Archives for posts with tag: learning

 

I’m a rollerball pen and I’m rude and so bored.

You must play with me. I will not be ignored.

You will draw me a circle inside a huge square

Or I’ll draw in your nose a long curly hair.


Time’s up!


What is this that you drew? Do you think I’m a fool?

Oh! You used a big Square and you drew a big pool

And you painted a Circle as a shiny red ball.

Not that bad. It’s because of my skill after all.

 

—-

 

I am a rollerball pen and I’m rude and need food.

I must eat something yummy or I’m up to no good.

You must feed me a Circle from out of a Square

Otherwise I will smudge lots of ink on your chair.

 

Time’s up!


Let me see what you drew now, you wily old fox.

Ha! You used a fat Square and you drew a fat box

And out of a Circle you made a sweet pie

It is mine! It’s all mine! There’s no need to ask why.

 

—-

 

I am a rollerball pen and I love to be rude.

So be nicer to me or I’ll paint in the nude.

You will cut me a Circle from the edge of a Square

Or I’ll pee on your clothes. You’ll have nothing to wear.

 

Time’s up!


Let me see! Let me see. Do we have matching styles?

So you used some flat Squares and you drew some flat tiles…

And then out of a Circle you made a deep sink?

That’s so rude! I am leaking! I ran out… of… ink…


Last week I finished an online digital painting class at schoolism.com taught by the legendary Bobby Chiu. To show you how effective the class was, I learned how to turn this:

Into this:

And then into this!


All from the comfort of my home and time schedule using only Photoshop and a digital tablet.

I’m not a professional illustrator (yet), but I feel like I learned some amazing skills from a world expert on the subject and I felt like a kid having fun. So, I wondered “Could kids benefit from online schooling?”

So I thought of some benefits and drawbacks of online schooling compared to traditional schools:

Benefits:

(The online schools I include above do not target children per se, but I don’t see why their models couldn’t be adapted for children.)

Drawbacks:

  • Schools are not just about knowledge transfer, they ‘re also about making friends and getting exposed to the real world away from home.
  • It’s hard to enforce the “rules” when the teacher is not physically around.

As far as “enforcing rules”, a “virtual teacher” technology can easily be applied to record scores and progress as if the teacher was around (with deadlines, online testing etc.). So the most serious drawback of online schooling is the lack of the ability to socialize. Even though there are options that mimic social interaction online a la Facebook (schoology.com), unless kids leave home and meet other kids in person, they will miss out on a big part of life lessons if we replace schools with online learning.

So how about turning schools into “social activity centers” to get kids to play and interact together while they get schooled online? For the first time in history, we could give kids the opportunity (especially in developing countries) to get quality education from anywhere anytime at the fraction of the cost of traditional schools.

What do you think?

The Letter R and the Number 4 bumped into each other in front of the same box in a crossword puzzle.

The Letter R wanted to get into the box.

But the Number 4 would only let the correct letter into the box.

“Arr! I’m the letter R and I’m the rowdiest letter of all. This box is super-duper perfect for me. I’m jumping right in!”

But the Number 4 was not willing to let things get out of order.

“I’m the Number 4 and I’m guarding this box, because this box is the fourth box. Only if you are the fourth letter in the word I will let you in.”

“Well… the word is ‘FOUR’ and I’m the Letter R, so spell ‘FOUR’ and see if I’m at the right box.”

“I’m… I’m… I’m… a Number. I can’t spell.”

“How sad… Now, can you move aside so I can get into the box?”

But the Number 4 did not move.

The Number 4 did not let things get out of order.

“If you spell ‘FOUR’ then you ‘ll see if you are the fourth letter.”

“Only then I will let you in.”

“I’m a Letter. I don’t do counting.”

“And I’m a Number. I can count but I can’t spell.”

“Arrr! If you knew how to spell ‘FOUR’, then we wouldn’t be sitting here forever!”
“FOUR”
“F…”
“O…”
“U…”
“Arr!”


“Well, I like sitting here. I like counting over and over. It’s quite soothing…”
“1”
“2”
“3”
“4”


“Arr! Arr! Arr!” yelled the Letter R in frustration.
“F..”
“O…”
“U…”
“Arrr!”

“1”
“2”
“3”
“4”
And suddenly…


The Number 4 had an idea.

“How about you spell ‘FOUR’ and I count at the same time?”

“I ‘ll stop counting when you say ‘R’.”

So the Letter R said, “OK. Let’s start.”

