>> of the teachers in one province dropped out and their replacements
>>> didn't receive any XO / Sugar teacher training whatsoever.
>> Harsh realities intervene with best intentions, but to suggest that
>> Peru or any other OLPC deployment is 'dump and run' as Warschauer
>> suggests is misleading at best.
>> -walter
>>> But then again, I should have a clearer understanding of realities on
>>> the ground once I arrive in Lima in early August;-)
>>> Christoph,
>>> --
>>> Christoph Derndorfer
>>> co-editor, www.olpcnews.com
>>> e-mail: christoph at olpcnews.com
>> --
>> 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

Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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