Nicholas Negroponte: Re-thinking learning and re-learning thinking

Published on Mar 19, 2013

Re-thinking learning and re-learning thinking

Nicholas Negroponte, Technology Visionary and Founder, One Laptop per Child

What if we have learning all wrong?

In this thoughtful, provocative keynote, Professor Negroponte explores the implications of the work of One Laptop per Child (OLPC), the non-profit association he founded in 2005. Distributing 2.5 million rugged laptops around the world and seeing how impoverished children use them has provoked Professor Negroponte into re-considering much that we take for granted about how children — and all of us –learn.

The industrialisation of schooling, he argues, has replaced our natural wonder of learning with an obsessive focus on facts. We treat knowing as a surrogate for learning, even though our experience tells us that it is quite possible to know about something while utterly failing to understand it.

And compounding this is instructionism’s fatally flawed belief that anything can be taught and that there is a perfect way to teach everything. If we have learned one thing from OLPC, it is that the human mind is too rich, complex and wonderful for that.

This lesson does not apply only to children, and it does not apply only to developing countries. Children can — and do — learn a great deal by themselves before they have their natural curiosity extinguished, too often by school. And those children grow into adults. So how would our education systems and our adult lives be better, if we focused a little less on measuring what we tell people and a little more on understanding how they discover?

http://www.learningtechnologies.co.uk

Video:

”Enhance Learning through Technology” conference in Rwanda

From 5th to 7th august 2012, Rwanda held an international conference on technology in education with the theme ”Enhance Learning through Technology”. This conference took place at Kigali Serena Hotel. Professor Nicholas Negroponte (founder and chairman of One Laptop per Child); Rodrigo Arboleda (Chairman and CEO of OLPCA) and Sergio Romero (Vice President of Operations and Africa) were invited to attend this conference of technology in education.

In his presentation, Professor Nicholas Negroponte, mentioned that as you cannot compete with world food program  (WFP) which feeds bodies, you cannot compete with One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) which feeds children’s brains. He also emphasized on OLPC as an educational project not a computer project as some would think. In his presentation he also talked about a research being done in Ethiopia about what could happen if technology is brought in the hands of illiterate children.  “These children proved to work by themselves to use the tablets, to read and to learn.” he said. 

Kagabo Callixte, a 12 years, grade six, from a local school presented his project using an XO on pollution. He used Scratch activity to describe different causes of pollution and how to prevent it.  The participants were amazed and happy on how this 12 year child presented confidently in front of older people. He mentioned how the XO laptop is important to his life and how it fits in his dreams of becoming a future engineer. Watch Kagabo presentation on YouTube.

After the conference, OLPC officials, together with NKUBITO Bakuramutsa (OLPC Rwanda coordinator) went to Smaldone Primary School (a deaf and mute primary schools that use XO laptops). At the school, the officials observed how children were using the XO laptops  in different activities. Children mentioned how happy they are with the laptops and thanked professor Nicholas and his excellence Paul Kagame to think about them in releasing them from loneliness. When asked by Professor Nicholas about what they could change on the XO laptop to suit their needs, the children mentioned that visual activities could be more useful since they cannot hear.

The conference was ended by a Gala dinner, where a cultural dance troupe entertained the participants, a gift of recognition was handled to professor Nicholas Negroponte as a key note speaker.

by Intwali Parfait Jimmy; OLPC technical and learning Officer

 

Latest news on Sugar Activities

At the urging of Reuben Caron, who had been contacted by the OLPC deployment in Armenia, Walter Bender wrote a chess activity for Sugar. It is a Sugar front-end to the gnuchess program, which is a quite sophisticated chess engine for GNU/Linux. The actvitiy, Gnuchess, can be downloaded from the Sugar activity portal and is documented on the Activities/Gnuchess page in the wiki. A few fun features include:

(1)  you can play against the computer, another person on the same computer, or over the network

(2) you can use a generic set of pieces, load in some Sugar-colored ones, or those of your own design

(3) when you play against someone over the net, they will see your artwork and you’ll see their artwork

(4) the computer will offer very good hints to new users

(5) games are recorded and can be played back as an animation or saved in standard chess notation.

