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One laptop per child… and then what?

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Tue, Oct 11. 2011

Editor: So, now that your attention has been captured and you’re wondering whether or not this is another political article, hope you’ll read on to the end.

The recent initiative of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to furnish students country-wide with laptops on the ‘one-laptop-per-child’ project can be described as a mammoth, but commendable effort.{{more}} It makes me almost want to use one of my three wishes to be zapped back into the classroom as an eleven-year-old first form student, to compound the awe of being in big school with the phenomenon of being presented with ‘my very own’ neat and working (yes, they do work – for those who still doubt) notebook. Before a triple rub of the genie’s lamp however, I pause to ruminate – three weeks later, when the awe is worn, would I know what to do with my new laptop? I want to remain obedient to the rules and not get one of my friends to break the security so that I can access Facebook and other ‘off-limit’ sites…but…how do I maximise this tool? How are the teachers going to get me to use the device to enhance my learning experience?

True, this effort can indeed dynamically revolutionise learning in SVG. However, at this point, it remains a cool tool for gaming and online surfing, while the teacher still delivers her instruction to the class from her tattered notebook, filled with five years’ worth of lesson plans.

Well, I’d like to answer my own questions by asking another – is there any technology that exists that would put these laptops to good use? Enter Web 2.0 technologies (Reference sites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0#cite_ref-44 ; http://www.go2web20.net/). This term refers to “web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing … and collaboration on the World Wide Web” that “allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue …in a virtual community (Wikipedia 2011). T. Batson (http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2009/04/15/Why-Web-2.0-is-Important-to-Higher-Education.aspx), says about Web 2.0 technology that, with its advent, “the ‘traditional classroom’ with one speaker and many listeners is now an oddity, a throwback…” Examples of Web 2.0 technologies are Social Networking sites (like Facebook), Blogs and Wikis.

One specific Web 2.0 example that can greatly supplement the face-to-face environment is ‘Edmodo’ (Reference site – http://www.edmodo.com/), the Social Networking site that is built for interaction between teachers, students and parents. Wikipedia (favourite reference site of the 2000’s) provides a description on how the site works:

“Using Edmodo, teachers can post grades and assign homework to students. Students can then submit the homework and view their grade. The transmission is fast and paper-less. Teachers eliminate crossposting through the creation of sub-groups within a course. After each course period is completed, the teacher closes out the network and creates a new one for the next course” (Wikipedia, 2011).

One of the key advantages of this technology is that the benefit of discussion, collaboration and research that can take place outside of the classroom, with peers within the same class, or even world-wide, but with similar interests. Edmodo can be used for any subject area, for any type of learning, across all levels and age groups, and for any instructional activity. Edmodo allows discussion on classroom topics to continue outside of limited classroom time, with peers sharing ideas based on their understanding and personal research on topics. This way, the learners are actively involved in and actually play an important role in helping each other learn.

Of course, as with everything, there are pros and cons. Therefore, some considerations if considering a tool such as Edmodo as an instructional aid include:

  •  Whether or not all students have ready internet access if assignments and mandatory discussions are to take place on Edmodo;
  • If Edmodo is to be used inside the classroom, the teacher/facilitator must be able to monitor student’s attentiveness and participation to ensure that the ready distractions of the internet do not interfere with learning time;
  • Work done or discussions taking place on Edmodo should be monitored and guided to ensure they stay on track and that topics are directly and appropriately addressed

Of course there’d be more factors to bear in mind. However, Edmodo and other Web 2.0 technologies/sites hold significant benefit for both teacher/facilitator and learner and can be considered by the Ministry of Education/Government of SVG as part of the plan to revolutionise education in Hairouna. Hopefully, someone with relevant opportunity and zeal reads this article and gets an idea.

Educator and Student

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