“F…”

              “…1”

“O…”

             “…2”

“U…”

             “…3”

“R…”

             “…4”


“Arrr! So I am the fourth letter in the word ‘FOUR’ after all!”

“I believe this is correct,” said the Number 4.

“Arrr! Arrr! The box is mine!” said the Letter R and jumped inside the box.

“This is the greatest box ever.”
“Too bad you’ll never have a box of your own, Number 4.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“How about you look OUTSIDE the box?”


“That’s good.”

“A bit more…”

“Very good”
“Just a tiny bit more…”

THE END

I’ve been reading lately about new approaches to teach children science and technology through storytelling via the use of specialized software and portable devices. The most notable effort I’ve come across is Alan Kay’s Viewpoints Research Institute which is integrated with the One Laptop Per Child project. The idea is that through the use of media and the integration of activities in one interface, children can understand complex concepts in science.

Another tool I came across is called Processing. Even though this software is not really targeted for children, it serves the same purpose: teach complex concepts through an intuitive user interface. Maybe in the future it could be tweaked for teaching kids how to write software.

Given the highly sophisticated educational software out there and the web’s ability to find knowledge fast, it’s fair to ask why would a teacher-in-school setting be necessary in educating our children in the future? In fact there are examples, where teachers start being replaced by devices running educational software.

An approach by Microsoft research relies on a multi-point mouse interface and off-the-shelf PC equipment to allow children in developing countries to teach themselves without the need for a teacher.

A start-up company called Knewton uses adaptive algorithms to coach students on standardized tests (e.g., SAT) in a personalized fashion by “understanding” their skill level. In addition, online services like MIT’s OpenCourseWare, teach university-level classes through rich-media content from the comfort of one’s home.

At the same time, the current generation of portable devices (iPad, iPhone, Android tablets) expose simple to use interfaces. Simple enough for children to use on a daily basis. So children could carry them around, meet with their friends and play and learn together. Not only that, but there are already games available that provide alternatives to learning how to read or count.

So, it won’t be long before schools have children carry around portable devices through which they enhance their learning. In fact, some schools have already started doing this.

So the obvious question is: will school teachers be entirely replaced? After all, intelligent portable software and a great user interface provide a powerful interactive storytelling medium that can not only capture the attention of a child, but also convey very sophisticated concepts that a teacher and a blackboard cannot.

On the other hand, after reading “Work Hard, Be Nice”, I see how much power an effective teacher can have in a child’s life. The passion and persistence of the founders of the KIPP schools is hard to replicate using software running on a personal portable device. The teachers made each class a ritual and enforced a “no shortcuts” culture in their schools by confronting students in person. Even unmotivated students responded positively. An iPad can’t do that.

What do you as current or future parents, teachers and educators think on this matter? I’ve created the following poll to pick your brains.

I hope we learned something useful today,

Dr. Techniko

The story of the Dragon’s Treasure Makeover aims to teach both a problem-solving skill and a technical skill.

First, the problem-solving skill is “try to understand the nature of a problem before you attempt a solution”. Imagine your printer is not working and you say “It worked fine yesterday. What happened? It broke. I’ll call support,” when in reality someone by mistake pulled the printer’s plug.   In the story, all three wizards use the Spellopedia Magica, but only Thinkalot picks a useful spell out of the book. That’s because he asked questions in order to understand the true nature of the Dragon’s problem. Understanding the nature of a problem is most of the time harder than coming up with a solution. It’s a skill that takes time to acquire, but it’s invaluable. If your children are stuck on a problem you can teach them by saying:

“Understand the problem and you ‘re more than half way towards the solution.”

Second, the technical skill is “if you organize things based on an identifier then it’s faster to search through them”. In this information-loaded age, information management is a great skill to acquire, so this story will provide a good discussion framework for you and your children on this topic.

I’d be interested to hear your opinion or reactions of your children on these topics.

Here are some comprehension questions you might want to ask:

1. If you were a Dragon which wizard would you hire and why?
(Thinkalot because he would try to understand my problem before he cast a spell.)

2. If you were the Dragon how would you change your ad in the Magic Network to make more clear what your problem was?
(“looking for wizard to help with search of treasure. I would like to be able to find any item in my treasure in about one day. I don’t want to lose any of my treasure” etc. The goal is to write a more specific ad.)

3. Thinkalot’s solution splits the treasure based on the first letter of each item. That splits the treasure in 26 piles. What if half of the treasure items started with “A”? It would take the Dragon half a month instead of a day to search for an item starting with “A”. So Thinkalot would be in trouble! Can you help Thinkalot find a better solution before the Dragon finds out?
(One way to solve this is to split the “A” pile into 26 piles using the second letter and so on. There are even better solutions if you are creative with your sorting criteria. I’d be interested to hear what your children can think of!)

