Entries from November 2007
November 30th, 2007 By: · No Comments
I did the programming for three simple maths activities: one just for counting, one for organising objects into a bar graph and answering simple questions, and one for recognising currency notes. That was over four days so I’m only operating at 75% of my target production rate — and we’ll see how much more work will be needed for test and review. But I am starting to get a better idea of how long it takes more experienced Etoys hackers (as we’re becoming) to produce activities with all the usual distractions of life.
I’ve dropped Squeak the project files in my web directory in case someone wants to play. They’re for use with the XO Etoys image as usual. The money one needs to add more illustrations before it’ll be playable — I’ll try to update it today.
I could possibly have finished the fourth (adding currency and answering with the keyboard) if I’d continue this evening but it’s friday and Kathmandu is a fun city so instead I’ll spend the afternoon on making improvements and then have a few beers to prepare for tomorrow’s 6am bungee jumping trip.
The next two weeks will be pretty busy so I reckon I’ll be very satisfied if I can hold the same rate of production throughout. Let’s see how the beautiful little house I’m moving into at the edge of town
affects my productivity
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November 28th, 2007 By: · No Comments
My new resolution is to develop one new OLPC learning activity each working day. I’ll post them each friday. Let’s find out what I’m made of!
Going OK at the end of day two..
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November 27th, 2007 By: · No Comments
We are going to hold a "mini" OLPC Game Jam on Saturday, December 15th. It will be a mini-game jam because it will only be a one day event, not three. It will focus on developing games using Squeak. Perhaps "SqueakJam" or "OLPC SqueakFest" may be the better titles . We hope to build up to a full-fledged game jam within several months, complete w/ organized teams, prizes, and media coverage. Most software developers in the Kathmandu Valley work in Java or PHP, not Python or Squeak. I think it will take several mini-jams before there is enough expertise here in Squeak for a full Game Jam.
We will invite programmers, artists, and educators. The first part of the day will be a training workshop on how to develop activities with Squeak and in the later part cut them loose to make their own creations. We want to get the non-programmers to create their own Squeak activities, not just contribute from their area of specific expertise.
Surendra and Luke will be the lead instructors. Serendipitously, Bert Freudenberg will be in Kathmandu helping OLE Nepal speed up our activity development using Squeak and to better integrate our activities into Sugar.
Prashant Manandhar of Prime College has generously provided us use of a computer lab w/ 30 workstations for the event. We will make sure that every participant gets their own machine to develop their own activity. System Administrator Ram Krishna will support the event. Principal Naresh Shrestha has also been extremely supportive.
If you will be in Kathmandu on Dec 15th and are interested in participating, reserve a seat by sending an e-mail to register at olenepal dot org
This will be fun!
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November 26th, 2007 By: · No Comments
We are extremely excited that Punyashil Gautam has joined our content development team. Punyashil is a distinguished artist, art educator, and teacher trainer. He will use his experience to help the development team make learning activities that meet the needs of teachers, Nepali students, and are beautiful.
Punyashil helped found the prestigious Rato Bangala School in Kathmandu. He will continue in his position at Rato Bangala and work with us part-time. While we would love to have his help 12 hours a day, he has already made a huge impact on our team in only a few sessions.
Â Luke just mentioned one of the great things about working with Squeak: when someone new arrives with a lot of new and different ideas you can sit right next to them and draft the activities in minutes. Usually programmers hate to hear "I have a new idea, let’s do this totally different!"
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November 21st, 2007 By: · 1 Comment
I was bemused to find that some kids can play our initial arithmetic activities ("3 + 5 = ?") all day long without learning what I’d like them to learn, which is to do arithmetic quickly in their heads. That’s because there’s a successful playing strategy that doesn’t exercise this path in your brain: slowly and patiently count each sum on your fingers and then give the correct answer. To my surprise this is exactly what some kids do, and on reflection I see that the activity doesn’t present any reason not to. Ooops!
Today we rejigged one of the activities so that the player will hopefully tend to become faster and more accurate by playing. The revised gameplay is this: Each question has a time-limit, you have to correctly answer a bunch of questions in a row to proceed to the next level, and with each new level the time limit shrinks by one second. This means that the tempo of the game increases as you play until you reach your limit and can’t struggle on to the next level.
The adults have found this quite fun to play — I found that my heartrate pumped up when I had only 2-3 seconds to answer questions. It will be interesting to take this to the kids and see how they react
We’re also now starting to feel that we’re ready to expand from working directly with friendly kids to working with friendly teachers who have classes of their own. My hope is that they can make a lot of these "obvious" observations for us about where the activities succeed and fail with real Nepali kids.
Onward we go..
