Memorable Quotes from a NECC Live Discussion

Its great to see the NECC Conference releasing stuff to the wider world that cannot make it to the conference. In NECC Live 2006 (only 2007 content is currently available), the item called “One Laptop Per Child: Hope or Hype?” had a number of interesting comments that I have transcribed below. The three pannelists were: Ian Jukes […]

Its great to see the NECC Conference releasing stuff to the wider world that cannot make it to the conference. In NECC Live 2006 (only 2007 content is currently available), the item called “One Laptop Per Child: Hope or Hype?” had a number of interesting comments that I have transcribed below.

The three pannelists were:

  • Ian Jukes – Travels a lot (consulting), working on 4 books.
  • Barry Vercoe – Media Lab – Developer of OLPC, Music and Audio specialist.
  • David Thomburg – Thomburg Center, State Dept Advisories, Travels (Brazil, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand), Getting into OS and Linux, New book “When the Best is Free – an educators perspective on Open Source”.

Ian Jukes – We need to transform learning, not just use the new technology in an old way.
David Thomburg – You need both the technology and the staff development to make the most of it.
David Thomburg – The technology can play a very important role if we can get the educators to realise it is learning about learning, not learning about stuff. (There is still a need for some learning about stuff, but not the dominant need).
David Thomburg – I think 1 to 1 is a myth, I don’t think 1 to 1 is a goal. I think 1 to 1 is a waystation on the way toward somwthing else. I think technology needs to be ubiquitous. I don’t operate 1 to 1, I operate 5 (technologies) to 1 (person). The critical issue is that those become useful to the extent that they interoperate. (a lot more work to make devices talk to eachother effortlesslessly).
Ian Jukes – In Singapore … they are truely 1 to 1 there, but you have to ask yourself “what has changed?”. I had a conversation with their Minister of Education two weeks ago where he said “top academic kids in the entire world that couldn’t think their way out of a wet paper bag if their life depended on it. We are a nation with no natural resources – not even fresh water. We can’t just have people that regurgitate the old, we have to have people that create the new”. And so if you put the technology in there by itself, I say “So what?”. The real issue here is about how you use that technology.
Barry Vercoe – Singapore … are running scared, just as they are in Taiwan, about the industry that has supported their economy for the last 20 years – the economic miracle of those places. …they can’t just stamp out copies any more, they are being undercut by Mainland China. The people in Singapore and Taiwan have to learn to create, have to learn how to invent, have to move higher up in the food chain in order to come up with products, new ways of thinking. So it has to do with how you think about technology, how you use technology to invent and create the economic community.
Ian Jukes – With ‘No Child Left Behind’ (no Superintendent left standing) we end up graduating highly educated, useless people – people who have really good school skills, really good test writing skills, but they arn’t ready for the world out there. … these kids leave the system that has held them up for 16 years and fall flat on their face.
Ian Jukes – So the real issues arn’t hardware issues, the real issues are headware issues. … about how we take the technology and leverage it. This isn’t about teaching powerpoint, it is about teaching kids to be better communicators. This isn’t about teaching Microsoft Word, it is about teaching kids to be better writers. Learning about the technology is nothing but an incidental (but essential) byproduct of that process. The real issue is education is about thinking – the technology is just the vehicle that will allow us to go there.
David Thomburg – (believes US is loosing its creativity. e.g. Motorola Razr Cellphones is designed in Brazil, not because it is cheap (it cost Motorolla a fortune), but because of the creativity of the Brazilian software engineers and their interdiciplinary perspective).
David Thomburg – This (lack of US creativity) is being exaserbated by the NCLB perception that we need to teach to task, that it is about a body of regurgitatable knowledge, as Ian says “the binge and purge model – information bulimia”.
David Thomburg – When did joy leave education? At conference it used to be so much fun … teachers were giving other teachers software they had wrote themselves … now it is all shrinkwrapped, you have al the booth barbies with bodies by Nautilus, brains by Matel. Come on, lets have some fun.
David Thomburg – You take Linux on a little box, you put in some creative stuff, you put that in the hand of some kids and teachers, you sit down in a corner and the next thing you know its Tuesday because your having so much fun with it. Anything that brings that joy back is going to be good for this country (USA).
David Thomburg – When we get all of the children who can celebrate knowledge, celebrate culture – not as a melting pot or soup that is homogenised but like a salad bowl where you get the delight of different flavours … it is not a perspective that supports the concept of (armed) conflict. When you truly understand other people in the world and that this is a planet, how can you fight?