Walter also have been making a number of subtle but important changes to Turtle Blocks. Cynthia Solomon (of Logo fame) has been giving him feedback and as a result, Walter thinks the box and action naming is much more streamlined and consistent. Also, the new flow blocks are much easier (and more intuitive) to use.

Check out Version 154 and keep an eye out for Version 156, coming soon.

Also, Claudia, Melissa, Cynthia, and Walter hosted a learning workshop at the OLPC office in Cambridge at which Walter got some feedback on the Portfolio and Bulletin Board activities. He is in the midst of streamlining Portfolio and also enabling comments to be made over the web. (You can get a sneak preview of Version 27). With the learning team, we have been developing a classroom protocol. Once the Portfolio activity gets released, the Bulletin Board activity will follow.

Walter has also been withing with the Fundación Zamora Teran team on the Nutrition activity.
More region-specific foods have been added and a new game: match the food to its food group. A new release will be available soon; a preview is available here.

e.Studyante : A new OLPC + connectivity program in the Philippines

Philippines has a number of amazing pilots underway. The grassroots eKindling group reports some remarkable success stories from their Lubang program, and have helped the province of Occidental Mindoro build on that success.

Now a new e.Studyante program in the Philippines, started in the Manila, plans to providing primary students with OLPCs and connectivity for the next 25 years. This program was started by P&G Philippines, along with Smart Communications (providing Internet connectivity) and the Synergeia Foundation.

e.Studyante recently launched at the Manuel L. Quezon Elementary School in Tondo, Manila. The program focuses on engaging education, supported by technology: it distributes XOs to students, provides other tools and training for teachers, and includes vetting and updating educational software and materials. It aims to make learning “fun, empowering, relevant, and easier” for kids, and to reach 1 million primary students by its 100th anniversary in 24 years – roughly 40,000 a year.

Chad Sotelo, P&G’s Country Marketing Manager, explained:

“We intend for this to complement traditional learning methods and tools instead of competing with them… A laptop and Internet connectivity becomes [their] window to the world’s knowledge and places it at their fingertips in real-time. People and places they had no access to before are now within their reach. These tools expand their horizons and minds and encourage them to dream and attain a brighter future.”

The program is funded in part through the sale of P&G promo packs, at retail outlets across the country; part of the price of each pack goes to the program.

Registration opens for SugarCamp Paris: September 9-11

reposted on behalf of OLPC France

Registration is now open for the 2nd SugarCamp Paris. Please join us in making Sugar a better learning experience!

This event is organized by OLPC France, and takes place in Paris, France from September 9 (evening) to September 11 (evening).

The goal is to enhance Sugar as a free learning platform, already used by ~2M kids around the
world, and to focus on a specific problem: how to make Sugar *documentation* better with respect to accessibility and readability?

Partial travel refunds are available for regional trips for those who could not otherwise come. Please contact the organizers with any questions.

Let’s take this challenge, and enjoy a good time with many members of the OLPC/Sugar community!

Nickelodeon partners with OLPC on multimedia contest

From the Very Exciting dept. : Nickelodeon Latin America (part of MTV Latin America) is partnering with OLPC to run an international contest to design multimedia about improving the environment.

Elementary school children in OLPC schools will be challenged to develop multimedia content in an international contest focused on creating a better environment. The winner will be awarded with a trip to the Teen Nick Halo Awards, a show where celebrities give awards to amazing, accomplished and inspiring kids who work hard to make the world a better place. From our joint press release:

This initiative is in line with OLPC’s desire to enable a generation of children to think critically, connect to each other and the world’s body of knowledge, and to create conditions for real and substantial economic and social development. Nickelodeon and OLPC will work together to leverage the advantages of the XO laptop in elementary school education and promote strategies for increased access to laptops and connectivity in Latin America.

“We are delighted to partner with One Laptop per Child for this important initiative,” commented Mario Cader-Frech, Vice President of Public affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility for MTV Networks Latin America and Tr3s: MTV, Música y Mas. “OLPC has done an outstanding job of bringing technology and computer-assisted learning to kids around the world. This contest not only inspires children in the region to make a difference in their communities but also helps them to develop new skills that will prepare them to become productive members of tomorrow’s workforce.”

