This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Many new books have been written and old classics from that time, like Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, have been reissued. I read The Magic Mountain in college and loved the contrast between the magnificent Swiss mountain scenery and the rather twisted characters of the patients in the sanitarium where the novel takes place. We left today for an extended trip higher into the mountains west of Siguatepeque than we had ever been before. We left in two trucks early in the morning and, because of the almost nightly rain showers, our path took us into a thick carpet of mist cloaking the mountain tops and half way into the valleys. I thought of Mann’s book and felt a child’s sense of adventure and expectation. In Honduras, unlike in Mann’s fictional Switzerland, the magnificent mountain scenery is reflected in magnificent smiles on bright faces, faces full of innocent wonder and trust. There is a biblical theme that warns against the moral corruption of cities and praises the salutary effect of living in isolated, small groups, immersed in nature, constantly in the presence of eternity. This was reflected in the children, teachers and parents we met in the first school of the day. Set in a pine forest, this humble school building seemed to recognize the majesty of its surroundings, making no attempt to assert a human presence, nestled into a bed of pine needles, tranquil and resonant. In the pictures below I will try to convey how this tranquility is reflected in the children’s faces as they listened to our initial introductions and instructions. Such beautiful faces full of innocence and absolute trust. They made me want to be a better, more loving man.
The second school was even higher up in the mountains, at the very edge of the coffee fields, just where the original cloud forest takes over on the steepest slopes. This shift from geometric regularity to chaotic, riotous growth is quite striking. Sally’s grandmother was a quilter and we have one of her pieces. We use it under our Christmas tree, where its many folds and different patterns reminded me of the Honduran countryside on our travels. At this school the children had gathered pine boughs and spread them all over the classroom floor and in the area outside the porch where they greeted us with a performance of folk dancing and song. The resinous scent of the fresh pine permeated the performance and our time teaching. Somehow everything – the dancing and singing, the parent’s faces full of pride and our own enthusiasm and commitment- seemed fresh and pure. The thick carpet of needles in the surrounding grove of pines gave the school a mysterious, hushed atmosphere, as if a secret were being whispered, and if one were quiet enough, one could sense the presence of God.
Today we decided to visit Santa Rosita, the very first school where we started the Owen Project four years ago. Marty Keil, her daughter Morgan Stautzenberger and Morgan’s friend Haley Short flew in Friday night and were ready to travel into the mountains on Saturday. It had rained heavily during the night so the mountain sides were shrouded in mist. The air was freshly-scrubbed,,clean and cool.We carried a stack of pizzas, two soccer balls and hearts full of expectation.The long drive on winding dirt roads brought back many pleasant memories, and the views from the mountain tops were every bit as memorable and breath-taking. There is a distinctive scent in the mountains, a combination of damp vegetation, decaying leaves and something mysteriously sweet, like rotting fruit. It seemed that the entire environment was a single living being with a peculiar aroma.
Our reception in Santa Rosita was warm and intimate. The children called out our names, remembering us all, embracing us as we departed our trucks. The original school was a dilapidated, mud and wattle shack and the new school , located farther up the hill, is a wonderfully clean concrete block structure with glass windows, a metal roof and a separate bathroom under construction. We brought red bougainvillea given by Lynn Campaigne. Our Episcopal Diocese of West Texas has been very involved in supporting this construction. The hope is that Santa Rosita will become a model for other rural schools, including classrooms, a kitchen, bathrooms and a septic system all in one.
Even more beautiful than the new buildings were the laughter and bright eyes of the students. When we first met them they were shy, incurious and skeptical about us and the XOs. Four years later they are secure, assertive and bursting with pride and curiosity. We were shown essays, projects, art exhibits and journals. Some of the older students now travel to a nearby town to continue their education.Sally and I almost felt like parents again, reconnecting with young people we have known for a number of years, sharing dreams and hopes together. The pizza was shared and then we played soccer. After being humiliated for an hour it started to mist and then rain gently. We looked up at the sun and saw a strange atmospheric phenomenon: there was a rainbow that surrounded the sun, making a complete circle of delicate colors, taking up half of the sky. This is called a “glory” and all of us were taken by how perfect that we saw this at that particular moment. I have come to recognize the presence of grace in the most unremarkable events of daily life. How much more impressive is this gratitude and sense of wonder when grace comes at perfect moments. May you find your own moments.
I confess that I am an unabashed idealist, child-like ( I hope!) not childish. I continue to reread Hilton’s Lost Horizon and I love the old, black and white film of the same name, starring Ronald Coleman. There is a wonderful scene where a group of travelers are high in the Himalayas, near death in a blizzard, roped together at the edge of a crevasse. They find a break in the rock face which leads to a hidden utopia, an isolated and protected valley full of cultivated fields, vineyards and forests. Ronald Coleman is full of wonder and haunted by a strange feeling that he somehow knows this place. This is the mystery of Shangri-la;. we are haunted, wherever we are, that the world could be more beautiful and full of meaning.
