Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND
We’ve more or less settled on a plan forward for the rest of the school year at Madison Elementary. We are going to work towards a little portfolio for the students who are still part of the TechTeam , starting with some Turtle Art. We explored Turtle about 3 sessions ago, and it has been a hit every time. Chris did some improvising and exploring with them initially, and they had some great successes. I used a decent set of instructions from the OLPC wiki to teach them a little more systematically, they learned how to write letters, and on Thursday they used the instructions to make some real Turtle Art. The instructions actually had an important missing step that we had to trouble shoot–a little debugging–and the three girls did some good co-operative teaching and learning. The boy in the mix worked on his own, although he would come over to the girls’ area and try and help when he though he could.
We happened to be in a room where another activity was unfolding, and our kids had to be “shusshed” a couple of time. When the other activity wrapped up, a 4th grader from that group wandered over and started looking over shoulders. Before I realized what was going on, our boy J. was showing the new guy, V., how Turtle Blocks worked. When the session wrapped up, our supervising instructor asked V. if he wanted to come back another time, and join the Tech Team–he of course said yes.
These little victories are a piece of cake. The netbooks, the strange software, the cute turtle–what 4th grader wouldn’t be a little bit curious? The million dollar question might be: what learning is taking place? What skills, attitudes, and attributes are going to transfer? Another question, however, might be: what would these kids be doing if they weren’t exploring Sugar? Are we giving them an interesting, quality hour once a week, and that is enough? Is that where the educational value lies–extension beyond the curriculum, a good, low, student-teacher ratio, learning as exploration, confidence building, etc.?
On the way out, one of our most enthusiastic, committed students apologized profusely for not coming because she had another commitment. I reached out to give her a re-assuring touch–no problem, I said. She gave me a big hug. Education is about relationships and friendships, too, not just learning and outcomes.