I hope we learned something useful today,
Dr. Techniko

There was a Dragon in a place far far away and over the thousands of years she had lived, she had gathered almost every known treasure. From gold coins to enchanted weapons, to magical stones and scrolls. The Dragon had it all.

Since she was such a big collector, other dragons often asked her to show them one-of-a-kind artifacts during dinner parties like the Diamond of the Druids or the Sword of the Seven Kings. The Dragon wanted to impress her friends, but her treasure was so vast that she had to search for months and months to find anything. Dragon dinner parties are known to last many days, but even the most patient dragon guests could not wait for a month.

The Dragon  tried to remember spells to help search her treasure faster, but all she knew were dangerous spells used in combat, not in someone’s own dragon lair.

At some point she had hired one thousand and twenty four goblins to do the searching for her. But they turned out to be very unreliable workers (plus they stole treasure). So she breathed fire on them and they ran away (they were not tasty enough to eat).

 

But the Dragon didn’t give up. She decided to post an advertisement on the Magic Network for a wizard. She wanted a wizard smart enough to figure out a way for her to search through her treasure faster.

The next day, a wizard walked into the Dragon’s lair.

“Mighty Dragon, I’m the Great Don Havakloo. I read your ad and I have a very simple solution to your problem. I will perform a My-Treasure-Where-I-Can-See-It Spell.”

“Spellbinding,” said the Dragon. “I’m curious to experience your spell, Don Havakloo.”

And so the Great Don Havakloo opened his copy of Spellopedia Magica, whirled his hands in the air and shouted:

“Treasure oh Treasure piled in far away piles
Move in front of the Great Dragon’s eyes!”

And all the treasure piled up next to the Dragon.

“Now your treasure is closer and you can save time searching for things,” said Don Havakloo.

“Don Havakloo, you really don’t have a clue. It takes me only thirty two steps to get to the treasure but a whole month to search through it. Do you think your spell deserves a reward?”

“Only a hundred gold coins, oh Mighty Dragon. I’m giving discounts today,” said Don Havakloo.

“I’ll give you a hotter reward,” said the Dragon and she blew a red hot flame and burned the wizard to a crisp.
The next day, another wizard walked into the Dragon’s lair.

“Mighty Dragon, I’m the Grand Gobblehalf. I read your ad and I have a very simple solution to your problem. I will perform a Split-My-Treasure-Like-Butter-And-Eat-It Spell.”

“It spells T-a-s-t-y,” said the Dragon. “I’m curious to experience your spell, Gobblehalf.”

And the Grand Gobblehalf opened his copy of Spellopedia Magica, struck his magic staff on the ground and shouted:

“Treasure Pile split in two. One half left and one half right.
And as for my share, I will only take the right.”

The treasure split in two mountains, one stayed near the Dragon, the other next to Gobblehalf.

“Mighty Dragon, now your treasure is half as it used to be, so it will take you half the time to look for things,” said Gobblehalf. “I will take your other half as payment, so no worries.”

“My dear Gobblehalf, since you want to gobble up half my treasure allow me to give you an extra reward,” said the Dragon and blew a red hot flame and burned the wizard to a crisp.
The Dragon was about to give up looking for a fix to her problem, when a young wizard walked into the Dragon’s lair.

The Dragon thought that wizard would be amusing to watch, but she was surprised when the young wizard said “Hi, my name is Thinkalot, what exactly is your problem Mighty Dragon?”

“It’s taking me a long time to find an item in my treasure.”

“Is it because your treasure is too far away?”

“No” said the Dragon. “I burned the last wizard who assumed that was my problem two days ago. It’s because I have too much of it.”

“And what if you gave up some of your treasure to make it smaller? Would that bother you?”

“Yes. I burned the last wizard who tried to take half of my treasure yesterday in fact.”

“And is your treasure organized, Mighty Dragon?”

“No, it’s all randomly piled up.”

The young wizard opened his copy of Spellopedia Magica and searched for the right spell. After a few minutes he said “I think what would help is to use a Sort-My-Treasure-By-Name spell.”


“Sounds like a spelling,” said the Dragon. “I’m curious to experience your spell, Thinkalot.”

So Thinkalot waived his wand and said:

“Amulets and Armors go to A
Bracelets and Broadswords go to B
Charms and Coins go to C”

…and so on and so forth and when he said…

“Zephyrs and Zircons go to Z”

then the treasure divided in 26 piles, one for each letter.