It is the beginning of the rainy season in Honduras and already the mountain sides are bursting with new, delicately- green growth, and the mountain tops are wreathed in mists and clouds. We drove from Tegucigalpa to Siguatepeque and were treated to a vision of central Honduras in all its glory. We set out for a new village school early the next morning. We were joined by the Vice-Mayor of Siguatepeque, a former teacher, who was accompanied by her body guard in a government truck. Richard, Natalia, Becky and I rode in back with the computers and a rifle-wielding soldier. We soon found out that the rifle was for show and that it didn’t have a trigger or bullets. It still intimidated us! We drove through Siguatepeque, down crowded streets full of dust and diesel fumes. The city itself is not scenic, in fact it has the character of a boom town. All of the buildings are make-shift and slip-shod and nothing seems clean or orderly. As we turned onto a dirt road into the mountains, we left the hustle and bustle behind us and entered into a central american Shangri-la. The school itself was stucco and cement brick, but the trees and shrubs surrounding it lent their beauty to the simple structure. Of course the real treasure hidden here is contained in the bright eyes and beaming smiles of the children. They waited timidly, hiding behind the open windows periodically braving a look outside at us. There was a hushed silence, the bated breaths of many excited children. Where there was joyous chaos at Oropoli, here there was happy anticipation and barely-controlled hands and feet. Because the Vice-mayor was with us, some formal introductions were made and then the speeches began, given by teachers, parents, students- essentially anyone who feels compelled gets a chance to speak. There was nothing forced or superficial in all this. Owen was mentioned in a remarkably sensitive and compassionate way, as if the speakers themselves knew the pain of losing a child. Wrinkled, weather-beaten old women spoke with incredible humility of their prayers and hopes for their children, and a light shone in their eyes that reminded Sally and I of how it feels to be a parent. Very soon all the thank yous were acknowledged and we got down to work with the students. Here is where the real magic begins. None of the pictures I’m including quite captures the combination of wonder and hilarity that prevails. I can’t imagine a person hardhearted enough not to smile and laugh in the midst of all this happy discovery. Maybe we do learn all we need to know in kindergarten!!
Good initiative. Been thinking about how our local Sugar Labs approach wasn’t quite right. We tried to build from nothing to something; if we start again, we need to find partners up front, have the infrastructure and support in place.
On our second day in Honduras we drove into the montains near the Nicaraguan border to oscar Ochoa’s home village of Oropoli. It is much drier in this part of Honduras, reminding all of us of Texas. This is our first school in the southern part of the country. We expected a quiet entrance into the village and maybe an embarassing game of soccer. Instead, we ran headlong into a whirlwind of activity, a moving fiesta that followed us up the main street, such as it was, across a river and to the school itself. There were flowers, folk dancing, music and smiling faces throughout. Some biologists speculate that when life began in the primordial seas, amino acids began to dance, combining to form single-celled organisms. As you will see below, we too felt surrounded by dancing life, full of joy and satisfaction.
This was also our first experience with the XO tablet and we were a bit apprehensive. This only increased when we realized that we had to charge the 60 tablets before teaching. All of the parents and village worthies looked in from the open windows as chaos swirled around us in the form of 60 very excited children. Four hours later we had everything in hand and no child left disappointed or frustrated. In many ways the tablets are more accessible than the laptops and the applications are more numerous and just as entertaining and welcoming. Once again many of the students stared in disbelief and wonder when we told them that these computers were theirs to use. I wish I could convey the spell cast over these children by the XOs; perhaps it is more the case of watching their imaginations come alive. I’ll let these pictures tell the story.
In a dark poem Yeats wrote that, “….the best lack all conviction, while the worst burn with passionate intensity…” I’ve been haunted by these lines for years and the current political and social environment seemed to verify Yeats’ somber prophecy. I can happily report that once again I have been saved by Honduras. We arrived in Tegucigalpa before noon on Tuesday, the 8th. We had a few minutes to gather our wits and then we met with the Undersecretary of Education. Richard, Linda and Natalia Grey were with us, along with Oscar Ochoa. The Undersecretary was quite approachable: a former teacher who has worked under several Honduran administrations. We were there to ask for internet access for the 16 schools we have supplied with laptops and tablets. The Undersecretary warmed to our presentation and became quite enthusiastic about the potential changes that could be made in rural areas. Very soon she was speaking more as an educator and less as an a politician. Her enthusiasm was infectious. We needed little prodding to tell of past trips into the mountains around Siguatepeque. With Linda as a creative and insightful translator, we were able to speak from the heart as well as the mind.
The excitement of our day was far from over. Later that afternoon, we met with a group of Honduran computer programmers writing code for a digitized curriculum that we could download into our XOs. The new XO tablets are android-based, different from the platform used in the laptops. For quite some time the conversation was quite technical and quite a bit over my head. Thankfully, Richard, himself a programmer, was able to carry on ably for our side. The atmosphere changed significantly when the topic changed to the underserved students in the mountains. These tech geeks where transformed into obviously passionate and idealistic teachers trying to change the lives of children who might not have shoes, but who might soon have a computer!
It was then that I remembered Yeats, realizing that I had just witnessed a reversal of his dark forboding. Here in Honduras, at least, it is the best who burn with passionate intensty.
Around a year ago, in WebRTC without a signaling server, I presented an simple app that can start a chat session with another browser without using a local web server (i.e. you just browse to
file:///), and without using a signaling server (instead of both going to the same web page to share “offers”, you share them manually, perhaps via IM).
