“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” (John F. Kennedy) #OLPC #EducationforAll #ThursdayThoughts
Using Math and Design Based Thinking to Create: Classes for children, learning to create projects in Scratch Junior or Scratch, using MakeyMakey. These projects can be animations, games, puzzles, simulations. Our approach to learning is design based knowledge construction, and thinking about thinking process. These classes will be tailored to those who are interested. We like working with small. If you are interested in these classes, now or in 2018 please contact us. Susan McPhee, Alan Papert and Sandra Thaxter are the instructors.
Small Solutions has held taught Scratch classes at FRS in previous years. We would like to solicit interest before scheduling. We donate 25% of all church members class fees to FRS. This year we are working on the theme of Re-Imagining the future. Children in Kenya thought about the homes they wanted, how their city should look. These projects could range from imagining the cars of the future, to simulating sea rise or species extinction, to creating games to meet future environmental challenges.
Sandra Thaxter has been working with Scratch for 7 years, Alan Papert had a career as a design engineer and was part of the Turtle Seymour Papert children’s programming research. Susan McPhee is a programmer and enthusiast of Scratch Junior. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our website for more information http://smallsolutionsbigideas.org
Makey Makey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything inbetween:
Scratch and Scratch Junior are a child friendly programming environment developed at the MIT Media Lab. Scratch is an expanding set of tools and programs that connects to MakeyMakey, Lego Robotics, Arduino and Music streaming.
Small Solutions Big Ideas is dedicated to providing children with learning opportunities that expand their thinking and awareness. We are enthusiasts of after-school informal learning environments. We structure each class to adapt to the children signed up. Classes are small 8 to 10 students, and students receive individual attention. We use Scratch programming as an environment for children to build programming skills, but learn how to design complex tasks, such as designing a game, or animating a narrative story, or simulating a natural process. We also use hands on materials and activities to create and design. 3D design is available for students who are interested in that medium.
Andreas Gros, who had presented about his upcoming Ethiopia project has now made a trip to Addis Ababa and back. This project has several OLPC NL3 laptops and multiple School Servers. He will be sharing his updates and experiences with us about this project. Please join us!
In each OLPC program school, it is important to measure the impact on student learning and success. OLPC works with the local project team to design a system to monitor various educational indicators as articulated by the local educational community and stakeholders. The data collected during the monitoring process provides real time information about the impact of each program which can be used to make strategic implementation decisions at any given time.
OLPC uses several metrics to measure academic impact, including the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and the Early Grade Math Assessment (EGMA). Both assessments are international standardized exams designed to measure student achievement in basic reading and math skills. OLPC trains local teams to gather baseline data using these assessments. Results are used to design and improve teaching strategies focused on strengthening reading and math skills in participating students.
OLPC teams use several data collection tools to measure impact on attitudes about education and the future. Our teams survey school leaders, teachers, students and families regarding their own assessment of the educational program. All of this feedback is used to strengthen the program in areas as dictated by the local educational community.
Monitoring and evaluation is an essential component of every successful OLPC program. OLPC’s goal is to have a positive impact on each participating school, teacher and student, in an effort to create a brighter future for all.
Stay tuned for the next OLPC update to learn about the program’s impact on specific schools and communities around the world.
To support OLPC, visit www.laptop.org
Uruguay is working to position itself as a leader in robotics and programming.
“The country is increasingly earning a reputation for its prowess in both software and robotics. The country has a workforce that is surprisingly agile, highly educated and generationally diverse, says KPMG Brazil managing partner Ruben Gallago . . . . At the collegiate level, the Universidad de La Republic, the country’s oldest and largest university, has created a project to create a “simple and economic platform” to help engineering students and teachers internalize the basic ideas of programming. The country is also counting on its “one laptop per child” policy that since 2009 has given every elementary school student a computer with internet access — an effort to equip the next generation with even greater mathematical and technical skills.”
Read more about the impressive results from Uruguay here:
|How does this thing work, anyway??|
Wow! 21st Century Technology Coming to good old Axim!!
Principal Theodora Appiah and Her New Machine! Thanks you all!
And, well, if you know someone who can help her with all the other stuff, you know who to contact!
THE GREEDY FROG.
Written by Subeta
There were those days when frogs were the most beautiful reptiles on earth. There voices were so sweet and they had also smooth shiny skin and strong graceful legs. These made other animals liked them. They also liked singing to other animals.
There lived one frog called Lende. Lende had such a nice voice that all animals gathered at her hut, after every morning’s work for songs and stories.
However, in those days good things never missed there bed side. Lende was very greedy for food, This made her hate other animals. She had a fellow greedy friend called Kaza.
Kaza could not leave Lende ́s home without eating. She always made long unending stories in order to wait for food.
One day Kaza decided to pay her long time friend Lende a visit to hear her beautiful stories and songs. She was also hungry as she had not eaten for the past three days. She had timed her arrival at lunch time when she was very sure that Lende has prepared food. She drew closer to her friends house. The sweet smell of boiling pumpkins filled her stomach.
I will use all tricks to get that greedy friend of mine to give me food. Kaza said to herself and knocked at the Lende’s door before it could be opened. She peeped through the hole in the wall and saw her friend hiding food. No sooner had she began, than he said! Oh! my friend, the God of the earth and sky has just saved me!
What happened to you my friend? Lende asked in disbelief. I almost got a snake bite! A snake, as long as from this place where I am seated to that hot pot under your bed, just crossed my way as I made the last stride away from it. Kaza replied, pointing at the food Lende had hidden.
“You must be lucky,” replied disappointed Lende. In a flash Kaza got up from his seat and quickly walked to the pot of pumpkins as he demonstrated how long the snake was.
Oh! my friend, this pot is so hot , what is it that you are cooking under the bed? “, Kaza asked.
Lende was so disappointed and embarrassed that she brought out the food and they all ate together . Kaza ate as fast as she could and even faster than her friend. After the food was all finished she stood up pretending to be going for a short call.
Once outside she hurriedly left for home. The following day, another friend also decided to march in without knocking the door. Lende had prepared porridge and potatoes for lunch. My friend saw that porridge seems sweet. The visitor said, “it is so sweet that we don’t even need sugar to make it sweeter”, she added.
Lende tried hiding the porridge but she slid and burned her soft and smooth skin. The visitor was so hungry that she had never allowed the porridge to go like that. She bent over Lende and with her long and rough tongue, cleared all the porridge on her friends skin each time removing with it the skin and part of Lende’s flesh.
Mr. Hare was another problem to Lende because he could smell food from far and walk into his house talking about it.
“Ooh! what a delicious meal for you have cooked” said the hare. I will come with my children to help you eat the food. Lende got fed up with her friends and decided to swallow hot stone to spoil the sweet voice brought so many visitors. As the stone rolled down her throat it burned her that she could not bear with the pain any more. She jumped near by pool of water to drink some water to cool her pain that had gotten worse by now. However, she tried getting out of water the pain got worse that even breathing was a problem. She therefore, decided to stay permanently in water to keep cooling her throat and so to avoid many visitors. That is why up to now frogs have very rough voice, skin and also stays in water.
LESSON learned from the story:
Greedy does not pay but instead can give a permanent body harm.
The story helps as to mentor ourselves and fit in the current society of 21st century.
We should not be selfish instead be kind to others.
written by Subeda wanjala from Bukokholo RC Primary school grade 8, 2018
THERE WERE THREE PRESENTORS: A). HELLEN N. WATITI GRADE 8 BUTONGE PRIMARY SCHOOL – BUNGOMA- KENYA
Hi everyone, my name is Hellen Watiti a grade eight student of Butonge primary school Bungoma Kenya.Welcome participants. OUR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE GOAL
Our main goal of practicing sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generation starting from our current generation to meet our own needs.
Being practitioners of sustainable agriculture, we seek to integrate three main objectives in our farm work as follows;
A). A healthy environment
B). Economic profitability and
C). Social economic equity
Therefore, I call upon all countries under OPEN especially schools to be involved in the food system – growers, food processors, distributors, retailers, consumers and waste managers to play a role in ensuring a sustainable agricultural system.
As students of Butonge primary school Bungoma Kenya, our major practice in sustainable agriculture will be to promote soil health, minimize water use and lower pollution levels on our farms.
B) METRINE WEKESA GRADE EIGHT BUTONGE PRIMARY SCHOOL- BUNGOMA KENYA
My name is Metrine Wekesa grade eight of Butonge primary school Bungoma Kenya and am to present over our preparation. Preparation that we are trying to put in place,
Through the school management board, we have been given part of our school land that we will use to practice sustainable agriculture demo plots. In that part of land we are going to divide it into four small plots measuring 6m by 6m or 18ft by 18ft.
We intend to start with two crops i.e beans and sweet potatoes early August this year 2018
Between now to August we are looking forward to do soil sampling to know our school’s soil PH before we prepare for planting.
Thank you, Metrine.
C).EMMANUEL WAFULA GRADE EIGHT BUTONGE PRIMARY SCHOOL- BUNGOMA KENYA: PREPARATION PROCESS
My name is Emmanuel Wafula of Butonge primary school – Bungoma Kenya
After knowing the soil PH, as a school team, we will to collect organic manure (compost manure).
Out of 100 students who will participate in our sustainable agriculture demo plots, especially bean plot, we have resolved each student to come along with two kgs of compost manure and prepare it for planting beans on the plot that we will be doing conservation farming and on a control plot we will use inorganic fertilizer as we continue to study our soil fertility improvement in next planting season.
Not only shall we be monitoring soil fertility improvement, but also see crop production performance.
In our preparation we are seeking technical advice from agricultural experts especially agronomist and agricultural extension offices to inform us more about spacing, pest and disease control among other farming basic technical requirements.
