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Zittrain’s Procrastination principle & the conclusion

After some mental wrestling I think I’m coming to understand the procrastination principle as the middle ground of agile development and — especially as it applies to the XO computer project described in the conclusion of the text — as a form of pedagogy that reminds me of Ranciere’s description of the “Ignorant Schoolmaster.”

It’s using this theoretical framework developed by Joseph Jacotot in the 19th C. that’s helping me see this project as visionary and not lacking in content forethought by tech-focused producers. Using this pedagogical framework, the students don’t need a Master computer trainer, they need computers to learn computing & creative tasks on, and as tools to stretch out with — the generative system as Zittrain describes it will encourage the scholarly [or content] growth.

I do wonder if the OLPC system [not the XO ststem] is generative enough to grow the kind of response that Zittrain is hoping for. The program is still going. 1 in 20 schoolchildren in Latin America are using a computer as part of it, as reported last month.

Did other folks find it hard, uncomfortable, or challenging to read the conclusion’s description because of the lack of planning around content?

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5 Responses

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  1. Janice says

    Naomi- Well put: I, too would love to see more about the actual outcomes. Some seeming reasonable questions were raised at the launch, so what actually has happened? Were the skeptics right/off-mark? Were there unanticipated success/failures?

    Joining Hadassah in the hopes that you do a show and tell.

  2. Eduardo Silva says

    If you know German or spanish, you might want to see this documentary on the Uruguayan experience with the XO laptops :

  3. Hadassah Damien says

    Thanks Naomi, the westerners-deciding-what-the-rest-of -the-world-should-learn issue occurred to me too but I couldn’t figure out how to put it as eloquently as you did. I hope you bring in the XO if you can.

  4. Naomi Barrettara says

    Here are some Links I forgot to include in my comment, from the OLPC wiki:
    (and I cant seem to figure out how to make them hot links – sorry everyone!)

    “Deployment Success Stories” –

    “Deployment Guide” –

    “OLPC Research” –

    “OLPC Research/Evaluation for 2009-2010” –

  5. Naomi Barrettara says

    I understand that it is difficult for people in the western world to see past the lack of planning and structured content that occurred when the project was first launched…But when I started thinking about the OLPC again this week, I began to see the more generative approach of the OLPC project as the best practical solution to many problems, and not some kind of educational failing or hap-hazard attempt to push the project out the door, as critics of the project may have framed it.

    I think it is unrealistic to think that a team of two US based non-profits could successfully pre-plan and design every package of educational content being deployed, making sure everything was specifically designed for the cultural, geographical, and demographic area that the project was being launched. And why should it be the sole responsibility of OLPC to plan every single part of the education content? Perhaps OLPC is trying to fail-forward from lessons learned in the past when western civilization has tried to present “solutions” for third world problems, without spending any time in the third world. To me, the OLPC models makes it possible for local governments, teachers, and volunteers to shape the content and the project to the specific needs of their community – and nobody knows a community better than the people directly involved with it. Now, that does mean that the success of the project in a given area is very dependent on how invested local stake holders (teachers, governments, etc) become in tailoring the project to their needs. But a large part of the OLPC project is empowering individuals to become involved in their own learning – and in the education of their community, and that makes a big difference in the project’s success in specific areas. And building in that kind of independent content growth means that communities will not be forever dependent on OLPC to consistently “upgrade” their educational content.

    I also think that the OLPC organizations needs to be given some credit for being very intentional about assessing very individual successes and failures in their deployment sites. I was reading through some of the information on their wiki, specifically in the “deployment success stories” and “deployment guidlines” section, and it became clear to me that the people working on the deployments have really thought deeply about the specific challenges that needed to be addressed when deploying the project in their community, and the factors that led to success (and those factors differ in each deployment case).

    Now, I can only say this because I have played with an XO – but I think that the software that initially shipped on the OLPC (at least the one I played with) seemed to be designed as a set of flexible tools that can be adapted to applied to variety of situations – it is a very exploratory machine, and not really an encyclopedic machine, if that makes sense. It really is a totally different computing experience, one that VERY much coincides with the philosophy of Joseph Jacotot, as Hadassah pointed out. I will try to bring one into class on Thursday – might be interesting for people to play with it a little bit, to see if that influences their opinions about it.

    As my last two cents – I think was really lacks in the OLPC project as a whole right now is some more substantial research of the effects of the project. There is a fair amount of data available on their website tracing statistic and and quantative data for certain projects, but in general, interest in the effects of the project from academics wanting to study it seems almost non-existant. The project seemed to cause a big stir when it was launched, and there was a lot of theoretical debate about whether it would – or would not – succeed (both in terms of education and in terms of technolgoy)…but very little has been said about it since then. So it would be interesting to find some papers or research or documentaries or something where people outside the organziation study OLPC statistic, do some primary research, and really tease out what the state of certain OLPC deployments are NOW, since the project has existed for over 5 years, and some deployment sites are several years old by now.

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