It’s been a busy year for WebRTC! When I released serverless-webrtc, Chrome didn’t support datachannels yet, so the code only worked on Firefox. Now it works in stable releases of both browsers, and is interoperable between the two, for both reliable (TCP-like) and unreliable (UDP-like) transfers. And I’ve just added Node to the mix (so you can do Node—Node / Node—Chrome / Node—Firefox) as well, with the first release of the serverless-webrtc NPM package. Here’s how to try it out:
$ git clone git://github.com/cjb/serverless-webrtc $ cd serverless-webrtc $ npm install $ firefox serverless-webrtc.html & $ node serverless-webrtc.js <paste firefox's offer into node, hit return> <paste node's answer into firefox, click ok> <you're connected!>
And here’s a screenshot of what that looks like:
I’m able to do this thanks to the wrtc NPM module, which binds the WebRTC Native Code Package (written in C++) to Node, and then exposes a JS API on top of it that looks like the browser’s WebRTC JS API. It’s really impressive work, and the maintainers have been super-friendly.
Next I’d like to unwrap the JS from the node client and make a pure C++ version, because the Tor developers would like “to have two C++ programs that are capable of chatting with each other, after being given an offer and answer manually”, to help investigate WebRTC as a method of relaying Tor traffic.
Finally, a link that isn’t related to this project but is too cool not to mention – Feross Aboukhadijeh has a WebTorrent project to port a full BitTorrent client to the browser, also using WebRTC in a serverless way (with trackerless torrents, and peer-to-peer node introductions).
What would it mean if the next Wikipedia or GitHub (see Yurii Rashkovskii’s GitChain project!) didn’t have to spend tens of millions of dollars each year for servers and bandwidth, and could rely on peer-to-peer interaction? I’d love to find out, and I have a feeling WebRTC is going to show us.
Thanks to Mike Lee, a recording of the Google Hangout from our June 2014 meeting is up on Youtube. Clearly there are better ways of managing Google Hangouts, and clearly I don't know most of these, so once again, thanks to Mike Lee for saving the day! For the parts of the session on XOVis, you can see a blog post at http://www.olpcsf.org/node/208, and get slides from http://www.slideshare.net/sverma/xovis-analyticsvisualizationsugarolpc-3... . Braddock Gaskill's slides on Internet-in-a-Box are posted on GitHub at https://github.com/braddockcg/internet-in-a-box/raw/master/doc/201402_SC...
<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/jDyiL8jvGWY" width="420"></iframe>
Note: Slides for this project are now posted to Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/sverma/xovis-analyticsvisualizationsugarolpc-3...
Update: Martin Dluhos has published a post at OLENepal's blog site, which was written independent of this post, but acts as a good companion to this post, especially highlighting the ways in which OLENepal can compare data across schools. http://blog.olenepal.org/index.php/archives/902
The "Quest for Data" project has been going on for a while now. You can take a look at previous posts to get an idea, but the short of it is that we've had several efforts to gather data that allows us to peek into the usage behavior of projects. These have happened in Paraguay, Jamaica, Australia, India, Peru and a few other places. XOVis is a newer incarnation in that string of efforts. Thankfully, this one builds on the foundations of some of the previous ones.
Learning Analytics is defined as a process with four phases: measurement, collection, analysis and reporting. In case of Sugar, the measurement happens within each activity - more specifically through its metadata - where we use proxies such as start time, collaboration, type of activity, file produced, etc. to assess a level of engagement. For the purposes of this post, we'll go with the assumption that these proxies imply correlation with engagement, and therefore to learning (yes, this is a big assumption, but this is a blog post, and not a double-blind peer reviewed journal paper, so I won't get into it here).
Visualization is an important stage in the reporting process, although by itself, it may lead to incomplete assessments. Visualization tends to be used with aggregates, that is the aggregate behavior of a classroom , school or a collection of schools. So, for instance, we may be interested in seeing how a group of children use Sugar activities during school hours versus outside of school hours (for those fortunate deployments where the laptop goes home).
The data flow is from the laptop's Journal, to an automated Journal backup set on the School Server (XS or XSCE), to the extraction of metadata, to aggregate analysis and finally visualization. There are several ways to do this, but we chose to look at a three-tier architecture: The laptop's Journal, The School Server and the hypothetical Ministry of Education or NGO central cloud service. Metadata flows from XO to XS[CE] via automated rsync backups. Metadata flows from XS[CE] to the Ministry/NGO central server through a mechanism explained below.
At this point, I must specify that the XOVis application was written by Martin Dluhos, while he was working at OLE Nepal, while I helped with the overall architecture, based on my experiences in Jamaica and India, and Andi Gros helped with the visualization front-end. The work that Martin did is thankfully built on top of what Raúl Gutiérrez Segalés and Leotis Buchanan did earlier in Paraguay and Jamaica respectively. We also involved input from Martin Abente Lahaye about Australia's Harvest system, and Anish Mangal about sugar-stats, and were mindful to create an architecture that can accommodate both systems (these other systems will need some coding labor, of course).