“OLPC is constantly looking to engage with private sector companies to achieve mutual objectives for children and education,” said Rodrigo Arboleda, CEO of OLPC – “Nickelodeon joins a distinguished group of OLPC partners that includes General Mills, Marvell, Procter & Gamble and BHP Billiton, all devoted to bringing quality education worldwide”.

Children will be welcome to participate across Latin America.  We can’t wait to see the first submissions come in — and to seeing similar storytelling projects start in other parts of the world.


Press contacts at MTV Networks Latin America:

International
Axel Escudero
(5411) 5295-5270
axel.escudero@mtvstaff.com

Miami & Colombia                    Argentina & Chile
Marimar Rivé                        Vanina Rodríguez
(305) 938-4910                      (5411) 5295-5272
marimar.rive@mtvstaff.com           vanina.rodriguez@mtvstaff.com

Mexico
Erick Zermeño                       Guillermo Reyna
(5255) 5080-1729                    (5255) 5080-1766
Erick.zermeno@mtvstaff.com          guillermo.reyna@mtvstaff.com

 

Comments on Jeffrey James’s olpc critique

By Antonio M. Battro, OLPC’s Chief Education Officer

Jeffrey James wrote a critique of OLPC last year, proposing a balanced pattern of “sharing computers” among children (say 5 children per computer, in the US or the UK) instead of the olpc “one to one” model – one laptop per child (and per teacher). As an alternative to olpc, James proposes that “the number of students per laptop stands in roughly the same ratio as the difference in per capita incomes between the rich and the poor country” (p. 385). In his view, the OLPC idea to persuade the developing countries to exceed the standards of shared computers of developed countries seems “utterly perverse” (p. 386).

It seems that his reasoning will fail if we substitute mobile phones for laptops. We don’t frequently share mobile phones, and in many poor countries their number exceeds James’s predictions about ratios of income and information and communication technologies in the hands of people. It seems difficult to accept the universality of his model about “sharing”, because laptops, tablets and mobile phones are rapidly converging in new hybrids.

On the other side, his ideas for successful low-cost technology sharing are not clear. One of his options, for instance, is “to purchase Intel’s Classmate computer at a similarly low price and let [them] be shared by as many students as is thought desirable” (p.389). In Argentina, where the Classmate has been most widely adopted, the national government is deploying some 3 million Classmates to cover the whole population of students and teachers of the secondary public schools in the country, on a one to one basis – an idea first proposed by OLPC some 5 years ago. It would be interesting to know the current state of affairs of other options he references (Simputer, NComputing, sharing multiple mice). However the quoted references are from 2006 and 2008, and 3-5 years is a long time in the digital era.

From the point of view of psychology and education, some comments about “teaching” need careful revision. First, in his paper James never speaks of the need to give laptops to the teachers, despite the significant mass of teachers in the world. On the contrary, OLPC programs start in every country by giving a laptop per teacher and providing corresponding teacher training. We know that a) “digital skills” develop in stages from the very early ages, as a second language (Battro & Denham, 2007) and b) most teachers didn’t have the opportunity to early access to this new global environment in the poor and developing countries.

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Roger Siptakiat on OLPC in Thailand

Late last year, Roger (Arnan) published a brief summary of his two-year analysis of seven schools in Thailand, reported in The Nation, which was spun negatively in the Bangkok Post.   While I haven’t seen the data on which he bases his analysis, his research and recent paper (from ICLS 2010) do not look negative; though they note that urban schools whose students already have access to computers (and, presumably, to libraries) do not see short-term improvements in traditional test scores, despite seeing improvements in basic literacy.

This is not surprising — OLPC does not target wealthier urban schools except as part of national saturation deployments, such as in Uruguay, Peru, and Rwanda where the entire system is undergoing a change in how it approaches learning in and out of school.   Continue reading

The case for learning, with or without school

Tim Falconer, back from his recent tour of his partner schools in Haiti, makes the case for focusing on learning in Haiti, rather than physical schools.  This is not to say that schools aren’t important — when a community needs a central place for scores of children and teachers to gather, study, or break bread, clearly they need a comfortable space if not an entire school.  But Tim notes out that many children never go to school.  Ever.  He asks:

[In Haiti] why are we still talking about building schools? Why aren’t we talking about training adults to use laptops instead of chalkboards? Why aren’t the teachers going to the children, to teach in small local groups?

