Prof. dr. Černochová together with the ATEE Resource & Development Centres “ICT in education” and “primary education” organized a small but interesting and lovely ATEE Winter conference under the title “first class learning, first class teaching, and first class teacher education” There were great people and contributions.
Prof. dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey (USA) elaborated on the idea of Professional Development Schools (PDS), where teachers and teacher educators work together. (American) schools often seem to miss “the collegial arrangement where teachers could collaborative reflect on the day’s activities and results, then discuss what would be improved tomorrow.” The physical space is one requirement; but teachers also need systematic, planned and scheduled time for collaborative reflection and learning. As teaching is increasingly complex, such needs are growing. Teacher educators should move their academic work closer to the schools. In school-universities partnerships teachers and teacher educators can work together. Teacher educators can help schools to find the right tools for the right learning needs, while schools can provide knowledge for / in / of practice.
Prof. dr. Arne Trageton from Norway elaborated on his ideas of “Writing to Read. Playful computer Writing.” He said: while we are convinced that we want creative humans, most of the ICT in education reports are about children as consumers instead of producers. Writing is easier than reading. And typing is easier than hand writing. So why are most schools starting with reading instead of writing? Prof. Trageton has set up programs where children are in pairs working on (old) laptops, standing up (who needs a chair?) They start writing random gibberish. And then they start counting the letters A. B, … Gradually they are writing and reading better and better, always about things that interest them (what happened last weekend? Keep it playful and keep it authentic! People like to write when they want somebody else to read it! The children write longer and longer texts and produce their own textbooks. IIRC, Prof. Trageton measured that children trained with computer writing score after 3 years one year in advance of hand writing trained children.
Also interesting were the country reports about ICT and innovations in schools.
It’s no coincidence this conference was in Prague. The Czech Republic has a long history of ICT in education. During the eighties they used their Czech produced 8bit-computers (IQ 151 and PMD) in schools. We visited a school in Prague which has invested a lot in technologies with the help of many research projects. Many interactive whiteboards and videocams, but also something I never seen before: A Czech produced box with some twenty usb sockets. I first thought it was filled with USB-sticks, but actually it were all transmitters for wireless mice. It means you can give each child a mouse to control the same computer in front of the classroom. I can imagine quite some interactive use with that.
Prof. Davide Parmigiani from Italy reported about a Cl@sses 2.0 project: how to improve the learning environment in the classroom with ICT? 156 schools from different regions received 30000 Euro to transform classrooms to 2.0 environments. The teachers can decide what to buy. I can imagine this could go wrong, but this case was well organized, with as one of the nicer results a shift from individual to team teaching.
I had also a nice time with Hans Pronk and Jan Folkert Deinum who reported about their projects in the Netherlands. They care a lot about Nearly Qualified Teachers (NQT) and Induction (the phase after initial teacher training) for novice teachers. Dutch schools are now demanding teachers with ICT skills!
Under the mastery of Glynn Kirkham from the UK we concluded the conference with the Nominal Group Technique. These are the resulting most important concepts of the conference and their votes:
12 Towards interactive teaching; Role of the child as knowledge producer; teacher:child and child:teacher
10 Early childhood importance
9 Innovation (ICT)
7 “Back Porch”; Professional development schools (PDS); Much to learn from each other; School learns if its members learn; Lesson planning
5 Recognition of the competent child
3 Digital citizenship
2 Induction for novice teacher
2 Co-operation among students
1 Contextualization; Own the wheel
1 Important to experience both digital and tactile/sensory activities
1 Recruitment of male teachers in the early years school
Personally I was member of the scientific committee of this conference and I had a keynote about “What can we learn from One Laptop Per Child Projects?”
I’m invited for the scientific committee and a keynote presentation at the ATEE (Association for Teacher Education in Europe) winter conference in Prague, February 2010. The conference theme is “Early Years, Primary Education and ICT”. This is the title and abstract of my keynote:
What can we learn from One Laptop Per Child Projects?
