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Re: education, technology & chat

Seems like a rich situation you are in and that you are a good noter!
What is the mathematics learning goal for the kids?
Peg G.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bill Barowy" <xmcageek@comcast.net>
To: <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2004 2:10 PM
Subject: education, technology & chat

> I seem to recall some inquiry about education and technology a while back
> using a chat theoretical framework, so i'll use this as an excuse to post
> some cooking field notes from last week.  Offhand however, i'd just like
> add that if wartofsky's categories are included in the element of
> in engestroms formulation as mike has suggested, then technology is pretty
> broad category (as i think anthropologists think also)  and digital
> technology is just one subset of that category, although a pretty
> subset.
> -----------
> We're in the computer lab and Jane has just finished showing her first
> how to run the software they'll be using for today's math activity.  It's
> called "making shapes and building blocks" which many of the children have
> used before in kindergarten.  The software addresses the same topics as
> Jane's children are learning in their math curriculum, "investigations" by
> TERC.  Her school is field testing TERC's new revisions, so there is ample
> interest in how things are going.
> The children log in to their computers, using their full names and also a
> password.  What i find surprising, given what i've observed of their
> levels, is that no one needs help from me or Jane while doing this task.
> It's a different story when they're trying to run the math software
> 4 of the children near me cannot run it.  they get an error message.  I
> one child to repeat her attempt and it fails.  I abandon the principle of
> keeping my hands off in order to troubleshoot quickly and with the child's
> mouse I verify that it's a computer problem.  The software is not there.
> inform Jane of the problem with the computers.
> She says "yeah, its the old computers".  I'm surprised because I'm looking
> mac G3s, which, while they are about 6 years old, run quite well.  Jane
> the children to raise hands if they are having trouble.  She has the
> ones buddy up with others who are being successfull, and according to what
> she has told me in prior conversations, she does this according to how
> she knows the partners will work together. She then comes over to me and,
> closely, with a quiet voice, mentions her frustration with the computer
> The programs on the older computers have been removed to make room for
> software for the older grades.  Focus is being placed on 3rd and 4th
> to make sure those kids will pass the state standardized tests.
> I think this could be a great example of how large scale (state) mandates
> (fits in the "rules" element of chat) can cause schools to eat their
> Efforts to meet mandated standards in the near term affect outcomes in the
> long term, i.e. these first graders will be fourth graders in a few years
> they too will have to pass the state tests.  Yet it is arguable whether
> Jane's kids have been adversely affected today.  As I watch the buddied-up
> children, I see them taking turns often and the one not at the keyboard is
> often keenly observing the one who is.  The buddies are talking math
> to each other more often than the ones who are working individually,
> when one child noisily discovers something new, he draws the attention of
> many others in his vicinity.   If indeed there are zopeds to be found
> they seem more likely to be found where there are buddies, in part because
> buddy can offer assistance when needed and this math software is highly
> limited in offering assistance.
> But if this activity is still successful for the 4 displaced  children,
> in large part due to Jane's savvy with picking partners who can work
> together.  One might think that Jane is a good teacher because she knows
> to pick partners, but it goes even deeper than that.  What Jane knows is
> she has to figure out who will be good partners at the beginning of the
> and she spends a good part of the year working at this task, noting the
> results each time she or her children choose partners.  And here is the
> insight that focussing on Jane's learning offers.  When she picks partners
> she is thinking in an integrated way of the children's social and
> development and what sort of mutual zoped will emerge between the two
> partners.  The zoped is highly multidimensional as well as bidrectional.
> Given that first graders are making a big ecological transition when
> first grade, they are also making rapid developments in memory and
> (refs) as well as in reading and writing abilities (refs), but some much
> rapidly and more coherently than others.  Cole and Cole (refs) term this
> general pattern in youngs childrens development as "Islands of
> Jane wants there to be optimal learning with both partners, so sometimes
> finding a matching partner for one childs reading level must be traded off
> for who can stay stay focussed with that child .  At least one partner has
> remember what the steps of the task are, or where to look up what the
> are, and at least one child has to maintain attention to the task at hand.