I would like to see recent data on this that consolidates private and public school information; but it’s fair to say more than half of all school-age children are not in school at a given time.   (I am reminded for a moment of the remarkable UNICEF game Ayiti: the Cost of Life , which deserves more development and attention.)  If you have thoughts on home schooling, or community schooling and mentorship, stop by and leave him a comment.

Advancing education in Rwanda: two views from Kagugu

East African freelancer Nick Wadhams and Czech journalist Tomas Lindner (from Respekt) both visited Kagugu Primary School in Kigali this month, while in the country covering the recent presidential elections.

Wadhams reported briefly on his visit to Kagugu for a short radio segment for NPR’s All Things Considered.  He gets soundbites from a student and the project coordinator,  and notes some of the worries teachers and parents have.  He finds a classroom dark and dirty, and asks somewhat glibly “do poor kids really need laptops?”

Meanwhile Lindner wrote a subtle review of Rwanda’s development as a technological nation, for the German magazine Tagesspiegel.  He visits Kagugu with this in mind, considering the place of technology in schools as part of Kagame’s national Vision 2020 plan.  He interviews school director Edward Nizeymana, and visits a biology class to see how they learn together with XOs.  They discuss the rapid growth of school attendance, changing motivations and long-term goals of the students, and the challenges teachers face adjusting to new technology and to English as a new language of instruction.  Nizeymana says, responding to questions about whether Rwanda should invest in this way in primary education:

“The critics say that the government should first invest in drinking water or electricity.  But that will not do.  The world is not waiting… we have to run, do many things simultaneously. We can not let modern technologies wait until everyone has clean water at home. “

Continue reading

Sharing the flame of inspiration

This past weekend, we had a country meeting in Cambridge – the sort of gathering of national project leads, and honest sharing of lessons and challenges, that I love best about OLPC.  It ranged from the familiar to the unexpected.  It is fascinating to observe the  with Gaza and Afghanistan providing useful perspectives on what is easy and what is hard in very dense and very sparse regions, under economic and military pressure.

It left me with a lot to think about regarding how we scale passion, awareness, and the practicalities of deployment — we saw a few different successful models for scaling to hundreds of thousands of children and teachers, and discussed social and political pitfalls to avoid.

At the same time, Juliano wrote up a very personal reflection on the recent teacher training sessions he has helped organize in Rwanda.  He comments that last week’s work felt more effective than any he had done so far, but that it made him think about the challenges of scaling training to an entire country.

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The impact of laptops in education

By Antonio M. Battro, OLPC’s Chief Education Officer

As stated by the Millennium Goals of the United Nations, it is our duty and responsibility to provide a good education for all children. The purpose is to provide at least elementary schooling to every child in the world by the year 2015.

Education is essentially about universal values of truth, beauty and good. These values are embodied in historical times. We must recognize that today a new artificial environment interacts with our planet: the digital environment. The sad fact is that while many of us live in the digital era, many more are excluded. The digital divide is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome in contemporary education, especially in poor communities.

An isolated school without computers and connectivity to the Internet is incompatible current educational requirements. But of course, technology is not sufficient. Technology may have an impact on education only if constructive dialogue is occurring among teachers, students and their families. Moreover, digital technology should be in the hands of children at an early age for them to learn the new digital language as a second language. And it must be mobile (laptops or netbooks, instead of PCs) because children learn in many kinds of settings, not only in the classroom.

Some economists have tried to measure the educational impact of digital technologies, but they have reported conflicting results (cf. Computers at Home: Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality, by Randall Stross, New York Times, July 9, 2010). For instance, children using computers at school and at home have attained good computer skills while their grades in mathematics and language declined. The more so if they live in low income households. These results need clarification.

First, it is important to understand that time is needed to produce a cognitive transformation in a student. It is possible that some of the reported failures are biased because academic performance was evaluated too soon. Any evaluation must factor in the time span of an entire cohort, which is the basic unit in education. The time cannot be abridged; it requires the entire development of the young mind, from childhood to adolescence, some 10 years since the child enters first grade when most of the connections of the developing brain are made. Many cognitive capacities may be latent for years before they are expressed. Currently, tests are frequently done in static and conventional cross sections during the school year instead of in longitudinal studies of individual cognitive dynamics.