If you want to test your arithmetic aptitute on the activity then here’s the steps:
- Install a recent version of OLPC Etoys.
- Scale the screen to match XO size using the square button on the toolbar at the top of the screen.
- Drag’n'drop OLE-24.st (Smalltalk code library) into the Squeak window, choose ‘fileIn entire file’.
- Drag’n'drop the AddingUpto10Fun project into the Squeak window.
I’ve left the Etoys scripts visible in flaps at the bottom in case you want to tinker!
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November 19th, 2007 By: · No Comments
In the office we talk a lot about how kids learn and what is the best strategy to help the most Nepali kids while working within the Nepali education system. Forgive me if this post is a bit scattered, I am just putting some ideas down.
Our perspectives and attitudes towards traditional education systems vary greatly. Luke is a true auto-didact who has been coding since age five and never spent a day in university. I spent my early schooling years in special education classes, did very well in high school, and then barely graduated from university. Rabi and Saurav both did fantastically well at world-class elite universities (MIT grads). We were all quite lucky to have educated parents, go to decent schools, and had access to books and other learning materials. We grew up in resource-rich environments compared to the average Nepali. Our social interactions with educated people such as our parents and schoolmates were a critical component of our larger educations. It is easy to just focus on teachers, schools, and material resources but forget the social component.
One of the crucial challenges facing Nepal’s education system is how to provide quality education to kids in resource-poor environments: no libraries, high student-teacher ratios (50:1 and sometimes 100:1), limited school supplies, the students’ own parents are often uneducated, poorly trained teachers, etc. Forgive me for stating the obvious: OLPC itself was formed in part to address these resource deficiencies. The four of us quit our jobs and formed OLE Nepal to follow this dream.
We need to think differently about creating learning activities for resource-poor environments than we would for kids in a resource-rich environment. The best example of this that I can think of is teaching kids how to program in Squeak. There is a traininng center in Kathmandu that teaches kids how to program in Squeak and the kids’ work is quite amazing. We would love to teach kids in every classroom around Nepal how to program in Squeak. The educational benefits would be simply enormous. Unfortunately, teaching Squeak requires a highly trained and progressively-minded teacher. A true auto-didact like can teach herself Squeak. That auto-didact can also teach others, if she has interest and ability to do so.
For example, Luke taught himself Squeak in a couple weeks but the progress of Saurav and myself has been halting at best. We get bogged down quickly when we work on Squeak on our own but can move quickly with his instruction. In this case, co-teaching worked because the auto-didact also happens to be a great teacher. We had an important social resource available to us.
It is unlikely we will be able that we will deploy a trained Squeak teacher for every Nepali school in the short-term. I do think that we may be able get some teachers to teach drawing using Squeak and down the line get them teach to actual activity development. For this reason and others, we are focusing not on teaching kids how to use Squeak to build their own activities but using it as a platform to rapidly develop learning activities that fit within the existing Nepali curriculum.
Constructionist Learning activities work best when they are very
discoverable, that is, it is very easy to figure out how they work with
minimal to no outside instruction. What I am trying to get at is that what is discoverable for a kid in a resource-rich environment may not be so discoverable in a resource-poor environment.
Let me step back to another matter for a second. We are using Squeak as a platform to rapidly develop learning activities that fit within the existing Nepali curriculum. This begs the question: Why not just develop learning activities that stretch kids imaginations and problem-solving abilities? The answer is:
- If we want the teachers to use laptops and digital learning activities as part of the regular class day we have to work within the current system.
- We intend to develop super awesome, mind-stretching activities as well
More on Point #1. Teachers in Nepal have scarce time to prepare their kids for grade level exams. Nepali kids have to pass grade level exams at grades 1, 3, 5, 7, and 18 . These particular grades are off the top of my head and I may not have the particular grades correct. They don’t move on to the next grade until they pass. We can create super awesome activities for the XO’s but the teachers won’t use them unless they think the activities will help their kids pass the tests. They are more likely to use the XO’s if they think they will significantly enhance their pass rates.
Our challenge is to meet the curriculum requirements and design great learning activities. The good thing is, we love challenges.
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November 18th, 2007 By: · No Comments
Yesterday, November 18th, OLE Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nepal government
to work together to build quality education materials to be
distributed by means of ICT in Nepal. With this agreement, OLE Nepal has
made a giant stride in fulfilling its vision of making quality education
accessible to students all over Nepal. The agreement was the result of
tireless effort from quite a number of people who helped and guided us
along in the process. We are privileged to have such dynamic group of board members, advisers, and contributors who have gone out of
their way to get this movement started.
We have a lot of work cut out for us before we launch a test project in
April 2008. We hope to get similar support from the larger community. Together we
can raise the quality and access of education in Nepal.
Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Nepal
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