While perusing the recent C-Net stories I ran across a photo story of the first distribution of $100 laptops to children in Nigeria for the One Laptop Per Child initiative. It hadn’t really occurred to me what the design of such a machine would entail, let alone the interface design for kids who have literally never seen a GUI before.
This was perhaps the most complicated interface design project since the Mosaic browser was designed for point and click access to the web. The interface they came up with totally baffles me, due to its reliance on entirely graphical clickable regions.
It’s really tough to imagine the semiotic domain wherein a computer interface would be a wholly foreign concept. Yet, according to the story, the children immediately “took to” their new (cough, cough) educational toys.
About two years ago I had the opportunity to work on a documentary on the Garifuna culture in northeast Honduras. One of the more interesting aspects of the project was figuring out how to engage the villagers in what we hoped to accomplish. As recompense for gaining access to the village, I had to give the kids in the small school English lessons.
We found the children really took to the camera. So we tried to incorporate basic film theory and production in to the lessons. As constructivist learning theory would suggest, the students were much more engaged when we simply handed over the means of production.
-Rest in Peace, Kurt Vonnegut (1923-2007)
I found the readings for this week pretty interesting. For someone new to the field of education, I am glad to see there clearly are oppositional theorists firmly entrenched in their respective ideologies. As far as I know, differing ideas lead to collaboration which leads to progress (in a perfect world). Unfortunately, clashing opinions in the real world often lead to stoicism, ignorance, and agoraphobia. But I’ll leave that alone for now.
To add to our discussion, I found this article by Norm Friesn, an Instructional Technology professor at Athabasca University, in Alberta, Canada. Friesn offers three strong objections to current trends in the design and implementation of learning objects.
His first objection sites the lack of a clear definition for what constitutes a learning object. With so many vague, esoteric definitions for learning objects, legitimate research into their efficacy is virtually impossible, Friesn asserts.
The two other objections cite organizations like the IEEE Learning Technologies Standards Committee and ADL for taking a militaristic approach to standardization and homogeneity. According to Friesn, learning objectives vary with context. Who knew?
In pondering all of these readings as a whole, the only consistency lies in the focus on sound pedagogy and Dewey and all that. It seems to me that cheap digital technology is here. It’s in education. It’s in socialization. Pretty soon it will be in your refrigerator, your car, and behind your ear (or in your wrist, if you prefer). There’s no use fighting it.
-Peace, Love, Gap…I mean…er…oh, whatever