There is an old legend of a man from Jerusalem who lived on the route that Jesus took on the way to Golgotha. This man, named Ahaseurus, had seen many criminals pass by on their way to crucifiction, so he took no notice of Jesus as he fell for a third time on his doorstep. He nudged the prostrate Jesus who said, “ Because you have not allowed me to rest, so too you will never rest.” At that moment Ahaseurus became immortal. Jesus appeared to him in a dream and told him that he would wander the world as a witness to the miraculous events of those times. To those faithful people who recognized him, he could give an account of that first Good Friday and reassure them that miracles do happen for those who have eyes to see. Throughout the Middle Ages Christians sought for this man in the faces of strangers, travelers and pilgrims.
I mention this story because we met this man at a kindergarten we visited in the foothills outside of Siguatepeque. I can’t describe the impact that a room full of beaming, beautiful and expectant faces can have on a heart that is open and willing to receive. All that was good, true and loving in us was called to the surface. There was simply no room for mean-spiritedness, selfishness or self-absorption.
Carried away by these emotions, I moved to the back of the classroom and was approached by an older Honduran man who was not introduced to us earlier. He proceeded to tell that he had heard of us and the story of Owen’s death and our response to it. He conveyed that he sometimes prayed for Owen’s soul and that he wanted to meet Sally and I. I can’t tell you how humbled I was by this simple and profound expression of compassion. Just as mysteriously, this man left without ceremony, but I hope to remember him for the rest of my life.
His appearance proved to be prophetic because he prepared us for an afternoon visit to the special needs school in Siguatepeque. Most of these students are deaf and unable to speak. They use facial expressions, body language and gestures to convey what their words cannot. Mostly they convey joy and happiness. Did I mention that they are the world’s best huggers? Such trust and openness! Presley, Hannah, Brian, Thong, Brooke and Kaelin found it hard to tear themselves away.
I’ll end here with some pictures which will mock my attempts to convey in words what can only be experienced directly.
Saint John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic who chronicled what he called the “ dark night of the soul.” I have known these nights, but I wonder if there are other stages of a soul’s journey that correspond to more pleasant times of day. When we arrived in San Pedro Sula safely and without lost bags or any delays, I felt a rush of gratitude and happiness that matched the vibrant green of the countryside. The experience reminded me of Saturday mornings when I was a child. The air itself tasted sweet and the sunlight was golden and magical. Borrowing from Saint John, can there be a bright morning of the soul? If so, then I have known these as well. I wonder too if I am effected by the childlike excitement of our latest and largest contingent of students. I trust that they are posting plenty of pictures. However evocative those images, there is some element of direct experience that cannot be captured by pictures or words. You have to see their faces and feel the force of their emotions.
We piled into a Forestry Service van and soon left the sweltering lowlands, climbing into the fantastically-forested mountains. The temperature fell, dark clouds gathered and the sky opened up. The rain was so fierce that we feared flooded roadways. After weeks of baking heat in Texas, we enjoyed the chill in the air and arrived safely.
Monday morning after breakfast at Dona Mercedes’, we left for our first school. Some of us rode in the back of a pickup, while others stayed safely in a van. I am going to try to add some pictures here. Sally has reminded me that no one wants to read my purple prose.
I’m going to sign off now so that I can post this.
Through the generosity of our donors, this young woman is being trained in nutrition. She has gained notably superior marks in her work. She will come back to the Bungoma community and share her knowledge and services. This strengthens the impact of our programs, and builds goodwill and trust in the community. Everyone benefits.
Receive many greetings from this end of the great rift valley of our beloved country Kenya. I hope and trust that you’re doing well in the United States of America. I’m also doing well here in my training school as I say once again that, thank you so much for your immeasurable support that enabled to be where I ‘am.
I’m learning new things about nutrition of which historically, people of my community are not upholding them. For instance, I have to help my community on the side of maintaining good health. For example, one should choose a diet moderate in sugar and salt. This is because, too much consumption of sugar leads to hypertension, diabetes and too much consumption of salt leads to goiter. They should choose a diet of whole grains, vegetables especially; they are given too much food to children, weaning starts too early or late without following health procedures and they are often sick.
Solutions on how to curb the above problems,
I will encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months before complimenting them.
I have to teach mothers to complement their babies at 6 months so that they can get enough food and breast milk
Mothers should vaccine their children in order to protect their immunity.
As a dietitian, I will use the following dietary assessment to assess the diet of people in the community.
Food Frequency Questionnaire:
This is whereby a person is given a list of around 100 food items to indicate his or her intake per day, week, and month.
24 hour dietary recall;
Trainer interviewer asks the subject to recall all food and drinks taken in the previous 24 hours.
Its aim is to discover the usual food intake pattern of an individual over a relatively long period of time.
Food intake should be recorded by the subject at a time of consumption
Observed food consumption:
The unused in clinical method practice but is recommended for research.
I will go ahead to advice people of my community to plant plenty of guava trees and teach them about the importance of eating a balanced diet e.g fats, minerals, vitamins, proteins and carbohydrates.
According to analysis of diet survey data, the measure of nutrient provided by the diet is calculated by basing on calories supplied by the food such as that food rich in nutrients relative to the energy content are termed a food with high nutrient density. E.g !kg carbohydrate(CHO)- 4 Kilo calories (kca)
1kg proteins – 4 kilo calories (kca)
1g fats – 9 kilo calories (kca)
1g alcohol – 7 kilo calories (kca)
In our community, there are children, who are malnourished due to,
Not getting enough breast milk
Given too little food and
Overfeeding among other diet requirements
Here is my performance report:
We invite you to read OLPC’s 2017 Annual Report!
2017 was a year filled with growth and celebration, as programs continued to expand and positively impact students, teachers and communities.
Thank you for your continued support for the OLPC Education Program!
|Western Heritage Home Children in 2007. Our newest graduates are somewhere in this pic!|
Dorothy has graduated with an Nursing Associate degree from the Asante Nursing School. She will be placed by the Ghanaian Government in a locale needing medical staff in the near future. Meanwhile, she is supporting herself by working with the cleaning staff at the Lou Moon Resort not far from Axim.
|Peter graduated from Nsein Senior High School. He took all the "extra" classes in science and math, and dreams of becoming a computer engineer. His WASSCE test scores (like our SAT) will be available in September. Meanwhile, he is considering offers for two teacher positions (math and science skills are scarce and so even at this stage he can help younger students) and/or a position in a bank until his future educational plans materialize.|
|Ernestina (left) and Gifty have graduated from Axim Girls Senior High School. Both have already had some experience in market selling, and plan to use their Graduation Awards to start their own businesses|
|Kingsley has graduated from the Axim Community Development Vocational and Technical Institute. He has specialized in Welding and Fabrication. He has done some apprentice work, and his training at CDVTI included business and computer skills, English, and entrepreneurship as well as training in his technical specialty. He is looking for a job!|
|Godwin has graduated from Manye Junior High School. He will next attend Kikkam Technical Institute, which offers a wide range of vocational/technical classes for further training.|
In September of 2016, OLE Nepal implemented the OLPC education program in fifteen schools in Baitadi. OLE Nepal deployed OLPC laptops and installed digital libraries in participating schools. Teachers in the program schools attended a training program focused on developing the skills they need to integrate technology into the classroom. OLE Nepal also provided two teaching residents to support the program schools throughout the first year in order to provide ongoing support to students and teachers.
The results are positive. A comparison of baseline and mid-term results revealed “students have made an impressive improvement in learning English, Science and Mathematics.” Students showed improvements in all three areas.
On behalf of the OLPC community, congratulations to OLE Nepal on these impressive results!
Thanks to OLE Nepal for its incredible commitment to the OLPC education program and children in Nepal!
There is a beautiful short story by Jean Giono called, ” The Man Who Planted Trees.” In it a peasant living in Provence early in the 20th century loses an only child and is emptied out by grief. He becomes a shepherd and moves to a part of Southern France that has been deforested and desolate since Roman times. He takes on the mission of replanting trees in this high desert- one acorn at a time, one day at a time, one year at a time. After decades of patient labor and magnificent generosity, he revives the ancient forest and water returns to the streams and springs, and animals return to the trees. With Christ-like devotion this simple man changes the world.
For obvious reasons this story resonates with Sally and I. We recognize what it feels like to be emptied by grief, and also how broken hearts are fertile ground for quiet service. In Siguatepeque our principal partner Oscar Ochoa Mendoza is a forester, a man who plants trees. For the past 8 years we have also joined him and many others in planting computers in schools in the mountains around Siguatepeque. We hope that these digital seeds have spread some measure of excitement, joy and curiosity to these children- one life at a time, one class at a time, one village at a time.
It is the time of the year to start dreaming of summer vacation, and for me this means a trip to Honduras. Six of my students, all graduating seniors, will be with us this trip. I’m including their photos above. I was particularly moved by these young people because they came to me to ask if they could join our mission before I had mentioned anything about going to Honduras. With continuing wonder, Sally and I have become observers of a project that seems to draw loving people into its orbit. I’ve asked them to view some of our old posts to get a sense of what it might be like in a mountain school surrounded by smiling children. Reviewing these posts myself, I felt like Marcel Proust, overcome by recollections of the past, overcome by a beguiling nostalgia, an enchantment.
It was not the taste of a petite madeleine dipped in tea that I sought in the memories evoked by those posts; it was that quiet joy, that moral clarity, that sense of ethical purpose. I remember a film entitled ” The Hurt Locker” which involved the adventures of a munitions expert in Baghdad who defuses bombs for the military. After his tour ends in Iraq, he returns home to his wife and child. He goes shopping for breakfast cereal and is overwhelmed by the bright lights. the muzak playing and the sheer number of choices offered in the cereal aisle. In the next frame he is back in Iraq risking his life. I think I understand him. In Baghdad his life is simple and full of life and death importance. Most days I feel like I’m in the cereal aisle of moral choices, confused and ill at ease. It seems quaint and naive to try to love your neighbor as yourself here in Texas. This is never the case in Honduras . Some day I’ll bring some of that confidence back home.
