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EdTech Update





OLPC XO field test - sort of

milesxo.jpgMy XO sat charged and available in the family room all last week while grandsons Paul (age 6) and Miles (age 2) were visiting with their mom and dad.

To my disappointment, the reception to the XO was underwhelming. Paul lost patience after five minutes. Miles whacked at it for a while, mostly in imitation of his older brother who quickly reverted to using the desktop PC.  Even their tech-savvy dad spent very little time with the device, having minimal familiarity with Linux.

To be fair, these rather privileged boys had other distractions - new  Legos, Thomas the Tank Engine toys, videos, books, cookies, and even a sledding hill just out the back door. Not to mention two doting grandparents willing to play with them.

Some observations:

  • A favorite website of these boys is Dave Pilkey's game pages. While we were able to connect to the page and even run Flash to see the game, none of the keyboard controls allowed game play. And, "Oh, man!" what a loooong wait for loads.
  • At age 6, Paul has already become a some-what sophisticated Windows user. While he has no problem with the Mac operating system, Sugar threw him. Since Negroponte's theory is that kids will be able to teach themselves this OS, I gave Paul minimal instruction. He was unable or unwilling to invest the time it took to figure all but the minimum out about the XO.
  • The XO was great at deflecting gooey fingers, snotty noses, and other liquidy sorts of attacks common with small boys in the winter. 

While my family is a very small petrie dish, I'd be willing to bet that if it were released in the US, the XO would be a computer of last resort - used only by those who could or would not spend slightly more on a faster machine with a more familiar acting OS. (The ASUS Eee, for example.) And I understand that Paul and Miles are not the intended audience for this computer. Still, I was a little disappointed that it was not better received. And neither boy (nor parents) lobbied for ownership of the XO.

However I still believe that anyone would rather have an XO than no computer at all.

For what it's worth.



RCE 5 and 6: Positive thinking and elephant bites

 If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. Henry Ford

Mrs. Weiler’s Law: Anything is edible if it is chopped finely enough.

In a recent blog post, I visited the Radical Center of Education and suggested some principles for achieving this enlightened state of mind and how it will result in a change philosophy that may result in change actually occurring.

  1. Adopt an "and" not "or" mindset.
  2. Look for truth and value in all beliefs and practices.
  3. Respect the perspective of the individual.
  4. One size does not fit all (kids or teachers).
  5. If you think it will work, it probably will.
  6. The elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time. Or is it that you can't leap the chasm in two bounds?
  7. To travel fast, travel alone. To travel far, travel with others.
  8. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know."
  9. Measurement is good, but not everything can be measured.
  10. Know and keep your core values.

If you think it will work, it probably will.

Those of us who wish to maintain the Radical Center of Education need to remember the critical role attitude plays in change efforts - especially those involving technology. If we set about determining whether teachers are using tech tools well, we need to ask about attitude as well as skills.

This is a drum I beat often in this blog. And even give a a presentation about. Never underestimate the power of attitude. 'Nuff said

The elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time. Or is it that you can't leap the chasm in two bounds?

As much as they may be needed, radical changes in education are less likely than incremental changes. Despite Disraeli's often quoted  caveat, "The most dangerous strategy is to jump a chasm in two leaps," stepping too far outside a teacher orbitelele.jpg administrator's comfort zone means leaving the Radical Center of Education and long-term, universal change is unlikely. And the larger the leap expected to be made in a single bound, the fewer willing to take the chance. And nobody makes anybody do anything in education.

The more analogous a technology application is to something the teacher is already doing, the more likely the teacher is to adopt it. Mobile laptop carts - not too popular; interactive white boards - hugely successful.

Ya ask me, Vygotsky's proximal development theory holds for adult learners as well as for kids - you've always got to have some old knowledge from which to hang the new learning. Chasm leaping doesn't allow for this; bite-sized elephant eating does.

I've never apologized for taking an incremental approach to technology implementation in the classroom. (See The Technology Upgrade). This approach gets teachers actually using the tech to improve the classroom experience, even if it isn't radically overhauling it.

As much as I might like it were otherwise, technology is not really a catalyst for change, but simply a tool for change. It can be an effective and exciting way to help implement best practices driven by the content area research, educational theory, or even state/national mandates, but change shouldn't start with technology. 


Hi-tech, Low-tech Christmas


The big hit of this Christmas season in the Johnson household was neither high nor low tech, but a delightful combination of the two. Using Shutterfly, my daughter and son-in-law put together a "Grandma Book" filled with pictures of the LWW and our grandsons. The high tech applications of digital photography and Internet photo/editing storage services were used to produce a low-tech book that will be treasured for years. (The LWW also received as Christmas presents similar books of each of her two kids' weddings from this summer.)

I decided this year to use ShutterFly to create the annual Johnson Family calendar as well. Very easy to put together and no more expensive than having it printed at the local Kinkos. Very cool and much more professional looking than what I was doing with a calendar-making program on my own computer.


My niece Anna's wedding in the Philippines calendar page...