Sugar Labs @ NDSU

Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND

Netbook lessons from Birmingham and Mark Warschauer


I was scrolling through OLPC News and found the Nov 15 post about a short paper delivered by Mark Warschauer, laptop learning expert. Warschauer compared three uses of netbooks in the k-6 curriculum: Littleton CO (netbooks), Saugus CA (using Linux on netbooks), and Birmingham AL, using XO. The success of the first two Warschauer attributes to their use of the Maine model: good teacher training, careful integration with curriculum, attention to infrastructure. The failure of Birmingham is due to the inverse, which can also be phrased as over-reliance of students to figure things out, poor training, poor integration. Students apparently enjoyed using the laptops at home, but stopped bringing them to schools.

In our short study of students at Madison Elementary in Fargo so far, where we are working outside the curriculum, and focusing exclusively on E-toys so far, we have quickly learned that we ourselves need more experience with the software, the kids are highly motivated learners but can’t figure everything out for themselves, and they need a goal that compels them. The software’s novelty is appealing for a short time, the learn curve steepens quickly, and then some students start to back off and lose enthusiasms.

If you read Warschauer’s paper, but sure to follow the link he puts at the bottom to a story about Littleton’s approach–start simple, support effectively, assess and find successes (if they are there) before moving on. Or just follow it from here ; ) http://www.edtechmag.com/k12/issues/april-may-2010/inspiring-education.html
The link to the Ubuntu for Education information is also worth following!

An important point to note: the failure of the Birmingham project does not seem to be a failure of the technology, just the implementation. The unfamiliarity of Sugar might be a contributing factor, but it isn’t mentioned. Certainly the implication is that the software-hardware combination itself was not sufficiently compelling to motivate a lot of self-directed learning on the part of the students.

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This entry was posted on December 2, 2010 by in pedagogy, XO.

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