Five years ago, Prof. Nicholas Negroponte announced the “One Laptop Per Child” idea. The mission of the non-profit OLPC foundation is to give the children of developing countries better opportunities to explore and learn by means of a cheap Internet laptop (the XO). The laptop and software is specifically designed according to constructionist learning theories and aimed at primary education. Many critical voices dismissed these ideas as undesirable and impossible. Why laptops while there is a shortage of food, teachers and electricity? Why a laptop per child instead of a few computers per school or class? Isn’t this a form of neo-colonialism?
Whether today OLPC is a failure or a success remains in the eye of the beholder. The projected milestones proved too optimistic. The XO laptop still costs around $188 instead of the projected $100. Over the last two years, “only” one million XO laptops are rolled out in 40 countries. The impact on the computer industry is very visible: the XO gave inspiration to a dozen cheap netbook models, increasingly popular at least in the developed world. The impact on education and the developing world is less visible. Two years of pilot projects and national deployments is understandably short for long term research evidence. Establishing a deployment is hard, but the first results are promising. Teachers report that the children are more motivated to learn, read and write and that they do so more accurately. The children teach each other and their parents what they learned. The one laptop per child ratio, the children’s ownership and the fact that they can take the XO home seem to have indeed the desired benefits of equal access (no matter the gender, competencies or socio-economic status) and low incidences of theft or maintenance needs. The children are most positive about the Internet connection, which gives them a window on the world, not only for exploring, but also for expressing themselves. The laptops and the software seem indeed well designed to allow a lot of learning by self-exploration. Of course many things are hardly self-discoverable, and the quality of learning remains mainly influenced by the teacher’s design of learning scenarios. Teacher training plays a crucial role, not only about the laptop and the software, but mainly about learning methodologies that fit best with these technologies (and today’s society).
The OLPC foundation focuses on developing countries, where the need is highest. But the demand for similar projects in developed countries is rising. The challenges are smaller in countries with good education and good availability of ICT. This means however that the increase of learning efficiency can be expected to be smaller. Recently, the first small pilot projects in Europe have started. These projects deserve the attention of European teachers, teacher educators and researchers.
I’ve bookmarked the most relevant OLPC reports and evaluations in my Diigo library. I’m still preparing the presentation, so contact me if you want yours or other additional OLPC reports and evaluations shared with the European Teacher Educators community!
Together with Frits Hoff from the Openwijs.nl foundation, I was invited to Aruba for consultancy around ‘One Laptop Per Child‘ projects. We discussed with the minister of education, parliament members, directors from educational networks, the University of Aruba, and the teachers & parents of two schools that want to start OLPC pilot projects. My focus was on the training & coaching for teachers, and monitoring & evaluation of such innovation projects. All stakeholders were very enthusiastic and we got nice press coverage (at least 3 news paper articles [1, 2, 3], 1 press website, 1 radio and 2 tv transmissions). Pilot projects should start in january, and scaling up to all childeren in primary school starts hopefully next school year. Thanks to Kiwanis Club of Palm Beach for sponsoring our travel and stay.
See my Aruba pictures.
The design of this so called $100 laptop for kids from the developing world dates from 2006. I played with it at FOSDEM 2007, while it was still in preview. Since then it has started the minilaptop ‘netbook ‘ revolution. And while it is 3 years old, it still has many innovative concepts which are not yet common in other laptops. Many laudatios have been written, but let me share two features which I still appreciate: When there is enough light (or too much light for other laptops), the screen is very readable with the back-light switched off. This is a big energy saver. And while you are only reading the screen, the operating system (Fedora Linux) powers down most of the laptop components. It’s really impressive to see the power led go on and off while the screen remains powered. Netto result: between 0.3 and 8W is enough for the OLPC, while my other laptop consumes often 40W. The day I forgot my OLPC power supply, I could use another one from a dead Sony walkman with power specs (5.4W) lower than any other reported usable power supplies (see my contributions at the OLPC wiki).
Frits Hoff suggested me two current OLPC issues (mainly in the developed world) to think about: Flash support and speed improvements. (continue reading…)