Many educators are wary of the claims made by new technologies. They've heard great promises of radical improvements in learning from vendors of everything from ditto machines, to TV's, to the present focus on computer-centric education. Into this mix is added all the hype around the XO laptop and its Constructionist pedagogy.
But could the XO really be different? A whole other shift in teacher-lead learning that empowers students and excites educators? Sometimes, I am in deep doubt, but other times I am in awe of the XO's power. In reading Water Bender's ETD post, I was amazed yet again.
Walter cites Stephanie Selvick's OLPCorps experience in training teachers on XO laptop usage, and her experience should be a guide to everyone trying to implement XO's in the classroom.
First, they started off by not introducing XO's into the classroom. The introduced them to the teachers 6 months in advance. And they gave the teacher's training on the XO beforehand as well. As Stephanie explains,
This trajectory may seem slow or counter-productive, but it is crucial for teachers to be comfortable with the XO's before the students receive theirs. The students will zoom off much faster than the teachers, which can, again, be overwhelming.
What really struck me was the unconventional and unexpected result of letting the teachers themselves learn and explore with the XO. Stephanie describes a male teacher who was nervous about communication in a language foreign to him (English, to speak with Stephanie), yet who found an activity that they could both get excited about: Acoustic Tap Measure:
Distance was his gem! The distance activity measures the distance between two XO computers. It sends sound waves between them and a measurement in meters pops onto the screen. He loved it. He began brainstorming assignments for his kids to measure the distance around their homes or rooms and said they could also figure out area from those numbers.
Although it took us the full 90 minutes for him to be comfortable with opening the program and inviting another XO to share the program, his enthusiasm was quite the relief. When each person shared what they learned from the first session, it was great to see his enthusiasm about distance in other teams about other activities. The goal of making teachers the experts for each other felt underway.
For those with pilots underway, this lesson should not be lost. Teachers need a head start in learning with the XO themselves. They should be allowed to experiment and even fail at new ideas and uses of the XO. Teachers want to learn as much as the students, if not more. They are supposed to be the smartest person in the classroom after all.
And if those at home want to get the Distance Activity underway, be sure to check out the OLPC News tutorial on Acoustic Tape Measure.