Barry Vercoe – Its the people that have creativity and a natural desire to express themselves, are going to burst there way through whatever technological barriers are there, these are the people that innovate. Innovation occurs when there is a clash of cultures, a clash of ways of thinking, a clash of ways of doing things – the interaction of those people (is where the innovation happens).
Ian Jukes – We live in a media culture that builds things up in order to tear things down. My greatest fear is that the media jumps to a conclusion (like after a team looses one game) that all is lost (before we build enough momentum to reach Gladwells tipping point).
An audience question – “How can we get the same scale of conversation moving (as around the OLPC) about what real rich learning looks like like when it is facilitated by teachers?”
Ian Jukes – Neil Postman said “Children enter school as a question mark and exit as a period. Primary kids like school, high schoolers like lunch. Primary teachers teach children, secondary teachers teach subjects”. I beleive the tipping point is about grade 3, where learning goes from this incredible multimedia experience to being increasingly drudgery.
Ian Jukes – What is the opposite of pro? con? What is the opposite of progress? congress? Many of these people that are making decisions that affect the lives of these kids – their senior year was grade seven, their toughest two years was grade one … and they haven’t been in a classroom for 30 years.
Ian Jukes – We have these incredible tools, but as yogi bearer says “Its deja vu all over again”. What has changed? … My fear is that we are going to take this magnificent tool (OLPC) and instead of letting the children shape the tool, the tool is going to shape the childern and basically it is going to be the same old same old all over again.
Ian Jukes – I think we do a great job in American schools today (2006) of preparing kids for 1950, and I may be being optomistic there.
Barry Vercoe – Our philosophy at the media lab is “tools to think with”.
David Thomburg – This also evokes some fear, some negative fear I have read (about OLPC) is that “oh my god – if this happens, education is going to change. We can’t let that happen”. They will hide this in other ways by saying “the machine is underpowered” etc (but based in this fear).
Barry Vercoe – The $100 laptop is already forcing people to think differently … The Intel $400 knockoff … it looks just like the (MIT) machine, but it costs $400. You have to admit the software systems are just bloated, they are very slow … so the small hardware is going to force the Linux people to come down (to match it).
David Thomburg – … they want something that is reliable, that works, you turn it on and it is there. You are not going to get that with anything that runs software that comes out of Redmond Washington.
David Thomburg – Dell is now releasing a $450 computer … but they are not going to preload it with the kind of software that MIT is doing because they are going to say “out maket doesn’t want that”. You see, focus groups are almost the worst things to have because what people will say what they want is what they already have. If you keep going where you are going you will keep getting what you’ve got. Its time for something new.
David Thomburg – The positive opportunity is that in November 2007, NCLB going to be rewritten. …MIT’s project has made enough noise that I think there will be a seat at the table to talk about what education might look like here. If this country starts to see what other countries are doing and take it seriously, they will realise “we have tennis shoe marks up out back”.
Lindy Mekeuwan (audience) – In working with professional development … I’ve moved my crosshairs of the teacher and have moved it onto the university staff. Anyone who can only run Powerpoint, Word and the Library software can’t possibly prepare a teacher for the kind of world that this machine is going to open up. … I think what you need areound the OLPC is the salvation army of education – the people who will work with the people as the devices arrive and bring the ideas to them. What I have found working with teachers is that they are wonderful, creative, teriffic people – all you have got to do is give them a little bit of time and some great resources and they will do astounding things with them. It is just they are not prepared for that by their faculty or in their graduate programs or the professional development that they are offered – it very targeted to maintaing the status quo. … The concept of a lecture about constructivism is our issue.
Barry Vercoe – The problem in Australia is that Brenda Nelson who was the Minister of Education last year is noe the Minister of Defense. These people are making some of the decisions. … the problem is that the decision making is not put into the hands of the people that have the real experience.
David Thomburg – One of the best instructional TV series is JunkYard Wars (you have to build a machine to fit a challenge with any junk you can find). During the process they go around and interview the teams about the decision making process and their materials testing etc. What you get to see is the most delightful thinking and problem solving. (and you learn the lessons you need in a practical way you will never forget). There is also “Make” Magazine dedicated to this topic. I think that we would be better off if textbooks were more like make magazine and schools were held in junkyards, because that is where people could really build stuff and do stuff. We are human beings, but we are also human doings.

Author: EricWoods

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