Resuming the explanation, one of the key issues was to deal with the problem of offline and intermittent connectivity to School Servers. We needed a glue that connected the School Server to a central location, and would be resilient to pick up sync where it left off, and do so without human intervention (very much like rsync). Then we would need an engine to aggregate the data across different cross comparisons - averages and comparisons of usage by day, by month, by year, etc. This is where CouchDB magic comes in. CouchDB can:
Could we use CouchDB to address all these needs? Yes! So, we used CouchDB to do #1, #2, #3, and #4. For #5, you are on your own :-)
So, this is somewhat how it goes. You can head over to GitHub (https://github.com/martasd/xovis) and grab the code. If using a XS (I haven't tested yet) I'd recommend that you install by hand, using the
script. If you are running your project on XSCE, use the ansible playbook for xovis.
will play all playbooks and install all services, including xovis. To install xovis only, do
ansible-playbook -i ansible_hosts xsce.yml --connection=local --tags="xovis"
Next, make sure that you have Journal backups in
If you have registered XOs with this School Server, the backups will start to happen automatically (takes 30 minutes or so). If you have user backups, then you can run the process_journal_stats.py script to do a bunch of things.
will export metadata to comma-separated value (csv) format for analysis in Excel, LibreOffice or R.
will spit out stats for activities
process_journal_stats.py dbinsert xovis --deployment <deployment-name> --server http://admin:email@example.com:5984
will push the metadata into the local CouchDB database on the School Server. Note that the admin:admin userid:password may/should change.
Next, to visualize what your deployment has been up to, open up a browser on a machine connected to your School Server. Go to
Pick your deployment from the dropdown and click on a button to check out the visualization!
Frequency of use
Activities by month
Activities by time of day
Following news that students at a Los Angeles high school had hacked district-issued iPads and were using them for personal use, district officials have halted home use of the Apple tablets until further notice.Assuming that tablets were being given to children to foster creative learning, an incident like this should actually attract adulation rather than criticism, where the children came across a problem, and they worked, hopefully creatively, to find a solution to it. However, that's not what happened, and the school halted home use. Why? I can take one guess. It was because the parents of those children were never "involved" by the school in the process of their children gaining access to iPads. The were most likely made to sign some legal document, which they would have happily did - who wouldn't like to have a new iPad, right?
This is the first in a series of blog posts on the subject, and focuses more on the community related aspects of the One Laptop Per Child project. Future posts will cover other aspects, and hopefully I will get around to completing them soon enough to maintain continuity.
Here’s the low-down on mobile Internet in Haiti, as of June 2014, based on what they told me at the airport. Hope it works for you as well as it does for me: having access to email, Skype, maps, and even Wikipedia info about what kind of fruit I’m eating has proven to be so useful. Plus, I can turn my phone into a hotspot and make posts on my laptop using that connection (what I’m doing right now):
-Digicel and Natcom are the two main providers.
I use Digicel because it’s available in more of the locations where we’re working. Natcom is still catching up.
-There’s two plans and two prices.
7 GB for US$26/month or 15 GB for US$50/month (less if you have Haitian currency on hand)
-Some places (Port-au-Prince and Hinche, for example) have 3G, but in most areas the connection will be slower.
I can normally support Skype calls, but sometimes it goes in and out.
-If you have an Android phone, the people at the shop might not understand how to set it up. Here’s what you need to do (courtesy of my friend Curt):
Access point names says
i click on that and…
APN: digicel.web (WARNING: Digicel 4G FAQ says to try web.digicelha.com instead, so you may want to try each, as this is the one setting that matters most!)
Proxy: Not set
Username: Not set
Password: Not set
Server: Not set
MMSC: Not set
MMS Proxy: Not set
MMS port: Not set
Authentication type: Not set
APN type: Not set
APN protocol: IPv4
APN roaming protocol: IPv4
APN enable/disable: APN enabled (greyed out, cannot change)
MVNO type: None
MVNO value: Not set
Finals week began today, bringing with it a distinctive mix of apprehension, nostalgia and adolescent craziness. We are off to Siguatepeque early in July. Our team this year will include: Sally and I; Richard , Linda and Natalia Guevara- Grey; Marty Keil, her daughter, Morgan, and her friend Hayley Short; Peter and Elisabeth Englefield; and Becky Young . Our 160 XO3 android tablets are already in Honduras. We will meet with the Vice Minister of the Honduran Ministry of Education in Tegucigalpa soon after we land. We hope to secure WiFi for Owen Project schools, training for those teachers and technical support for all the existing XOs in Honduras. In order to expedite this, we must download a special digital curriculum created by the ministry onto the XO tablets and the existing laptops. This is quite exciting as it reveals our growing relationship with the national and local education authorities. Furthermore, this cooperation is in keeping with the vision of OLPC to empower isolated students by connecting them directly to the web and to revolutionize the accessibility of education for rural developing world communities. We will take tablets to 5 new schools and try to visit all the other 10 Owen Project schools. With WiFi access, we hope to establish sister-school relationships with our public schools in Seguin and those around Siguatepeque through skype and facetime. Thinking about the first 4 years of the Owen Project is to enter a world without spiritual inertia or friction, where our initial efforts to create and direct the project have created a momentum that has taken on a life and direction of its own. This is quite humbling and a confirmation of grace at work in the world.
Fabulous opinion piece. Natalie Rusk, a Scratch developer, notes that the next two years are really important because the “call to code” hasn’t really addressed “what do you want to program?” Code for the sake of code won’t work for very many learners, boys or girls.