A final note: I’ll identify those handsome folks who are about to find out what I was struggling to convey earlier. In the order of their photos: Tong Vu, who will be attending Blinn College; Brian Cash, also attending Blinn College; Kaelin Casey, who will attend Concordia College ; Brooke Mueller, who will attend Texas A&M; Hannah Patek, is bound for Texas Tech University; and Presley Carter, will be at the University of Texas in Austin. I feel a father’s pride in all of them.
A key component of each OLPC educational program is sustainability. Implementing a sustainable educational program requires an effective, long-term technical support strategy. OLPC works with local teams to develop a system and processes to deploy the laptops and to provide ongoing maintenance and technical support services.
OLPC designs technical platforms that include integrated infrastructure and connectivity in order to provide secure internet access and a security system which disables the use of the laptop in case of loss or theft. These platforms are created with the input and guidance of local stakeholders in an effort to address local needs.
OLPC’s technical support services include customization of the operating system and content. We provide training on the technical processes of maintenance, repair and disassembly of the laptops. We help each program to create a system to manage spare parts for the laptops. We work with local teams to define and design connectivity requirements to ensure internet access in every participating school. We advise local teams as they configure, install and administrate schools servers and support infrastructure, including the laptop’s security system.
OLPC’s technical support services facilitate the development of local capacity and ensure the long-term sustainability of each educational program.
To learn more, visit http://www.laptop.org.
|"Madame Mercy", as she is known, trying out the tricycle mobile library. No she doesn't drive it herself---she has Gaddiel Eyison, her library lead staff, to do that!!|
|Meeting with Headmaster and Library Teacher|
CORRUPTION IN KENYA
Corrruption is where a person becomes greed of money and needs to be bribed in order to do something.Corruption in Kenya has been widely spread in all parts including in schools,offices,companies,churches and hospitals.
Kenya has been noted by many countries in all parts of the wold to be among the most corrupt countries. Behold the fact that Kenya is one of the third world countries in the world where citizens depend on education for survival, throug corruption Kenya is killing her own inovative and prosporous son.
A good example is a person who works as the company manager,he claims that he want kitu kidogo (something small) in order to employ ssomebody. This leads to lose of jobs to the poor who are educated, they lose chances because they have nothing to offer.
Principals in schools are bribed by parents who had their children perfoming poorly for them to get a chance inthe school while the poor children who perfomed better loses the chance.
Traffic police officers need to be bribed by drivers.The drivers who have wrecked dud vehicles which may lead to accidents on *roads are allowed to pass on roads.
Effects of corruption
1. Corruption has led in killing of prosperous and inovative minds which can change kenya by vission 2030.
Managers can only employ the rich who are able to offer something smallto them .
Through this we discover that Africa is killing her own son
2.Accidents are rapidly becoming high because traffic police officers are allowing wrecked,old and poorly managed trucks passing on roads.
3.Companies are collapsing because the managers employ unskilled people who are rich leavingout the skilled people who are poor.
What kenya shall do to overcome corruption.
1.Citizens should practice equality to all because we were made by the same God and our blood is made of the same colour.
2.Citizens should not be greed of money.
3.Citizens should conduct public rallies so as to fight corruption by conducting public awarenesses.
US BEING YOUTHS,LETS DISCUSS CORRUPTION SO THAT IT CANT HAPPEN AGAIN IN OUR GENERATION.
LETS UNITE AND FIGHT CORRUPTION
LETS SAVE THE LIVES OF THE POOR AND OPHARNS
Brighton is one of our Scholarship students. He is attending St. Luke’s High School for Boys. It is a very good prestigious local school. He wants to be an engineer. He is one of our ‘building youth leadership’ students. He contributes to the learning and activities at the Hands of Charity/SSBI Technology Education center.
Earlier this month, Liaison Technologies joined forces with One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) to support education in Central America. Thanks to a generous contribution from Liaison, the OLPC education program in Nicaragua implemented by the Fundacion Zamora Teran has expanded to include children in the Bautista Betania School in Sandino City.
OLPC is a non-profit organization created to provide every child in the world with a quality, innovative education. As part of its comprehensive education program, OLPC provides each participating student and teacher with a rugged, connected laptop computer, in addition to the training and support needed to realize each student’s full potential. OLPC provides on-going teacher training and technical support training to participating schools, as well as a monitoring and evaluation program. OLPC’s partner in Nicaragua, the Fundacion Zamora Teran, has implemented the OLPC education program with more than 65,000 children throughout Central America.
As a leader in cloud-based integration and data management technology, Liaison Technologies is shaping the integration marketplace with innovative solutions designed to meet today’s toughest data challenges. From complex integration and data management to the brave new frontiers of big data, Liaison’s secure solutions break down data silos, reduce inefficiencies, and uncover actionable insights.
Liaison Technologies chose to partner with OLPC as part of its ongoing mission to make a lasting impact in and beyond the communities they live, work, and serve. Liaison is committed to helping forward-thinking organizations unlock insights that have the power to sustain our planet, revolutionize lives, and improve societies. With this contribution, Liaison is supporting OLPC’s efforts to transform education, lower the barriers to technology in Central America and provide a brighter future for all.
OLPC is grateful for Liaison Technologies for its continued support for education!
This past week, the OLPC team provided teacher training to teachers from Ngamo Primary school in the Linkwasha region in Zimbabwe. Thanks to a generous donation form Henny’s Kids, OLPC laptops and teacher training were given to participating students and teachers.
Now the team is on its way to Zambia to provide additional laptops and training as part of the OLPC education program. Stay tuned for more details!
Seymour Papert is credited as saying that tools to support learning should have “high ceilings” and “low floors.” The phrase is meant to suggest that tools should allow learners to do complex and intellectually sophisticated things but should also be easy to begin using quickly. Mitchel Resnick extended the metaphor to argue that learning toolkits should also have “wide walls” in that they should appeal to diverse groups of learners and allow for a broad variety of creative outcomes. In a new paper, Benjamin Mako Hill and I attempted to provide the first empirical test of Resnick’s wide walls theory. Using a natural experiment in the Scratch online community, we found causal evidence that “widening walls” can, as Resnick suggested, increase both engagement and learning.
Over the last ten years, the “wide walls” design principle has been widely cited in the design of new systems. For example, Resnick and his collaborators relied heavily on the principle in the design of the Scratch programming language. Scratch allows young learners to produce not only games, but also interactive art, music videos, greetings card, stories, and much more. As part of that team, I was guided by “wide walls” principle when I designed and implemented the Scratch cloud variables system in 2011-2012.
While designing the system, I hoped to “widen walls” by supporting a broader range of ways to use variables and data structures in Scratch. Scratch cloud variables extend the affordances of the normal Scratch variable by adding persistence and shared-ness. A simple example of something possible with cloud variables, but not without them, is a global high-score leaderboard in a game (example code is below). After the system was launched, I saw many young Scratch users using the system to engage with data structures in new and incredibly creative ways.
Although these examples reflected powerful anecdotal evidence, I was also interested in using quantitative data to reflect the causal effect of the system. Understanding the causal effect of a new design in real world settings is a major challenge. To do so, we took advantage of a “natural experiment” and some clever techniques from econometrics to measure how learners’ behavior changed when they were given access to a wider design space.
Understanding the design of our study requires understanding a little bit about how access to the Scratch cloud variable system is granted. Although the system has been accessible to Scratch users since 2013, new Scratch users do not get access immediately. They are granted access only after a certain amount of time and activity on the website (the specific criteria are not public). Our “experiment” involved a sudden change in policy that altered the criteria for who gets access to the cloud variable feature. Through no act of their own, more than 14,000 users were given access to feature, literally overnight. We looked at these Scratch users immediately before and after the policy change to estimate the effect of access to the broader design space that cloud variables afforded.
We found that use of data-related features was, as predicted, increased by both access to and use of cloud variables. We also found that this increase was not only an effect of projects that use cloud variables themselves. In other words, learners with access to cloud variables—and especially those who had used it—were more likely to use “plain-old” data-structures in their projects as well.
The graph below visualizes the results of one of the statistical models in our paper and suggests that we would expect that 33% of projects by a prototypical “average” Scratch user would use data structures if the user in question had never used used cloud variables but that we would expect that 60% of projects by a similar user would if they had used the system.
It is important to note that the estimated effective above is a “local average effect” among people who used the system because they were granted access by the sudden change in policy (this is a subtle but important point that we explain this in some depth in the paper). Although we urge care and skepticism in interpreting our numbers, we believe our results are encouraging evidence in support of the “wide walls” design principle.
Of course, our work is not without important limitations. Critically, we also found that rate of adoption of cloud variables was very low. Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this from the data we observed, it has been suggested that widening walls may have a potential negative side-effect of making it harder for learners to imagine what the new creative possibilities might be in the absence of targeted support and scaffolding. Also important to remember is that our study measures “wide walls” in a specific way in a specific context and that it is hard to know how well our findings will generalize to other contexts and communities. We discuss these caveats, as well as our methods, models, and theoretical background in detail in our paper which now available for download as an open-access piece from the ACM digital library.
This blog post, and the open access paper that it describes, is a collaborative project with Benjamin Mako Hill. Financial support came from the eScience Institute and the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. Quantitative analyses for this project were completed using the Hyak high performance computing cluster at the University of Washington.
Ed Felton tweeted a few days ago: “Often hear that the reason today’s Internet is not more secure is that the early designers failed to imagine that security could ever matter. That is a myth.”
