[IAEP] [squeakland] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric

Alan Kay alan.nemo at yahoo.com
Sun Feb 6 09:43:55 EST 2011

I don't think of "teachers" or "teaching" as dirty words. And I don't separate 
them by age group, profession, or whether parents or not. (Do I have to say that 
good teachers facilitate learning ....?)

There are lots of poor teachers in the world (for many different reasons), but 
it's important to understand that no child ever invented Calculus, nor did any 
adult until very recently in our 200,000 years on the planet. Good teachers are 
vital, and most especially for the powerful invented ideas and knowledge that is 
less strongly built into our genetically and culturally fashioned brain/minds.

So we need good teachers from our peers, our parents, our schooling systems, our 
vocations, our delights, etc.

Best wishes,


From: K. K. Subramaniam <kksubbu.ml at gmail.com>
To: squeakland at squeakland.org
Cc: Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>; Chunka Mui 
<chunka.mui at devilsadvocategroup.com>; voluntarios y administradores OLPC para 
usuarios docentes <olpc-sur at lists.laptop.org>; "america-latina at squeakland.org" 
<america-latina at squeakland.org>; Carlos Rabassa <carnen at mac.com>; Maho 2010 
<maho at realness.org>; olpc bolivia <olpc-bolivia at lists.laptop.org>; IAEP 
SugarLabs <iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>; OLPC Puno <olpcpuno at gmail.com>
Sent: Sun, February 6, 2011 6:36:38 AM
Subject: Re: [squeakland] [IAEP] Plan Ceibal y/and General Electric

A lot of thought provoking ideas listed in one mail. Wow!

On Sunday 06 Feb 2011 5:20:15 am Alan Kay wrote:
> For the US, it has been calculated that it is not possible to create enough
> knowledgeable K-8 teachers for math and science over the next 25 years,
> even for the 30:1 student teacher ratios we have today. It has been
> estimated that this problem is much worse in the developing world.
Student-Teacher ratio is about teaching not learning. I learnt the hard way 
that a different mind-set is needed to work with learning.

Parents and Family seems to have done a fairly good job in the 0-6 year range. 
When we get into the next stage (6-12), the learning environment breaks down. 
Mothers don't go around with a growth chart and taunt their babies with "You 
should have been crawling by six months. You will get a C for your crawling. 
Sit facing the wall for the next five minutes!" ;-). In India at least, 
families are held responsible for their children's development. In the next 
stage, why not hold teachers responsible for outcomes but facilitate them to 
achieve their goals using whatever they find appropriate?

In one exercise, we worked with teachers across 120 rural schools near 
Bangalore to attain one specific goal, 'get every student to read Kannada and 
Division by 7th grade' using whatever means at their disposal, even if they 
have to take assistance from locals who are not teachers but like being with 
children. Teachers took the help of external evaluators to detect non-learners 
in June to create a target set. When the eval was repeated six months later, 
the number dropped to near zero in 102 schools. Other schools are now catching 
up. The effect of empowerment spilled over into other topics and boosted the 
overall morale of students. The marginal funding required for this exercise 
was trivial.

> Computers can represent books and all other media, and they should be able
> to actively help us learn to read them (even if we start off not being
> able to read at all).
Children will learn to read only when they have to read to learn. The thirst 
for knowledge has to go beyond what they can get from their family or school. 
This is a challenge in countries like India with dense population and an oral 
tradition. The chasm between pre-literate to semi-literate is quite large.

A teacher in a rural public school narrated a case of a 6th grade student who 
wouldn't write or read and was at the bottom grade. When we introduced 
computers into the school, he was attracted to TeX morph in Etoys that typeset 
multilingual texts. He played with this morph sporadically over four months to 
generate various letter shapes and words (including misspellings) and then 
broke into fluent writing and reading. He had stumbled on a strong reason to 
read. Once he crossed the chasm, he stopped using the computer and switched 
over to books. Computer became a complex device. This incident had a big 
impact on the teacher who was, at that time, in her third trimester of her 

> The great funding in the 60s was done mostly by the government, and for
> personal computing and pervasive networks was spread over more than 15
> universities and research companies who formed a cooperative research
> community. (The story of this is told in "The Dream Machine" by Mitchel
> Waldrop).
Given the scale and scope of education, public funding and social 
participation is the only solution. Private funding comes with too many 
strings attached :-(.


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