Friday, June 5, 2015

The scythe vs. the weed-wacker

Alerted to this video by a conversation in the IGDA Learning and Education Games SIG. Here's part of my contribution to the thread, prompted by the Washington Post article by  Kentaro Toyama.

Thanks so much for the scythe v. weedwacker video. I'm already thinking about ways I can incorporate it into my teaching--doing a consult with a dual immersion (Spanish/English) academy locally starting on Monday, for a Summer School session. I'd love to see a similar side-by-side video of someone with a broom v. leaf-blower. Both are great examples how the non-fossil fuel based traditional solution has obvious advantages. I'm not sure a sweeper could beat the time of the blower as the scyther so easily beat the whacker, but in each case there is the huge advantage of avoided noise pollution as well, and the personal health benefits to the worker v. the exposure to toxins which inevitably accompany our energetic systems.

In part of the thread, someone asked for opinions on one-to-one computing programs. This was part of my response

When I see a child with a device, my first question is "Who's telling it what to do?" Is the child in charge, creating or at least interacting, or is the device telling her what to do--usually, "Sit still and follow orders!"?

One-to-one programs can be wonderful. I've seen a few that seem to be working well. Again, is the child using the device to create and express herself? Is she attending to the repertoire of skills she's mastering with an eye to her own goals, assembling a portfolio, banking Digital Badges in a BackPack that's categorized according to her interests and goals? Does she have a sense of continuity and self-awareness about her learning? These are not new-age or technology driven concerns. These echo the timeless goals of good education.

RE: Is the choice of iPads as the device for a one-to-one program a good investment, v. the choice of another device? That's one question. For me the much more important question is, what's the ratio of the investment in the people to the investment in the devices – and especially in the software, in the details of the ownership and use of materials, and technical support – my rule of thumb would be, at least twice the amount of money should be going to hiring internal on-demand support, and providing learning and curriculum development time to the teachers who will use the devices, than is going to outside vendors, and make that ratio even bigger if you can. There's really no need to purchase curriculum and "text book" access. Use the Open Source materials which already exist, and give teachers time to adapt them to their particular situation.

There's so much back-stage hustling by sales people and administrators about these deals. If there's the potential to make a purchase, why not give this year's eighth graders the year-long assignment to collaboratively develop the plan for the implementation for their successors. Give them the budget numbers, let them form teams, and research, develop, and evaluate a variety of plans and approaches. If each classroom has just one device, say, it might be most cost-effective to outfit every classroom with homemade raspberry pi rigs, and the seventh graders get to build and assemble them next year...