This is indeed a myth. Much of the current morass can be laid at the feet of the United States government, due to its export regulations around cryptography.
I will testify against the myth. Bob Scheifler and I started the X Window System in 1984 at MIT, which is a network transparent window system: that is, applications can reside on computers anywhere in the network and use the X display server. As keyboard events may be transmitted over the network, it was clear to us from the get-go that it was a security issue. It is in use to this day on Linux systems all over the world (remote X11 access is no longer allowed: the ssh protocol is used to tunnel the X protocol securely for remote use). By sometime in 1985 or 1986 we were distributing X under the MIT License, which was developed originally for use of the MIT X Window System distribution (I’d have to go dig into my records to get the exact date).
I shared an office with Steve Miller at MIT Project Athena, who was (the first?) programmer working on Kerberos authentication service, which is used by Microsoft’s Active Directory service. Needless to say, we at MIT were concerned about security from the advent of TCP/IP.
We asked MIT whether we could incorporate Kerberos (and other encryption) into the X Window System. According to the advice at the time (and MIT’s lawyers were expert in export control, and later involved in PGP), if we had even incorporated strong crypto for authentication into our sources, this would have put the distribution under export control, and that that would have defeated X’s easy distribution. The best we could do was to leave enough hooks into the wire protocol that kerberos support could be added as a source level “patch” (even calls to functions to use strong authentication/encryption by providing an external library would have made it covered under export control). Such a patch for X existed, but could never be redistributed: by the time that export controls were relaxed, the patch had become mostly moot, as ssh had become available, which, along with the advent of the World Wide Web, was “good enough”, though far from an ideal solution.
Long before the term Open Source software was invented, open source and free software was essential to the Internet for essential services. The choice for all of us working on that software was stark: we could either distribute the product of our work, or enter a legal morass, and getting it wrong could end up in court, as Phil Zimmerman did somewhat later with PGP.
Anyone claiming security was a “failure of imagination” does not know the people or the history and should not be taken seriously. Security mattered not just to us, but everyone working on the Internet. There are three software legacies from Project Athena: Kerberos, the X Window System, and instant messaging. We certainly paid much more than lip service to Internet security!
Government export controls crippled Internet security and the design of Internet protocols from the very beginning: we continue to pay the price to this day. Getting security right is really, really hard, and current efforts towards “back doors”, or other access is misguided. We haven’t even recovered from the previous rounds of government regulations, which has caused excessive complexity in an already difficult problem and many serious security problems. Let us not repeat this mistake…
Remember our Community Summit? We didn't host one last year due to logistical challenges and such, but we are getting ready to host one this year! We have joined forces with open source, open data, and open education communities at San Francisco State University to organize a weekend hackathon. Details will be out shortly, but mark your calendars.
What questions does Marvel Comics “Black Panther” movie pose for us?
Does it make a difference that people of color have joined the mostly white club of directors and filmmakers. Kudos to Marvel for Black Panther and its director, Ryan Coogler. The performances are remarkable in the quality of the acting, beauty, grace and authenticity of the characters, The role of women in the drama, and the rescue of their country is worth a discussion. The genre is a Superhero Comic book genre. The main character Ch’alla appeared first in 1966, and overtime has rated at the 52nd most popular Super hero.
Black Panther is not only beautifully executed with strong performances especially notable are the performances of the women, Lupita Nygong’o as Nakia, Letita Wright as Suri, and Florence Kasumba as Ayo. The character portrayed by T’Challa by Chadwick Boseman, is one of the tradition of challenges that prove his earning leadership How can we build a future from poverty.
The theme of a kingdom in the hidden forests of Africa what has the key to the future and to a world peace is a timely message. My experience of African people, especially the women, is a remarkable strength overcoming the obstacles of poverty, failed governments and access to education. I find them also totally dedicated to building a better future for their country, and ready to take leadership into their own hands.The are strong in technology. It is a great message to youth of color that the smartest person in the story is a woman who has built the technology that fuels their civilization. And who plays the tradtiona role of ‘evil’ in this movie version that is now playing? Someone very like the sterotype of the aparthied Boers Africaans. Toally reckless in his valuing of himan life. The other evil is a California home grown young man who has been through the US military war in Afghanistan, and become a killer. He has a disarmingly casual cool demeanor, which some may think makes him not very believable. The face that so many people of color have suffered for so long from the effects of racism and had to wear a cool innocent face to get through life is not far from the truth of the hidden anger that mus be brewing – that we see now in Black Lives Matter.
This film provides a vision of rising up and conquering from the perspective of those have suffered, and as a good Superhero movie does, holds out for the good guys, the superheroes, to overcome evil and launch a future of peace and reconciliation. The fact that their skin color is not white, is a powerful message to people of all colors.
I’d like to contrast the women in this film with those in Wonder Woman film. I found the physical and dramatic portrayal of strong women much more convincing in this film.. For the Kenyan actress, Lupita N’gongo she knows the struggle of her Kenyan sisters who had to be strong, to face survival issues such as FGM, early marriage,preferential treatment and education of the males. Many made bargains with their families and tribes for their freedom and right to an education, others fled to secure their future. Her power, and anger is fueled by an internal knowledge. It looks vastly different from the horse back riding sisters of Wonder Woman.
Bufferbloat is responsible for much of the poor performance seen in the Internet today and causes latency (called “lag” by gamers), triggered even by your own routine web browsing and video playing.
But bufferbloat’s causes and solutions remind me of the old parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant, updated for the modern Internet:
It was six men of Interstan,
To learning much inclined,
Who sought to fix the Internet,
(With market share in mind),
That evil of congestion,
Might soon be left behind.
Definitely, the pipe-men say,
A wider link we laud,
For congestion occurs only
When bandwidth exceeds baud.
If only the reverse were true,
We would all live like lords.
But count the cost, if bandwidth had
No end, money-men say,
But count the cost, if bandwidth had
No end, money-men say,
Perpetual upgrade cycle;
True madness lies that way.
From DiffServ-land, their tried and true
Solution now departs,
Some packets are more equal than
Their lesser counterparts.
But choosing which is which presents
New problems in all arts.
“Every packet is sacred!” cries
The data-centre clan,
Demanding bigger buffers for
Their ever-faster LAN.
To them, a millisecond is
Eternity to plan.
The end-to-end principle guides
A certain band of men,
Detecting when congestion strikes;
Inferring bandwidth then.
Alas, old methods outcompete their
The Isolationists prefer
Ensuring each and every flow
Is equally a king.
If only all the other men
Would listen to them sing!
And so these men of industry,
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion,
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
Yet mostly in the wrong!
So, oft in technologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance,
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Internet,
Not one of them has seen!
Jonathan Morton, with apologies to John Godfrey Saxe
Most technologists are not truly wise: we are usually like the blind men of Interstan. The TCP experts, network operators, telecom operators, router makers, Internet service operators, router vendors and users have all had a grip *only* on their piece of the elephant.
The TCP experts look at TCP and think “if only TCP were changed” in their favorite way, all latency problems would be solved, forgetting that there are many other causes of saturating an Internet link, and that changing every TCP implementation on the planet will take time measured in decades. With the speed of today’s processors, almost everything can potentially transmit at gigabits per second. Saturated (“congested”) links are *normal* operation in the Internet, not abnormal. And indeed, improved congestion avoidance algorithms such as BBR and mark/drop algorithms such as CoDel and PIE are part of the solution to bufferbloat.
And since TCP is innately “unfair” to flows with different RTT’s, and we have both nearby (~10ms) or (inter)continental distant (~75-200ms) services, no TCP only solution can possibly provide good service. This is a particularly acute problem for people living in remote locations in the world who have great inherent latency differences between local and non-local services. But TCP only solutions cannot solve other problems causing unnecessary latency, and can never achieve really good latency as the queue they build depend on the round trip time (RTT) of the flows.
Network operators often think: “if only I can increase the network bandwidth,” they can banish bufferbloat: but at best, they can only move the bottleneck’s location and that bottleneck’s buffering may even be worse! When my ISP increased the bandwidth to my house several years ago (at no cost, without warning me), they made my service much worse, as the usual bottleneck moved from the broadband link (where I had bufferbloat controlled using SQM) to WiFi in my home router. Suddenly, my typical lag became worse by more than a factor of ten, without having touched anything I owned and having double the bandwidth!
The logical conclusion of solving bufferbloat this way would be to build an ultimately uneconomic and impossible-to-build Internet where each hop is at least as fast as the previous link under all circumstances, and which ultimately collides with the limits of wireless bandwidth available at the edge of the Internet. Here lies madness. Today, we often pay for much more bandwidth than needed for our broadband connections just to reduce bufferbloat’s effects; most applications are more sensitive to latency than bandwidth, and we often see serious bufferbloat issues at peering points as well in the last mile, at home and using cellular systems. Unnecessary latency just hurts everyone.
Internet service operators optimize the experience of their applications to users, but seldom stop to see if the their service damages that of other Internet services and applications. Having a great TV experience, at the cost of good phone or video conversations with others is not a good trade-off.
Telecom operators, have often tried to limit bufferbloat damage by hacking the congestion window of TCP, which does not provides low latency, nor does it prevents severe bufferbloat in their systems when they are loaded or the station remote.
Some packets are much more important to deliver quickly, so as to enable timely behavior of applications. These include ACKS, TCP opens, TLS handshakes, and many other packet types such as VOIP, DHCP and DNS lookups. Applications cannot make progress until those responses return. Web browsing and other interactive applications suffer greatly if you ignore this reality. Some network operation experts have developed complex packet classification algorithms to try to send these packets on their way quickly.
Router manufacturers often have extremely complex packet classification rules and user interfaces, that no sane person can possibly understand. How many of you have successfully configured your home router QOS page, without losing hair from your head?