Bonaventure Masika Reports that kids like Scratch because
It improves their skills in animation projects as it’s much involving. Therefore, a kid can not have time to think on anything destructive but things technologically.
-It is a general, is a learning sugar lab activity that consists almost every feature of the XO laptop. For example; record sound, take photos, paint, import sounds among other tasks.
Kids also love the scratch project samples installed which real make them strive so had to come up with similar like animations.
Why do they like Record? They can see their own real image! – It is a centre of entertainment for the kids as they can make a movie in any style as it will be replayed and if any mistake done they can redo as they delete the unwanted one. – It saves the video automatically even if the learners do not know to do it.- Makes kids feel that they are news reporters on the television through imitation.
Mr. Speak- This is always one of the favorite activities when Small Solutions teams were in the field training. Here is what the Bungoma team says about it:
When starting up this activity the voice says I quote ”Hello Mr. X, please type something” This create love between a child and the computer.
**And they love the movement of the eyes as the cursor is moved.
**The speaking and pronounciation of words as a way of motivating kids to type more words as a result they improve on keyboarding and English as a language. I think you can imagine a kid from a very rural school.
**The feature that answers a question related to science by the help of the robot among other general questions and iIs a much entertaining center when kids chat with it as it uses funny words during discussion process.
What about Tux Math? works as an entertainment activity and it makes a kid much involved in doing math due to back up noise of tux math command.-They also like seeing the appearance of math questions as they appear on the XO screen with a sign of a flame with those shot like noise made by the activity.-Most interesting is the matching of crow like a bird below the screen before and after the math session.
What more would these kids like to have:
WHAT SHOULDL BE ADDED TO SUGAR LAB
-Time in minutes when it comes to video recording – minimum of 10 minutes on Record activity.
*Biology and Physics be detailed as chemistry on browse science books.*Memory capacity be improved in general as that of a tablet XO tablet which is above 5GB and restores power for 5 hours. Kids wish to have a tablet like keyboard since they say is hard, switchable and pretty. Digital games be added such as those on windows such as motorbike,safari rally and football and any other child friendly game that you think is fit.
Kids learning about HIV AIDS, and discussed how it affects the economy and opportunities for livelihood. They also learn about reproductive health.
Creative learning by collection of plastic papers and washing them.
-planning with kids over what they think they can do with plastic papers.
-selection of what material is needed to achieve the specific objective.
The report was prepared by teachers;
Rose, Nelly, Dorice, Shalin, Dorcus led by Bonaventure.
For the transferability of coding to really work, learners can’t just be using computational thinking in other contexts, they also need to be coding in contexts other than the programming class. That’s why we have been arguing for a “smarter computing culture” in which opportunities to program are broadly available.
Originally posted on Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:
Schools as “museums of virtue”* and schools as engines of change have been dominant and conflicting metaphors in the history of school reform. In the mid-19th century, tax-supported public schools pursued Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmetic–the three Rs. Basic literacy–being able to read the Bible, write one’s name, know elementary ciphering, and absorb family and community values–were the primary reasons for creating public schools. In a predominantly rural society, one-room schools sought to preserve the virtues of Protestantism, instill basic literacy, strengthen patriotism, and social custom through the three Rs.
One hundred and fifty years later, public schools are not only expected to instill the traditional three Rs and socialize children into dominant societal values but also expected to be responsible for the “whole child” and change society for the better. There has been an unrelenting expansion of traditional three Rs to now include a suite of literacies: scientific , numeracy
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So I was a bad student. Every evening, I would head home with school snapping at my heels. My reports testified to my schoolmaster’s disapproval. When I wasn’t bottom of the class, I was second to last. (Champagne all round!) At first severe spelling difficulties, rebellious when it came to memorizing dates and places, incapable of learning foreign languages, and with reputation for laziness (lessons not learned, homework not done), I brought home pitiful results unredeemed by music, or sport, or indeed any extra curricular activity.
I was an object of amazement, and continual amazement at that, as the years rolled by without any signs of improvement to my educational torpor. “I’m flabbergasted!” and “Well, I’ll be damned!” are phrases I associate with adults starting at me in total disbelief, as they registered my failure to get my head round anything at all.
She’s never really got over the fact that I was a bad student.
From early on, my future appeared so compromised that she could never feel entirely confident about my present. Not destined to become anything I wasn’t equipped to survive as far as she was concerned. I was her precarious child.
There is, of course, the question of root cause. How did I become a dunce in the first place? Child of a middle –class civil servant, born into a close, loving family, surrounded by responsible adults ho helped with my homework… My father was a polytechnicien, my mother a housewife, no divorce, no alcoholism, no emotionally disturbed relatives, no hereditary defects, three brothers who had all passed the baccalaureat (all mathematicians:; two became engineers, the third an army officer), normal family routine, healthy diet, books in the home, cultural interests commensurate with background and era: painting up to the Impressionist poetry up to Mallarme, music up to Debussy, Russian novels, a predictable phase of reading Teilhard de Chardin, Joyce and Cioran if they were feeling really adventurous, calm, laughter-filled and cultivated mealtime discussions.
Despite all this, a dunce.
Since 1662 the French word cancre has referred to a student who doesn’t succeed at school. This compromises an extension of the word’s primary meaning: “crab”.
