[Squeakland] Educational research

Richard Karpinski dick at cfcl.com
Wed Nov 21 18:03:24 PST 2007

Sorry I can't cite the papers, but I recall that hardly any computer  
based projects in elementary education had any noticeable beneficial  
effect. This is what I would expect for any normal two or three hours  
per week computer use in school.

The OLPC project, however gives the kid a computer full time, and she  
has to use it just to read the textbook. Still, that's no pedagogic  
help until you add the camera and the collaboration capabilities.  
Suddenly, the computer is a mere tool to assist with a serious  
activity involving the student and engaging her mind and body. This  
is where I would expect a real effect, not by the presence of a  
computer, per se, but by the research and the process of developing a  
school report. It's the engagement that matters.

Of course, that's opinion, not science. The experiment is called  
OLPC. The results are still out. And double blind is not an option,  
but real science is. No matter how you try to manage it, there will  
be differences in approach and differences in outcomes. Just look at  
what correlates. Schools do a lot of testing, but how well that  
measures the outcomes in fact remains open to question.

Incidentally, there was one year when the remote Stanford students  
actually did better than the ones on campus. Naturally they changed  
it immediately. The remote students had these advantages over the on- 
campus students: The VCR delivery of the lectures allowed the remote  
students to back up the tape to catch any missed phrase or whatever,  
and the teaching assistant that arrived with the cassette was happy  
to answer any student question, which could not have been asked in  
the lecture hall.

If some OLPC teachers can act like the teaching assistants and some  
course material can be provided as videos to be played on student  
laptops, perhaps that Stanford experience could be replicated. Still,  
I'm much more interested in the class project approach.


On 2007, Nov 21, , at 12:00, squeakland-request at squeakland.org wrote:

> However, beyond such material, I get thoroughly confused by an
> inability to distinguish proven knowledge, accepted wisdom, and pure
> pseudo-science.    It seems that a lot of educational research is done
> by anecdote rather than by controlled blind large group studies.  Any
> pointers to the good stuff?

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