[Squeakland] Educational research

Alan Kay alan.kay at vpri.org
Thu Nov 22 09:56:17 PST 2007

Hi Folks --

Books are a real technology. Most people think =

that classrooms would be less rich without books =

and the literacy of reading and writing about =

ideas. (I do too.) And very few would disagree =

with the idea that the fruits of the printing =

press were one of the largest and most important =

forces in bringing forth our modern era. Yet, in =

the US where classrooms do have books, and there =

are free public libraries in most towns, =

education is failing. Should we blame the book or =

should we blame the classrooms and what's behind them?

One of the deepest built-in traits of human =

beings is "magical thinking" (superstitions, =

rituals, similarities, contagions), elements of =

which are found in most human behavior. This is =

reflected in many parts of education e.g the =

correct rituals will cause it to happen, or the =

proper effigies and/or contact with substances =

will cause it to happen. This is what "air =

guitar" (and much of fashion) is all about. It's =

always been a problem, and is likely worse today =

because the combination of media and pop culture =

is almost overwhelmingly focussed on form rather than content.

Some studies on the actualizations of =

personalities suggest that the decisive step is =

to take responsibility for what's necessary to =

turn a fantasy into actuality. In the US this has =

moved from a problem of individuals to a problem of the entire society.



At 06:46 AM 11/22/2007, Mark Guzdial wrote:
>There=92s actually a good bit of research =

>indicating that technology in the classroom, =

>even at the elementary level, makes a =

>difference. =93The Economist=94 just did an on-line =

>debate on this very question (with Bob Kozma, =

>formerly of SRI and U. Michigan, as supporting =

>the claim of impact), and the conclusion was =

>that technology in the classroom does make a =

>statistically significant difference.  The =

>Kulik=92s did some meta-analyses early on (maybe =

>20 years ago) that demonstrated a small but =

>measurable effect.  The Apple Classrooms of =

>Tomorrow had a visible effect that Dwyer talks about in his books.
>The problem is that it=92s impossible to hold all =

>other factors equal.  As Jan Hawkins pointed out =

>years ago, the real benefit of technology in the =

>classroom was enabling new approaches.  I see =

>Viewpoints as having this goal explicitly =AD the =

>idea isn=92t to replicate the current approach =

>with technology, it=92s to enable a new, deeper =

>approach with kids (and teachers) doing real science and mathematics.
>Now let=92s suppose that any school takes awhile =

>to get all the kinks worked out to serve an =

>approach optimally =AD for teachers to understand =

>how to make details work well (like grading and =

>supporting the weaker students), for parents and =

>kids to change expectations, and for schools to =

>understand how to work out the larger scale =

>details (like dealing with curricular learning =

>objective requirements and length of a class =

>period).  If you measure the approach during =

>this ramp-up period (which almost certainly is =

>over a year long, from all the teacher adoption =

>literature I=92ve seen), the new approach will =

>look worse than the old approach, on just about =

>any measure you pick (from =

>teacher/student/parent satisfaction, to =

>performance on standardized tests =AD which were =

>themselves optimized for the old =

>approach).  Now, throw in technology on that new =

>approach, and POOF! Technology is clearly not successful.
>I don=92t see OLPC as impacting the critics of =

>educational technology much.  There are too many =

>variables changing at once.  I suspect that =

>we=92ll see some impact =AD any investment in =

>education where there is little there to begin =

>with is going to have at least some short-term =

>impact.  The challenge will be to sustain.
>On 11/21/07 9:03 PM, "Richard Karpinski" <dick at cfcl.com> wrote:
>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?
>Squeakland mailing list
>Squeakland at squeakland.org
>Squeakland mailing list
>Squeakland at squeakland.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://squeakland.org/pipermail/squeakland/attachments/20071122/e78e29=

More information about the Squeakland mailing list