It’s a telling metaphor. The dunce is a student who doesn’t follow the straight and narrow path of normal schooling he moves slowly and sideways, far behind the students ahead of him on the path to academic success…
Einstein, Balzac, Chaplin, Edison, Charlemagne, Debussy, Darwin, Picasso and dozens of others were dunces. If they’d been “no-hopers”, they would have stayed that way. Exceptional gifts which school didn’t know how to bring out were waiting deep inside their duncedom.
Duncedom is a tumor from which certain children suffer, and of which they must be cured, for it can prove fatal to society.
So the dunce is not just a bad student. That he is a bad student is, rather, a consequence of being inhibited by his duncedom, as is his potential to be lazy, unruly, violent, a liar, a truant etc. “Bad student” is then an inadequate and even inaccurate translation of cancre, since it attempts to pass of consequence for cause.
Our “bad students”, the ones slated not to become anything, never come to school alone. What walks into the classroom is an onion: several layers of school blues – feat, worry, bitterness, anger, dissatisfaction, furious renunciation – wrapped round a shameful past, an ominous present, a future condemned. Look, here they come, their bodies in the process of becoming and their families in their rucksacks. The lesson can’t really being until the burden has been laid down and the onion peeled. It’s hard to explain, but just one look is often enough, a kind remark, a clear, steady word form a considerate grown-up, to dissolve those blues, lighten those minds and settle those kids comfortably into the present indicative.
Naturally, the benefits are temporary; the onion will layer itself back together outside the classroom, and we’ll have to start all over again tomorrow. But that’s what teaching is all about: starting over again and again until we reach the critical moment when the teacher can disappear.
If we fail to set our students in this course … their existence becomes potholes on an indefinite missing. Of course we have not been alone in digging the tunnels or not knowing how to fill them, but these women and men have still had one or more years of their youth, sitting in front of us. And it is not nothing, a year of schooling (damn): this is eternity in a jar.
Happy 6th Birthday Sugar Labs
1. I just got back from Turtle Art Day in Kathmandu, Nepal. OLE Nepal helped organize a 2-day workshop with 70+ children from four schools. Many thanks to Martin Dluhos, Basanta Shrestha, Subir Pradhanang, Rabi Karmacharya, Bernie Innocenti, Nick Dorian, and Adam Holt, all of whom contributed to the event.
It was not a surprise that children in Nepal are like children everywhere else: they take to programming like ducks to water. We began by taking the children in small groups to learn some basics about controlling the turtle: one child plays the role of turtle, one holds the pen (a piece of chalk) and the rest, in a circle, instruct the “turtle” how to draw a square. They need to be very precise with their instructions: if they just say “forward” without saying how far forward, the turtle keeps walking. If they say “right”, without saying how far to turn, the turtle keeps spinning. After they draw a square, I ask them to draw a triangle then they are ready to start with Turtle Art. I’ve posted a few of the chalk drawings in the wiki: simple ones from my session to more elaborate from those working with another one of the mentors.
After working with chalk, we went to the computers. On a laptop connected to a projector, I introduced Turtle Blocks, and again ask for a square. I show them that they can snap together blocks, e.g., forward 100, right 90; showed them the repeat block; and then I show them how to use the start block to run their program with the rabbit or snail (fast or slow). Over time, I introduced the pen and let them explore colors for awhile. Next, I introduce action blocks: make an action for drawing a square and then call that action inside of a repeat block followed by right 45, and you get a pretty cool pattern. This was followed by more open-ended exploration. I introduced a few more ideas, such as using “set color to heading” (the color is determined by the direction the turtle is heading); “set color = color + 1″ to increment the color; and “set color = time” to make the color slowly change over time. I also introduced a few other blocks, such as show, speak, and random. Finally, I introduced boxes. For this, I use a physical box: I ask the children to put a number (written on paper) in the box; then I ask them what number is in the box. I ask them to take the number in the box and add 1 to it. Again I ask them what number is in the box. I repeat this until they get used to it; then I show them the same thing using Turtle. The example program I write with them is to go forward by the amount in the box, turn right, and add 10 to the number in the box. I asked them what they think will happen and then show them that it makes a spiral. When they run it with the “snail”, they can see the number in the box as the program runs. Another block I explicitly introduced was the “show” block. We programmed an animation with “show image”, “wait 1″, “show image”, “wait 1″, … They recorded dance steps using the Sugar Record activity and used those images in their Turtle projects. As often as possible, we tried to have a child show their work to the entire group. At the end of the second day, we had a table set up for an exhibition; we had to keep adding more tables as more and more children wanted to show off their projects.
We originally planned on break-out sessions on Day Two, but we had a technical glitch on Day One, that slowed things down quite a bit. The children were running Sugar 0.82 on XO-1 laptops, which is nearly six-years old. They had them connected to the mesh network, which cannot scale properly to 70+ machines. The result was a lot of frozen machines. It took most of the day to figure out what was wrong. Once we turned off the radios, everything worked great. I also had to spin a stripped down version of Turtle Art, since a number of dependencies I use, such as some Python 2.7 features, were unavailable on 0.82.