Second, in the digital era we can use digital tools for assessment (e.g., online monitoring of the student activities) but we still need new methodologies to obtain robust results. In particular, traditional statistical comparisons between experimental and control groups (as reported in the quoted studies) are not possible when the digital divide disappears and the entire population of students and teachers of a region or country has full access to the digital environment at school and at home. In that case, the control groups disappear and all students have been “vaccinated.” We must invent new methods of evaluation for the digital era.

Third, scale creates phenomenon. We need to change from microscopes to telescopes in order to encompass the wide spectrum of natural phenomena at different scales. The same is true in education…

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Young brains and computers: facts and myths

A post by new contributor Antonio Battro, OLPC’s Chief Education Officer

Recently, there has been much debate about whether computers, video games and electronic gadgets are helpful or harmful to the cognitive development of children. Some naysayers point to a study that says that multi-tasking degrades cognitive performance. The proponents assert that new digital technologies provide new opportunities for creativity and collaboration. This debate is also being played out in ministries of education, universities and classrooms all around the world. The outcome will have a major impact on the education and development of our children.

New disciplines coming from the neurocognitive sciences are changing our theory and practice of education and shaping the new field of neuroeducation. At the same time, new communication and information technologies are changing the way we teach and learn. Millions of children and teachers of the world are sharing and shaping a new neurocognitive digital environment. This formidable transformation has opened a debate that often mixes facts with myths. One of the most disruptive “neuromyths” is that early introduction of computing can harm the brain development of a young child and cause “attention damage.” Some even argue that computing in schools should be introduced only to older children. These are myths that we must replace with facts.

One of the amazing facts is that first and second languages are processed in the same cortical regions of the brain when the second language is learned early in life. Otherwise, the second language is shifted to different circuits of the cortex. In a sense, when humans use a computer and share the same digital environment they are using a second language, or “digitalese.” Postponing the new linguistic skills needed in a digital world contradicts scientific findings in neurolinguistics.
Continue reading

Juliano on Rwanda

The Global Center for Laptops and Learning in Kigali has been updating their blog recently. This past week, Brazil and Rwanda students met via Skype for the first time.

Juliano Bittencourt, who spent a year in Rwanda with his wife, recently posted a lovely email about Rwanda developments to the OLPC Brasil mailing list.

He points to Silvia Kist’s personal blog (in Portuguese) as a source for more information about the work there, along with the ‘laptop learning’ photostream.

OLPC Photo Galleries

“The photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.” -Diane Arbus

PaleXO West Bank IMG_1319

I am starting to appreciate how difficult it is to find compelling photographs that capture the spirit of learning. How do you represent collaboration and learning by doing? Basic interactions among children are often similar across different environments — with features and dress and surroundings the greatest change from town to town. But collaboration can happen between students sitting next to each other, across the room, or kilometers away… Great photography captures and makes you wonder about what is not seen in the image.

Some of the more exciting images are of children discovering something new on an XO; or share with their neighbors something they have discovered. I love to see their looks of delirium:
PaleXO West Bank 147

There is a beautifully lit image of a student posing with her laptop, the water stained ceiling of the classroom telling of the need for a new roof:
Girl_with_xo_classroom_Sierra_Leone

Or the picture of children on the steps of a red clay mud dwelling exploring together, with a yak grazing in the foreground.

OLE Nepal cover

We have a new Flickr gallery of photographs of children learning in deployments, where you can see more as they are submitted. If you have a great set of photos from your own deployment, please post a link to it.

Uruguay videos

I was looking through Uruguayan videos online for a recent full-length TV episode on Ceibal.  I didn’t find it, but here is the tireless Miguel Brechner presenting at TEDx in Buenos Aires last month – well worth a watch.  And there was a news episode on Argentine television late last year.

I also found this surprise: “Aprendiendo con Ceibal“, an unusual half-hour post-modern classroom experience…

(hat tip to Bob Hacker)