Lastly, packet networks are inherently bursty, and these packet bursts cause “jitter.” With only First In First Out (FIFO) queuing, bursts of tens or hundreds of packets happen frequently. You don’t want your VOIP packet or other time sensitive to be arbitrarily delayed by “head of line” blocking of bursts of packets in other flows. Attacking the right problem is essential.
We must look to solve all of these problems at once, not just individual aspects of the bufferbloat elephant. Flow Queuing CoDel (FQ_CoDel) is the first, but will not be the last such algorithm. And we must attack bufferbloat however it appears.
Kathleen Nichols and Van Jacobson invented the CoDel Algorithm (described now formally in RFC 8289), which represents a fundamental advance in Active Queue Management that preceded it, which required careful tuning and could hurt you if not tuned properly. Their recent blog entry helps explain its importance further. CoDel is based on the notion of “sojourn time”, the time that a packet is in the queue, and drops packets at the head of the queue (rather than tail or random drop). Since the CoDel algorithm is independent of queue length, is self tuning, and is solely dependent on sojourn time, additional combined algorithms become possible not possible with predecessors such as RED.
Dave Täht had been experimenting with Paul McKenney’s Stochastic Fair Queuing algorithm (SFQ) as part of his work on bufferbloat, confirming that many of the issues are caused by head of line blocking (and unfairness of differing RTT’s of competing flows) were well handled by that algorithm.
CoDel and Dave’s and Paul’s work inspired Eric Dumazet to invent the FQ_Codel algorithm almost immediately after the CoDel algorithm became available. Note we refer to it as “Flow Queuing” rather than “Fair Queuing” as it is definitely “unfair” in certain respects rather than a true “Fair Queuing” algorithm.
FQ_CoDel, documented in RFC 8290, uses a hash (typically but not limited of the usual 5-tuple identifying a flow), and establishes a queue for each, as does the Stochastic Fair Queuing (SFQ) algorithm. The hash bounds memory usage of the algorithm enabling use on even small embedded router or in hardware. The number of hash buckets (flows) and what constitutes a flow can be adjusted as needed; in practice the flows are independent TCP flows.
There are two sets of flow queues: those flows which have built a queue, and queues for new flows.
The packet scheduler preferentially schedules packets from flows that have not built a queue from those which have built a queue (with provisions to ensure that flows that have built queues cannot be starved, and continue to make progress).
If a flow’s queue empties, and packets again appear later, that flow is considered a new flow again.
Since CoDel only depends on the time in queue, it is easily applied in FQ_CoDel to ensure that TCP flows are properly policed to keep their behavior from building large queues.
CoDel does not require tuning and works over a very wide range of bandwidth and traffic. Combining flow queuing with a older mark/drop algorithm is impossible with older AQM algorithms such as Random Early Detection (RED) which depend on queue length rather than time in queue, and require tuning. Without some mark/drop algorithm such as CoDel, individual flows might fill their FQ_CoDel queues, and while they would not affect other flows, those flows would still suffer bufferbloat.
FQ_Codel has a number of wonderful properties for such a simple algorithm:
Having an algorithm that “just works” for 99% of cases and attacks the real problem is a huge advantage and simplification. Packet classification need only be used only to provide guarantees when essential, rather than be used to work around bufferbloat. No (sane) human can possibly successfully configure the QOS page found on today’s home router. Once bufferbloat is removed and flow queuing present, any classification rule set can be tremendously simplified and understood.
If flow queuing AQM is not present at your bottleneck in your path, nothing you do can save you under load. You can at most move the bottleneck by inserting an artificial bottleneck.
The FQ_CoDel algorithm [RFC 8290], particularly as a queue discipline, is not a panacea for bufferbloat as buffers hide all over today’s systems. There has been about a dozen significant improvements to reduce bufferbloat just in Linux starting with Tom Herbert’s Linux BQL, Eric Dumazet’s TCP Small queues, TSO Sizing and FQ scheduler, just naming a few. Our thanks to everyone in the Linux community for their efforts. FQ_Codel, implemented in its generic form as the Linux queue discipline fq_codel, only solves part of the bufferbloat problem, that found in the qdisc layer. The FQ_CoDel algorithm itself is applicable to a wide variety of circumstances, and not just in networking gear, but even sometimes in applications.
Good examples of the buffering problems occurs in wireless and other technologies such as DOCSIS and DSL. WiFi is particularly hard: rapid bandwidth variation and packet aggregation means that WiFi drivers must have significant internal buffering. Cellular systems have similar (and different) challenges.
Toke Høiland-Jørgensen, Michał Kazior, Dave Täht, Per Hertig and Anna Brunstrom reported amazing improvements for WiFi at the Usenix Technical Conference. Here, FQ_CoDel algorithm is but part of a more complex algorithm that handles aggregation and transmission air-time fairness (which Linux has heretofore lacked). The results are stunning, and we hope to see similar improvements in other technologies by applying FQ_Codel.
This chart shows the latency under load in milliseconds of the new WiFi algorithm, beginning adoption in Linux. The log graph is used to enable plotting results on the same graph. The green curve is for the new driver latency under load (cumulative probability of the latency observed by packets) while the orange graph is for the previous Linux driver implementation. You seldom see 1-2 orders of magnitude improvements in anything. Note that latency can exceed one second under load with existing drivers. And implementation of air-time fairness in this algorithm also significantly increases the total bandwidth available in a busy WiFi network, by using the spectrum more efficiently, while delivering this result! See the above paper for more details and data.
This new driver structure and algorithm is in the process of adoption in Linux, though most drivers do not yet take advantage of what this offers. You should demand your device vendors using Linux update their drivers to the new framework.
While the details may vary for different technologies, we hope the WiFi work will help illuminate techniques appropriate for applying FQ_CoDel (or other flow queuing algorithms, as appropriate) to other technologies such as cellular networks.
In the implementations available in Linux, FQ_CoDel has seriously outperformed all comers, as shown in: “The Good, the Bad and the WiFi: Modern AQMs in a residential setting,” by Toke Høiland-Jørgensen, Per Hurtig and Anna Brunstrom. This paper is unique(?) in that it compares the algorithms consistently using the identical tests on all algorithms on the same up to date test hardware and software version, and is an apple-to-apple comparison of running code.
Our favorite benchmark for “latency under load” is the “rrul” test from Toke’s flent test tool. It demonstrates when flow(s) may be damaging the latency of other flow(s) as well as goodput and latency. Low bandwidth performance is more difficult than high bandwidth. At 1Mbps, a single 1500 byte packet represents 12 milliseconds! This shows fq_codel outperforming all comers in latency, while preserving very high goodput for the available bandwidth. The combination of an effective self adjusting mark/drop algorithm with flow queuing is impossible to beat. The following graph measures goodput versus latency for a number of queue disciplines, at two different bandwidths, of 1 and 10Mbps (not atypical of the low end of WiFi or DSL performance). See the paper for more details and results.
FQ_CoDel radically outperforms CoDel, while solving problems that no conventional TCP mark/drop algorithm can do by itself. The combination of flow queuing with CoDel is a killer improvement, and improves the behavior of CoDel (or PIE), since ACKS are not delayed.
Pfifo_fast previously has been the default queue discipline in Linux (and similar queuing is used on other operating systems): it is for the purposes of this test, a simple FIFO queue. Note that the default length of the FIFO queue is usually ten times longer than that displayed here in most of today’s operating systems. The FIFO queue length here was chosen so that the differences between algorithms would remain easily visible on the same linear plot!
Other self tuning TCP congestion avoidance mark/drop algorithms such as PIE [RFC 8033] are becoming available, and some of those are beginning to be combined with flow queuing to good effect. As you see above, PIE without flow queuing is not competitive (nor is CoDel). An FQ-PIE algorithm, recently implemented for FreeBSD by Rasool Al-Saadi and Grenville Armitage, is more interesting and promising. Again, flow queuing combined with an auto-adjusting mark/drop algorithm is the key to FQ-PIE’s behavior.
Implementations of both CoDel and FQ_Codel were released in Linux 3.5 in July 2012 and in FreeBSD 11, in October, 2016 (and backported to FreeBSD 10.3); FQ-PIE is only available in FreeBSD (though preliminary patches for Linux exist).
FQ_CoDel has seen extensive testing, deployment and use in Linux since its initial release. There is never a reason to use CoDel, and is present in Linux solely to enable convenient performance comparisons, as in the above results. FQ_CoDel first saw wide use and deployment as part of OpenWrt when it became the default queue discipline there, and used heavily as part of the SQM (Smart Queue Management) system to mitigate “last mile” bufferbloat. FQ_CoDel is now the default queue discipline on most Linux distributions in many circumstances. FQ_CoDel is being used in an increasing number of commercial products.
The FQ_CoDel based WiFi improvements shown here are available in the latest LEDE/OpenWrt release for a few chips. WiFi chip vendors and router vendors take note: your competitors may be about to pummel you, as this radical improvement is now becoming available. The honor of the commercial product to incorporate this new WiFi code is the Evenroute IQrouter.
PIE, but not FQ-PIE was mandated in DOCSIS 3.1, and is much less effective than FQ_CoDel (or FQ-PIE).
Research in other AQM’s continue apace. FQ_CoDel and FQ-PIE are far from the last words on the topic.
Rate limiting is necessary to mitigate bufferbloat in equipment that has no effective queue management (such as most existing DSL or most Cable modems). While we have used fq_codel in concert with Hierarchical Token Bucket (HTB) rate limiting for years as part of the Smart Queue Management (SQM) scripts (in OpenWrt and elsewhere), one can go further in an integrated queue discipline to address problems difficult to solve piecemeal, and make configuration radically simpler. The CAKE queue discipline, available today in OpenWrt, additionally adds integrated framing compensation, diffserv support and CoDel improvements. We hope to see CAKE upstream in Linux soon. Please come help in its testing and development.