We did have one break-out session for robotics. I brought a Butia to Nepal and I wrote the typical program with the kids to have the Butia go forward until it got to the edge of the circle (everyone was sitting in a circle on the floor); whomever the Butia approached had to push a button so that the Butia would spin and then go in another direction. We then added a few embellishments: the Butia would say “ouch” or “that tickles” when the button was pushed; and we had it take a picture of the child who pushed the button. We saved the files so we could use them to make an animation in Turtle Art.
Of note: One child approached me to say he is teaching himself to program Python. I showed him how to export Python from his Turtle Art projects. I’ll be curious how he uses that feature. I am making a new set to Turtle Cards to demonstrate the steps we took in explaining Turtle to the children.
2. While I was in Kathmandu, I had a chance to meet with the Nepali FOSS community, thanks to Shankar Pokharel, Ankur Sharma, and Subir Pradhanang. We had a nice talk about the challenges and opportunities facing FOSS in Nepal.
3. Just before my trip to Nepal, I was in Mexico DF attending Aldea Digital. The central plaza in Centro Historico is turned into the world’s largest free Internet cafe for two weeks. I gave a lecture about Sugar and ran an impromptu Turtle Art session. (We installed Sugar in a VM on twenty Windows 8 machines and ran a session.) I also had a chance to meet Ian, the 9-month old baby of Carla Gomez: a future Turtle Artist.
In the Community
4. Mike Dawson, formally of OLPC Afghanistan, wrote a nice commentary on the Keepod in which he mentions Sugar on a Stick.
5. Google Summer of Code begins on the 19th of May. We’ll be meeting every week in IRC on Fridays at 2PM EST.
6. There is still time to enter the Sugar Background Image Contest.
7. Daniel Narvaez has been building F20 images for XO: The XO-1 image boots into Sugar (latest from git) and wifi works. He has also built XO-4 images.
9. Please help us with testing of Sugar 102.
10. Please visit our planet.
As you might notice by the date of this post, I never did conclude the posts from last summer once I returned to the US. Actually, I originally wanted to postpone these last posts until I was back teaching in Texas. I suspect that anyone reading this who has actually done work in rural areas in the Third World feels something of a let-down, a sense of moral deflation,when returning to the United States. I teach in the public school system in Texas and my interactions with students here are often in such contrast to those experienced in Honduras that I have sometimes felt disoriented and professionally conflicted. For the first few years I took this to be an indictment of American schools. Now I realize that it is an indictment of me, that I had romanticized the Hondurans to a point where I could see neither them nor my students in Texas.
As I mentioned before, we actually handed out the XOs ourselves this past summer and that made for a wonderful day. Many of the students just couldn’t believe that the computers were theirs to take home. Many parents came and crowded around the door and windows; there was air of expectation and solemnity. We had written the names of each student on their laptops and these names were often quite long and involved. When called to come forward, the students stood proudly and respectfully. Village elders and school officials all made formal speeches. This has happened each year we’ve been in Honduras and I have come to anticipate this formality. This year I wrote my own speech and had it translated it into Spanish. Perhaps because it is a common element in their culture the students listened intently and I felt of one mind and heart with them. I now realize that the real miracles started after we left, when they took the laptops home. I realize now that the real impact will come in the everyday use of the laptops, in the lamplight in a humble house at night, in a classroom during a lesson, in a connection made or a subject explored. It is in all, of these moments, moments I will never see, that the magic will transpire and not in the festival-like atmosphere of our intense trips.
Of course the daily magic of education is what I am privileged to witness every day here in Texas. My students are just as proud, just as full of wonder, just as receptive as those in Honduras. Oddly enough. I had to travel into the mountains of Central America to discover what was right in front of me!!
The following is a guest post, written by Melody Alvarez, who is volunteering with the Peace Corps and is stationed in Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). We’ve been working with Melody and other Peace Corps volunteers working in schools across Chuuk State, to introduce tablet-based technology into the classrooms. Melody’s school, Romanum Elementary, on Romanum Island in the Chuuk Lagoon, has no electricity or Internet connectivity at present. Thus, we sent a Ready-Set Solar Kit to accompany the tablets and enable them to be charged.
In addition, our team had worked on a 10-lesson “Technology Training” curriculum to assist with instruction for those who have never used such technology before. The tablets also came pre-loaded with approximately 10 educational apps, so that the they could be used for school-related purposes despite the lack of connectivity at the school(s).
Below, Melody relays her initial experiences introducing this technology to Romanum’s 8th graders, none of whom had ever used a tablet prior to this experience.
I wanted to give you some feedback on how my 8th graders have been
doing. We use the tablets in Special Class, which is basically an elective class; it is not a mandatory class, however, all the 8th grade students attend. The first part of this class we spend about an hour/hour and a half on English and Math test prep. The second part of class is when we use the tablets.
I wrote “What is technology?” on the board.
No answers from the class. I wrote the definition (which I realize is not technically accurate but I had to make it at a level my students would understand) “something that needs a battery or generator to work.” Then I gave them some examples: Computers, cell phones, MP3 players and DVD players.
Then I wrote “What technology is on Romanum?” I divided all the students in to groups and they worked together to come up with a list. After 10 minutes the groups took turns making a list on the board.
Then I wrote: “What is a tablet?”
Students answer: “A writing notebook” “the yellow paper”
(we have writing tablets with yellow lined paper at our school)
I explained that I was talking about a type of computer, not the writing paper.