“Now, Mighty Dragon, when you look for the Sword of the Seven Kings all you need to do is look into the pile with the letter S. So, instead of one month, you can find any item in almost one day,” said the young wizard.

“Young Thinkalot, you clearly think a lot. You diagnosed my real problem,” said the Dragon. “You can take anything you like as payment.”

And the young wizard said, “I don’t need a payment, Mighty Dragon. Can I instead come and visit you every week?”

“Sure. Why, Young Thinkalot?” asked the Dragon.

And the yound wizard replied, “Because you have lived a thousand years and I want to learn from your wisdom. Gold is very valuable, but knowledge is invaluable.”

“What Happened Before The Story of the Three Little Pigs”
as told by the Third Little Pig

Everyone says that my two brothers lost to Alfonse “The Big Bad” Wolf, because they didn’t build their houses from bricks like I did. That is true. But, recent rumors on the Internet said that I was able to buy bricks because I had money on the side. That is a lie. These two dummies had money to spend too.

I, Johnny, the Third Little Pig, will now give you an exclusive insider scoop on what really happened before Al Wolf showed up.

It was a hot summer day when our mom told us, “Boys, enough is enough. You are turning my house into a pigsty. You are old enough to live on your own. Here ‘s a hundred coppers to each of you. Off you go!”

One hundred coppers is a lot of money by pig standards. We said our good byes and off we went to Farmer Frankie’s Market. The place has everything a pig needs to make a home (and drink, feed, dress and accessorize).

I was punching random numbers into a state of the art keypad door lock, when I see my brother Benny picking up a pile of straws.

“Hey, Benny. Are you thinking of making a straw mattress?” I asked him.

“No, I’m gonna build me a home with that,” he said. “But now that you mention it, I’ll get some more to make me a mattress, too. Great idea!”

“But, Benny, all this straws will cost you one copper. You should spend some more and get something better.”

“No, I don’t want to. I need to buy myself lots of organic fruits, worms and chow with the rest of the coppers. I don’t want to run out of food.”

“Benny, you don’t need food for a hundred years!” I said, but Benny was already at the check out. And – nobody knows this but – Benny doesn’t really eat organic…

I went back to the keypad lock and tried to remember the last number I entered, when I heard my other brother, Vinny, calling.

“Johnny, how do you like those shades on me, bro?”

I turn around and see Vinny packing a dozen Hawaiian shirts, a huge 5 inch high definition TV, a massage chair, a gold chain and of course the latest Piga Di Farma sunglasses!

“Wow! Vinny, the shades look … expensive. Do you have coppers left to build your house?”

“Sure. I have two coppers left, bro. That’s plenty of cash. Right now it’s important I look good.”

“Only two? Vinny, two coppers can only buy you sticks!”

“Sticks? That’s a great idea. I was gonna buy straws. Thanks, Johnny bro. You ‘re a genius.”

He turned around and strolled away, before I could say anything else. And – nobody knows this, but – Vinny’s sunglasses were not real Piga Di Farma.

I got tired of fiddling with the keypad lock and looked around. There were too many things to buy and I didn’t want to make a poor choice. So, I went to the Pig Public Library and did my research online.

And guess what! I read rumors that the greedy Ratelli Rats were knocking down houses to take over the land in our town.

So I decided to buy bricks for ten coppers and spend another twenty to buy reinforced steel beams and cement for my house frame.  And for ten extra coppers I bought a biometric fingerprint scanner security system for my door. Super advanced! It unlocked only when my little piggy finger touched the scanner, so no need for me to remember any numbers!

So all three of us lived next to each other, happy under the sunshine.

But as you know, Al Wolf, who – no one knows this by the way – worked for the Ratellis, showed up one day and asked my brothers to leave. When they refused, he huffed and puffed and blew their houses away. Lucky for them, “The Big Bad” Wolf likes junk food and TV so much that he ignored Benny and Vinny as they ran into my place.

 

When the wolf came outside my door and I ignored his scare tactics, he huffed and puffed and puffed and huffed so many times that he lost his teeth and his hair and he almost had a heart attack. And – no one knows this by the way, but – he didn’t get angry. All I heard him say was “Those stingy rats ain’t paying me enough for this demanding job. I quit.”

I’m lucky he hadn’t done his research. Because if he had, he would have known that huffing and puffing can’t bring down a brick house. You ‘d need a bulldozer.

Right?

But, you ‘re not gonna tell him that, are you?