As you see above, the Make WiFi Fast project is making headway and makes WiFi much to be preferred to cellular service when available, much, much more is left to be done. Investigating fixing bufferbloat in WiFi made us aware of just how much additional improvement in WiFi was also possible. Please come help!
Ye men of Interstan, to learning much inclined, see the elephant, by opening your eyes:
ISP’s, insist your equipment manufacturers support modern flow queuing automatic queue management. Chip manufacturers: ensure your chips implement best practices in the area, or see your competitors win business.
Gamers, stock traders, musicians, and anyone wanting decent telephone or video calls take note. Insist your ISP fix bufferbloat in its network. Linux and RFC 8290 prove you can have your cake and eat it too. Stop suffering.
Insist on up to date flow queuing queue management in devices you buy and use, and insist that bufferbloat be fixed everywhere.
|First, he made a beautiful Adinkra symbols quilt for Kathryn herself, as a thank-you|
|Gary Jones, (left), International Program leader, accepts a quilt on behalf of the local Kiwanis|
|The symbol in the middle is the symbol for God---"except for God"...|
|Charlotte (left) & Philomena on first day at the Asanta Nurses Training School|
Charlotte (second from left) and Philomena (far right) with classmates at the end of first term of nurses training in their nice new training uniforms!
Each of these little devices is a “hot spot” that sends signals to network-enabled computers and smartphones
WikiMed Training Session at the Computer Lab at the Asanta Nurses Training School
Western Heritage Home Operations Manager Evans Arloo (left) hands over the WikiMed device and documentation to the computer teacher at Asanta Nurses Training School
WikiMed Handing Over Ceremony at Essiama Nursery/Midwifery School. James Kainyiah, Chairman of Western Heritage Home, is tall guy 4th from left
For those who work in education there are many reasons why you might want to consider signing up for the next Learn Moodle MOOC starting 8 January 2018.
Here is a quick list, if you tick a box or two then think about signing up:
Note that you can start introducing yourself and familiarising yourself with the course on 1 January 2018, so don’t feel like you have to wait until the 8th to get started.
That link again – https://learn.moodle.net/
Share the love and inspire other teachers by spreading the word to educators you know.
One of the many lessons I have learned over my years of working in education, is to remember to bring the outside into the classroom.
There are lots of ways to do that, whether it be guest speakers, excursions, work experience, getting students to bring things in, all sorts! But an easy starting point is RSS feeds into your online classroom space.
I remember reading about RSS being old technology that was going out the window, but I have to say that news feeds are still incredibly powerful at helping connect what students are learning about with the real world. They invite conversations that link theory with practice, and all too often give real examples of what can go wrong.
If you are using Moodle, it is very easy to add an RSS feed to your course (turn editing on, add a block, remote RSS feeds).
If you haven’t done it before but have a relevant news provider for the industry relevant to your teaching, you are looking for and you need to get the URL for the feed.
The URL (that is the web address) for the RSS feed will start with “http://” and usually ends with “.xml”.
Blogs often have RSS output, and there might be an RSS feed on one of your favourite industry websites, so go looking and bring the outside world into your classroom.
Today I’m highlighting some ways of communicating in Moodle.It is useful to remember the different methods available so you can use the right tool for the job. I won’t put pictures up for all the things I’ll discuss below, but I will point you to Moodle Docs so you can learn more about any of these features.
Messaging provides an easy way to send private messages between users. In newer Moodle versions there is a messages icon in the top of the screen that tells the user if there are unread messages. Users can add people to their contacts, they can easily search for people by name or by course. The user can decide their own preferences for receiving notifications of new messages when online/offline by mobile or email. This feature is particularly popular with students who use social media platforms already. I would not recommend using this feature for course announcements.
In some cases, administrators disable messaging.
Forums (and announcement forum)
A versatile feature, forums allow students to communicate between themselves, in whole class or in specific groups, with or without the teacher/facilitator involved. The students don’t need to be logged in at the same time.
The group options give flexibility. An example of use could be a competition where groups of students complete a project of their choosing where all must use the same methodology. In this example, I might set the forum to have “visible” groups, so students can talk amongst their group, and they can see (but not interact with) the other groups posts. The splitting of the groups conversations makes it easier for them to track the conversation, but the visibility of the other groups conversations lets them see different ways to use the methodology, so more learning.
Optional subscription means students can choose whether they are notified of new posts to forum threads, whereas forced subscription suggests the teacher thinks all students need a notification of new posts.
There is an announcement forum for teachers to update their students. This forum does not allow for student responses.
The chat is for real-time synchronous discussions. This is particularly useful for courses that are entirely online, to provide a set time that teachers can provide text based support for their students.
It is also useful for students to use in groups for planning their projects, or discussing other group activities.
Chat times can be published for scheduled times or available for students to make their own times to chat with each other.
Chats can be recorded and can be set to allow or not allow students to view the past chat sessions.
Moodle profile settings
Users have control over how they receive notifications from Moodle. They can choose to receive email digests for example rather than individual emails for every forum posts. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself and your students with these settings.
Not always thought of as a communication tool, the calendar does in fact communicate to users events coming up as advertised by the Moodle site, the courses they are enrolled in, groups they are in, or their own events they enter into the Moodle calendar. Similarly the upcoming events block can be displayed in a course with links to calendar events.
There is the option to export calendars and import into other calendar programs with an ics file. Some students might for example want to put a dynamic link to their Moodle calendar in their google calendar.
This activity provides a way for students to communicate their views about a course or topic (or evaluate their teacher) by answering questions designed by the teacher. Feedback can be anonymous, there can be as many questions as necessary (though I would advise to keep evaluations short) and there is a graphical analysis of the responses automatically created.
The new tours feature (Moodle 3.2 or newer sites) allows administrators to communicate changes made to a site with customisable tours. If this interests you, read here.
Where to from here
These are not the only communication features of Moodle, but hopefully serve as a reminder that there are lots of options so it’s worth having a good think about which is the right tool for the task.
If you don’t know which tool is right, and you have read the Moodle Docs pages, you can try talking with other Moodle users you know. There is also the Moodle community forums as a great place to get help, and they are multi-lingual.
Today I want to share a few ideas around monitoring in Moodle: Setting up your Moodle courses to reduce the teacher management workload, effectively monitor student progress, and empower students with the autonomy to self manage as they progress through their studies.
So often teachers talk of the high workload in managing online components of the their courses; checking which students have completed what tasks, looking for forum contributions and checking what needs marking.
This post will show tracking options and reports available to teachers and students. I will focus on core tools that are available in a modern Moodle standard install. There are excellent modules and plugins available, however they’re not much use if you don’t have admin rights, so here’s what tools you will have.
There are different types of reports available in Moodle through the administration block or through the user profile page.
You can generate logs of course activity by selecting any combination: participants, days, activities, actions or events. Then click on “Get these logs”.
Use the ? icon to get more information. The logs give you active links enabling you to access the student’s profile page or the particular page they were viewing. IP address gives an estimate of the student’s location.
Teachers and students both have access to logs but they get different information. See the user reports below for student views.
Teachers can assess the usage of each activity and resource within their course using the activity report. It shows the count of clicks and the number of unique users who clicked. This can assist in having conversations with learners about why some activities and resources have more clicks than others, but the data in isolation should not be used to make assumptions.
A question that helps teachers understand this:
You read the Course > Activity report and find one resource has 200 clicks, another has 20 clicks. Discuss which resource is the most useful to your students and why? What is the data telling you?
Ask teachers to discuss the possible causes of clicks:
- “It was really useful so I referred to it often.”
- “It was confusing and I read it over and over but still don’t understand.”
- “I didn’t click on it because the name of it made me think I didn’t need to open that.”
- “I didn’t open it because I already knew about it.”
Teachers can generate a participation report on a particular activity. For example: forum view or forum posts. A useful feature of the participation report is the option to send a message to all students who have or have not completed an action.
If the Moodle site has activity completion enabled this can drastically improve course management and a huge time saver for both the teacher and the student. Setting up activity completion is discussed later in this blog post, so keep reading!
The reports above are largely teacher focused. Next, let’s look at the reports and tools primarily for students.
Students can use the logs to show their submissions were sent on time. They can also see what days of the week they are more active.
This is a brief outline of the learner’s course participation. For more detailed information they can look at the complete report. This report is useful for a brief overview and to check if they have missed anything.
The learner can use the complete report to get a detailed record of their course contributions. Depending on the course design, the learner can print their complete report and use it as a study guide. Teachers who would like to encourage this approach should get their students to write question and answers in forum posts, and ensure the layout of activities like database show the questions in the students responses so the questions appear in the complete report.
I have used this approach in a course that has an elearning pre-requisite to a face-to-face workshop. The learner prints their complete report and brings it to the workshop, instead of printing a large workbook.
When I teach people how to use the reports and logs I give them scenarios to consider in groups.
Earlier we showed you the Activity completion report. To use the report above, you need to set up activity completion at site level course level, and in each activity and resource.
It is helpful to refer to Moodle Docs > Activity completion settings to learn about this feature, but the brief is that you can use activity completion settings in Moodle to track and display activities and resources as “complete” for students based on criteria set by the teacher for each resource or activity, dependent on viewing, submitting, receiving a grade, or posting or replying conditions being met.
When I teach this I show how to setup activity completion settings on existing activities such as forum, glossary, page, quiz, and assignment. I discuss with teachers self marked quizzes that show as complete immediately on submission, versus teacher marked assignments which can show as complete on submission or complete when a grade has been received. When the “completion” happens on grade received there is a delay.