Next I wrote: “What can you use a tablet for?”
Student answers: playing games, Math-Calculator, listening to music, watching movies, writing (I explained that on a computer we call it typing) and camera.
Then I asked my class “Why did I teach you about technology and tablets?”
Student answers: To understand, to be smart, because you want us to know what technology is.
I ended class by telling the students to be on time to school on Monday or I would lock them outside. I did not tell them that I had tablets for them to use because it was a surprise. The reason for locking the classroom door is because I knew that the tablets would be a distraction to the other students.
Monday was a rainy day so I gave them 15 extra minutes to arrive and then I locked the door. There were 9 students inside and I gave them the tablets and let the students figure out how to turn them on and it was only a matter of minutes. Then they had to figure out how to unlock the screen and that held them up too, but not for long.
After a few days, I made a schedule of pairs to rotate whose turn it would be to use the tablets, since I have 17 students and only 3 tablets. I plan on changing their partners after about a month so that they can change up who they play with.
So far each student has had 3 turns with the tablet. (We only have special class 3 days a week.) Mostly they like the camera, but they are also playing the games and they are learning how to edit their pictures.
Here are some pictures of the students using the tablets, and some that they took of themselves.
It looks like Melody’s students have already mastered the art of taking selfies! I look forward to receiving much more information from Melody when I return to Chuuk in August, 2014! Stay tuned…
While we are no longer meeting as the OLPC Learning Club (I have a personal and club update nearly ready to post), there are two Scratch Day celebrations coming up in the D.C. area on Saturday May 17, 2014 that were jumpstarted by club members.
Jeff Elkner, who hosted many club meetings at the Arlington (Virginia) Career Center, has engaged with the staff of Hoffman-Boston Elementary School in Arlington to help them stage their first Scratch Day. They are calling it the All Star Computer Programming Party. I’ve enlisted Michael Badger, author of the new book Scratch 2.0: A Beginner’s Guide (Second Edition), to make a guest appearance. The school’s STEM team will showcase a number of other fun coding tools. Dell Computer and George Mason University are also sponsoring. For more information, visit this link:
Hoffman-Boston Elementary School All Star Computer Programming Party
In D.C., our amazing friend Leshell Hatley of Uplift, Inc., is doing her third Scratch Day, moving this year to Howard University’s Computer Learning & Design Center (CLDC). Kevin Cole, who has hosted many, many club meetings at Gallaudet University, helped Leshell get her first event going. Uplift, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit immersing students in STEAM and CS education. For more on Uplift’s Scratch Day, visit this link:
Uplift / Howard University Scratch Day
Both events are open to the public, but the Uplift / Howard University Scratch Day asks for an RSVP.
While Scratch 1.4 is still in wide use, many are adopting the new web-based version, Scratch 2.0, which has been completely rebuilt from “scratch” and substantially enhanced. Just in the last few weeks, support for the Lego WeDo robotics kit was added to Scratch 2.0 and a touch tablet version called ScratchJr. was announced. Exciting times lie ahead for Scratchers of all ages!
Originally posted on Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:
This post appeared at: http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/big-educational-laptop-and-tablet-projects-ten-countries on July 31, 2013
Big educational laptop and tablet projects: Ten countries to learn from
Reflexively, many countries look to, and hope to compare themselves against, the United States when considering educational technology initiatives. (Whether or not this is a good or useful practice, especially for many less affluent countries, or for countries with decidedly different educational contexts and socio-economic circumstances, is perhaps fodder for another discussion.) The United States is of course a very big and…
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Dear jeff.elkner,Excited by the generous offer, I logged into Khan Academy to explore the new curriculum (Intro to JS, 2014). I found a new introductory programming course that is interactive, visual, and multilingual, available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. The videos that accompany the tutorial are narrated by young, hip sounding female voices, a plesant change from the old white men that have almost exclusively been the faces of programming education in the past.
Did you know that just 18% of computer science college graduates are women? That's crazy when you consider that by 2020, the demand for graduates in computer science will be double the available workforce.
But together we can introduce all our students to coding and ensure that female students don't get left behind.
Thanks to Google, U.S. public high school teachers can now earn over $1,000 in DonorsChoose.org funding when their female students complete our Khan Academy coding lesson.
For every female U.S. public high school student that completes the tutorial, DonorsChoose.org will send you a $100 giftcode for your classroom. As an extra bonus, they’ll also send you a $500 gift code when four of them are done!
Inevitably, the Affordable College Textbook Act will face criticism from people asking whether the government should get into the textbook industry at all and to leave the cost up to the "free market" (2013).The textbook industry will certainly use whatever lobbying power it can muster to make this argument, but as Mr. Matthews also points out, lack of student choice in which textbook to purchase make textbooks a very poor example of a "free market". Mr. Matthews also describes the process that textbook publishers have traditionally used to keep the used textbook market from providing any solution to the skyrocketing textbook costs - releasing new editions every few years to keep used textbooks from being usable.
I felt there was something so naturally liberating about the Internet. That it was about connection; it wasn't about separation, which broadcast media obviously were. It was about a conversation, it wasn't about the channel. It wasn't about content, which is a word only recently derived when the containers went away. Note that. It's a code word for "We're a large corporation and we own all human expression and we call it content" (2014, 6:02).