Another consideration is that this tracking does not assess quality of contributions. For example, forum conditions can’t assess quality of posts, only quantity. Viewing a resource does not equal reading/understanding/processing etc.
This feature allows you to restrict students from accessing a resource or activity based on criteria set by the teacher (roles are blurry, so I am simplifying here).
There is useful documentation at Moodle Docs > Restrict access settings for you to find out more.
Examples we use in our practice include:
You can use restrictions to stop learners from viewing the certificate module until after feedback activity is marked complete, and they have a grade of 100% on the assessment activity. This ensures instructional designers are always getting feedback on their development, and the learner has met the assessment standards agreed with the SME.
Note that when you have two restrictions there is the option to require the student to have met “all” or “any” of the requirements. With “all” you see “and” but with “any” you see “or” between the conditions.
Moodle includes a grader report that is automatically populated by graded activities in your course. The documentation Moodle Docs > Grader report will give you the steps to using grader report.
During workshops with teachers:
What I want teachers to think about are the benefits to the students for having the grade structure organised, as well as themselves and moderators and auditors of courses.
I ask workshop participants to share examples and discuss ways they can use these features in their courses.
Feedback on these workshops is overwhelmingly positive. Participants are keen to spend more time on familiarising themselves with these features.
Some feedback received from participants:
- “I have learnt more in the last 2 hours than in the last day… you have my creative juices flowing now.”
- “This session is how I envisioned the whole day to be. It was great!”
- “Impressed by the combination of solid development and “on the fly” flexibility.”
- “I am very keen to add more activities to my courses. Our current pages are flat, unorganized and definitely have the scroll of death!”
- “I’ve got a lot of information now to try and get more out of Moodle which is currently being hugely underutilized.”
- “Really useful to discuss the ways the reports can be used and interpreted, using the as a start point for discussion!”
And despite each workshop being three hours long, when asked “Tell us one thing you would change or improve” received responses are like these:
- “Too short! Could spend a whole day using this type of thing.”
- “Restricted time limit.”
- “It would be great to have a bit more time to go over how to create these things.”
- “More time!”
I hope this blog post helps you monitor your students or provided you ideas for your courses.
On Saturday Oct 21st 2017, over 40 volunteers arrived at ASU’s Polytechnic campus to help build 150 SolarSPELL digital libraries. This is the largest build in the history of the project, breaking the previous one-day record of 100. These libraries will go out to Peace Corps volunteers and local teachers in Tonga, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Fiji in the coming months.
The day began with a presentation by Prof. Laura Hosman, giving a background of the SolarSPELL project and an overview of appropriate technology for resource-constrained locations. During this presentation, the SolarSPELL university student team was busy getting the build area ready for the larger group.
The volunteers transitioned over to the build area and received a step-by-step walk-through of each stage of the building process, led by the SolarSPELL Hardware team lead and Build-Master, Miles Mabey. Subsequently everyone chose their stations and jumped right in.
There were many opportunities for hands-on activities, including wire-stripping, soldering, gluing, cutting, velcroing, heat-shrinking, and laminating.
The hardware team took advantage of lessons learned from the previous Build Day last April, to make numerous process improvements, so the assembly line-style work was even more efficient.
The Build Day proved to be a family affair on multiple fronts, with many siblings, parents, and children coming out for the day’s activities.
We also welcomed some students who are originally from Rwanda and South Sudan to the Build, which was particularly exciting since approximately half of the SolarSPELLs will be going to Rwanda and South Sudan. These students are Bridge2Rwanda (B2R) scholars. B2R is an integral SolarSPELL partner for the project in Rwanda and South Sudan.
We also had significant representation from across ASU’s colleges, schools, and campuses, with volunteers coming from ASU Library, the College of Nursing and Health Innovations, the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, The Polytechnic School, the School for Earth and Space Exploration, and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. ASU Alumni also came and rolled up their sleeves to help in the effort!
We even got press coverage from the State Press—click here for further reading and more photos!
The fabulous photos in this post were taken by SolarSPELL team member Tyrine Pangan, bottom row, right, in the team picture below.
The finished boxes:
Major Programme Achievements
We are pleased to inform the Management Committee of the progress being made at Rahnuma Public School, our sole project.
The school year ending June 2017 brought many new achievements. Of the six Science Students who sat for their final SSC examinations with AKUB four passed with very good results specially in Urdu, Islamiat, Pakistan Studies and English. Two very weak students who are sisters and come from a difficult background, need to re sit their Math and Physics exams in supplementary papers, but we are hopeful they will clear these.
We have examined the results this year and discovered that in Physics, our students obtained one A and 2 B’s, a high score. In Chemistry we got two B’s and we know the teacher has to do better. Our area of weakness are Mathematics and Biology in which we are looking to train our teachers and hire additional resources.
With the board approval we have expanded the Junior school by taking over the building and as many students as would transfer from APNA School from May 2017. Our admissions closed in June with over 400 students with room for about 50 more students in Senior school. Our plan is to grow this strength through organic growth as our Junior school students moving up in greater numbers into senior school.
We can report that the International Primary Curriculum (used by British Schools all over the world) that we introduced last year has proved hugely successful. Teachers have responded very well to this new method of teaching. We hope to see concrete results as these students move into highschool and demonstrate the skills they are learning to think and analyse information for themselves.
We will continue to monitor and guide the primary school teachers to learn and improve their teaching skills. The school has just concluded one month of training on teaching English and Phonics to primary school students. This was provided by Infaq Foundation Free of cost.
We have added 5 new classes from Nursery to Year 3, giving us two sections each for Nursery, Reception, Year 1, 2 and 3. Five new teachers have been hired for these classes and we are pleased with the new staff who were taken on from May so they could be trained. 5 additional Teacher’s assistants have also been hired to support these teachers.
We now have two Vice Principals, Ms. Saima Ahmed for Primary Section and Ms. Humaira Yasmeen for the Senior Section which will now be housed in the new building we have taken over from Sapna. With a school that had increased capacity by more than 30%, this administrative change is necessary. We also have Ms. Sadia Irshad looking after Early Years and Primary Science and Social Studies Curriculum.
We have had another successful year of fund raising. We approached three corporate sponsors this year. Of these, this month Infaq Foundation have approved a donation of Rs. 1 million for Rahnuma after we applied for a grant and arranged for several sessions for their team to meet our teachers and staff.
The second organization was Rotary Club, who are still doing their review and we will know about this after they have completed their due diligence in August.
Our individual contributors have also been very generous and have sent us substantial amounts as zakat and other donations.
Upgrade of Facilities
Upgrade of facilities and class rooms continues. This year we have focused on furnishing the five new classes we are adding to the Primary School as well as furnishing the new building. We have budgeted for this additional one time expense.
We have successfully increased our student strength significantly this year. The plan is to now manage the growth of this expanded junior school in a way as to feed into the much smaller senior school without causing disruption for students and teachers. Our plan is to offer only the top studets in Year 6 places in our high school, allowing us to manage the standard of students we fund to SSC. We will ensure that all students who do not get a place in the senior school do get admission elsewhere.
We are happy to report that the financial year 2017 we were able to raise sufficient funds to meet the school’s growing needs.
We thank all the staff of Rahnuma and volunteer Board members of PATH who devote so much time to making our work at Rahnuma Public School so successful.
July 30th 2017
Dr. Laura Hosman received the PLuS Alliance Prize for Education Innovation at an awards ceremony held at Bush House, of King’s College London, on Sep. 3 2017.
The PLuS Alliance Prize recognizes outstanding innovation contributions by individuals or groups in addressing the greatest global challenges facing society today. The PLuS Alliance Prize was established in 2017 with a total prize of $50,000 and is awarded annually in two categories: Education Innovation and Research Innovation.
These prizes are awarded to ground-breaking research that either addresses a need or solves a current problem in one or more of the arenas of global health, sustainability, social justice, or technology and innovation, in the previous five years.
The Prize is designed to highlight innovative work that:
After presenting the award to Dr. Hosman, ASU President Michael Crow connected to the SolarSPELL WiFi and was impressed by how quickly the website came up on his smartphone.
Dr. Hosman also had the opportunity to explain how the SolarSPELL digital library works, to many of the event’s attendees.
It is truly an honor to receive this award, as it recognizes the dual importance of SolarSPELL’s mission: to offer transformative educational experiences for my ASU students, as they see the project through from A-to-Z, designing, building, and then implementing the libraries in the field. Simultaneously, the library is benefiting schoolchildren and communities across the developing world. Receiving this distinguished award will help our team continue this important work and have a greater impact, for even more people, around the world. Thank you to Arizona State University, to the dedicated students I’ve worked with, and to the PLuS Alliance!
Earlier this week, Phoenix’s ABC15 news featured a story on the SolarSPELL digital library.
The ASU SolarSPELL team traveled to Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), in July 2017, to carry out a training on the solar digital libraries with a new cohort of Peace Corps volunteers. This training represents the third (annual) training with FSM volunteers, launching SolarSPELL’s third year of use in the field.
This particular training was quite special, as our team comprised a librarian from ASU Libraries, who offered a training on how to set up a library in a school, as well as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had served in Pohnpei some twenty years earlier, who had returned to the island for the first time since her service. We also had some special guest visitors attend the training from SolarSPELL project partner PREL, Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, with whom we look forward to collaborating even more closely in the (near) future!
The training kicked off with a background and overview of the SolarSPELL project, explaining not only where the idea for a solar digital library sprang from, but also some of the challenges and successes that the project has faced over the years. This presentation concluded by welcoming this new group of volunteers into the SolarSPELL family.
We continued the training by distributing both tablets and the SolarSPELL digital libraries, so that the volunteers could figure out how to operate the libraries, and could begin to surf and explore the library’s content, as well as pose any questions about the content, functionality, etc.
Subsequently, we held a scavenger hunt for the volunteers, to help familiarize them with the content on the library. Since there were prizes involved, the scavenger hunt became quite competitive!
The winning team members were quite pleased with the prizes!
After lunch, the training segued into a workshop on “How to Set Up a Library in Your School,” led by Lorrie McAllister, Associate University Librarian at ASU. The volunteers played a game to familiarize them with challenges associated establishing a library in resource-constrained conditions.
Discussion continued on relevant topics such as obtaining books, keeping the library as free as possible of bugs, mold, and other potential environmental threats, as well as topics like setting up a book check-out system, and incentivizing reading.
Finally, Jessica Hirshorn, Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies at ASU, and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had served in Pohnpei, FSM approximately 20 year prior, gave some valuable advice and insights to this incoming class of volunteers.
Jessica had the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, to see the impact her service had had, and she shared this with the incoming volunteers, which was quite a motivating force! The new volunteers had plenty of questions for Jessica.
The day ended in the traditional SolarSPELL way: with a group photo.
And some nice SolarSPELL team pictures, too!
Pictures taken by Brooks McAllister.
|Dorothy doing her practicum|
|Philomena, Maryanne, Charlotte, Charlotte's niece, and Charlotte's Mom|
|Emmanuella with her laptop. She has a special program that reads her textbooks aloud, and headphones|
Peter and Maryanne discussing Peter's future!!
|Kingsley and George---"brothers" in the art of welding!|
|Gifty and Ernestina with Maryanne---PURPLE is the school color!!|
|Johnson and Maryanne|
|Maryanne and Olivia, near her and her Mom's food stand|
|Gladys, Maryanne, Godwin, and Ben|
|Ghana Together scholarship graduates at Community Vocational Development Technical Institute (one is missing)|
13 of these students are graduating Grade 6 and are headed for JHS---we are sorry we didn't get a pic of the actual 13!!
Each of these young men and women have been given a chance to overcome their circumstances through education. Ghana is investing liberally in education, with government schools initiating tuition-free senior high school this coming September.
In fact, when we started working in Ghana in 2006, there was no tuition-free education from primary through university.
On behalf of these 74 youngsters we've helped out during the 2016-2017 school year, we thank especially the adults in Axim ---James Kainyiah and Queen Mother Nana Adjow Sika, Evans Arloo (WHH Operations Mgr), Headmistresses/Headmasters, and teachers. Their dedication is inspiring.
And we thank you, our dear readers...for your support and encouragement.
$ sudo yum install postgis postgresql-server postgresql-contrib
$ sudo postgresql-setup initdb
$ sudo -i -u postgres
postgres=# \password postgres
Enter new password:
Enter it again:
$ sudo vi /var/lib/pgsql/data/pg_hba.conf
host all all 127.0.0.1/32 ident
host all all 0.0.0.0/0 md5
$ sudo vi /var/lib/pgsql/data/postgresql.conf
#listen_addresses = 'localhost'
listen_addresses = '*'
$ sudo su - postgres
$ createuser --superuser [user]
$ psql -c "ALTER ROLE [user] PASSWORD '[password]'"
$ createdb webster
$ psql -d webster -c 'CREATE EXTENSION postgis'
Webster.dbdirectory containing the file geodatabase, I ran:
$ ogr2ogr -f "PostgreSQL" PG:"dbname=webster user=[user] password=[password]" Webster.gdb
The final highlight of the ASU SolarSPELL team’s time in Samoa was a two-day training with the Peace Corps volunteers and their local counterpart teachers. This was our team’s first opportunity to carry out a training with local teachers, and we are so grateful for the Samoa Peace Corps staff for suggesting it and then making it a reality!
The day started off with an introduction of the team from the Peace Corps country director, Sherry Russell.
It continued with a historical overview of the development of the SolarSPELL: it did not appear out of thin air! There was a lot of in-field “lessons learned” that went into developing it, and we’re never finished with development: the library is a living thing. The background also lets participants know where they fit in to the overall picture of the SolarSPELL, and that they are now part of the SolarSPELL family.
The team next distributed the SolarSPELL libraries, explained how the technology works, got everyone connected, and then allowed time for the participants to begin surfing and exploring the content.
The ASU students on the team subsequently gave a “highlights tour” of the SolarSPELL’s content, with each taking one of the website’s main categories to elaborate upon.
The following day was kicked off with a scavenger hunt. There were prizes for the winners, so the event turned quite competitive! Surprisingly, the smallest team won the competition.
Next, there were a few frank discussions of the challenges that the participants would likely face once they returned to their home schools and villages. The SolarSPELL is a disruptive technology, and introducing new technologies is always challenging. We worked through six “use case” scenarios, all from real-world challenges that previous Peace Corps volunteers had faced, in the field.
We took more time for questions and answers, and the participants (as always) had useful, valuable questions, insight, and advice for us. We will take this advice to heart and use it to improve the future versions of the library!
Last month, after nearly 5 years of knowing each other, sharing each other’s interests, and learning from each other, Sucheta and I got married.
Here is a picture of us:
…and here are some pictures from the ceremony taken by Steve Horn:
The theologian Origen created the idea of apocatastasis, which means in the Greek that at the end of time everything will be as it was in the beginning. For Origen this meant that history is moving to the perfection that existed when the universe was an idea in the mind of God. I was reminded of this when we rode into the mountains after a heavy downpour on our way to Santa Rosita. This was the very first school we visited seven years ago. Below are the words I read to the gathered parents, students and village elders.
” There is a saying in my country that once you leave home you can never return.But every time we come back here it feels like coming home. I remember the old mud and wattle school and the desks set up outside under the trees. I remember the looks of wonder in the eyes of you parents, a look of gratitude for prayers answered. I remember the looks of understanding and compassion in all of your eyes when we told you of our son and why we were here. I remember the looks of excitement and enthusiasm on your young faces and those of pride on the faces of your parent’s. My favorite memory of all is when we walked to the swimming hole in the rain, each child carrying a laptop, stopping under porches when the rain grew heavy. Each year when we come back, we see more confidence, more understanding and more aspiration. Today I see faces of children who will find the talents that God gave them and share them with the world. Truly these memories are touched by grace.
Too often it is easy to think that the world is only filled with struggle and war, with poverty and oppression. But I see here something miraculous, something magical, something that confirms what is best in human beings, wherever they live, whatever language they speak. There is something hopeful and resilient here, something beautiful and holy. To those who say that miracles never happen, I say what about Santa Rosita!”
Here are some photos:
Millions of young people from around the world are learning to code. Often, during their learning experiences, these youth are using visual block-based programming languages like Scratch, App Inventor, and Code.org Studio. In block-based programming languages, coders manipulate visual, snap-together blocks that represent code constructs instead of textual symbols and commands that are found in more traditional programming languages.
The textual symbols used in nearly all non-block-based programming languages are drawn from English—consider “if” statements and “for” loops for common examples. Keywords in block-based languages, on the other hand, are often translated into different human languages. For example, depending on the language preference of the user, an identical set of computing instructions in Scratch can be represented in many different human languages:
Although my research with Benjamin Mako Hill focuses on learning, both Mako and I worked on local language technologies before coming back to academia. As a result, we were both interested in how the increasing translation of programming languages might be making it easier for non-English speaking kids to learn to code.
After all, a large body of education research has shown that early-stage education is more effective when instruction is in the language that the learner speaks at home. Based on this research, we hypothesized that children learning to code with block-based programming languages translated to their mother-tongues will have better learning outcomes than children using the blocks in English.
We sought to test this hypothesis in Scratch, an informal learning community built around a block-based programming language. We were helped by the fact that Scratch is translated into many languages and has a large number of learners from around the world.
To measure learning, we built on some of our our own previous work and looked at learners’ cumulative block repertoires—similar to a code vocabulary. By observing a learner’s cumulative block repertoire over time, we can measure how quickly their code vocabulary is growing.
Using this data, we compared the rate of growth of cumulative block repertoire between learners from non-English speaking countries using Scratch in English to learners from the same countries using Scratch in their local language. To identify non-English speakers, we considered Scratch users who reported themselves as coming from five primarily non-English speaking countries: Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Germany, and Norway. We chose these five countries because they each have one very widely spoken language that is not English and because Scratch is almost fully translated into that language.
Even after controlling for a number of factors like social engagement on the Scratch website, user productivity, and time spent on projects, we found that learners from these countries who use Scratch in their local language have a higher rate of cumulative block repertoire growth than their counterparts using Scratch in English. This faster growth was despite having a lower initial block repertoire. The graph below visualizes our results for two “prototypical” learners who start with the same initial block repertoire: one learner who uses the English interface, and a second learner who uses their native language.
Our results are in line with what theories of education have to say about learning in one’s own language. Our findings also represent good news for designers of block-based programming languages who have spent considerable amounts of effort in making their programming languages translatable. It’s also good news for the volunteers who have spent many hours translating blocks and user interfaces.
Although we find support for our hypothesis, we should stress that our findings are both limited and incomplete. For example, because we focus on estimating the differences between Scratch learners, our comparisons are between kids who all managed to successfully use Scratch. Before Scratch was translated, kids with little working knowledge of English or the Latin script might not have been able to use Scratch at all. Because of translation, many of these children are now able to learn to code.
This blog-post and the work that it describes is a collaborative project with Benjamin Mako Hill. You can read our paper here. The paper was published in the ACM Learning @ Scale Conference. We also recently gave a talk about this work at the International Communication Association’s annual conference. We have received support and feedback from members of the Scratch team at MIT (especially Mitch Resnick and Natalie Rusk), as well as from Nathan TeBlunthuis at the University of Washington. Financial support came from the US National Science Foundation.