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Re: A new project and a general question

On Fri, May 04, 2001 at 03:51:24PM +0200, Dexter wrote:
> I think the best combination is 2 children/box : if they are not alone in 
> front of a problem, they can resolve it by communicating, analysing together, 
> speaking and negotiating about the use of the available tools, and so on : so 
> you meet a great amount of objectives you can find in the P.I. (programme 
> integre) - for mathematics (problem solving : what can i do with the tools i 
> have, what am i doing wrong, which is the simplest way to achieve my 
> objective, ...) and mother language (communication : explicit an idea clearly 
> and listen to the other - also if you let two children in front of a complex 
> formulation, they can work together at the understanding).

I know the context of this discussion is formal educative environments,
but since my whole impetus for starting Debian Jr. is using my Linux
systems at home with the kids (mostly unstructured playtime), I have a
different perspective on this.

Our household has way too many computers.  This is largely because I have
found old 486 components to be in plentiful supply, often for free, and
love to tinker and build systems from scratch.  Also, we have a pair of
more powerful boxes, one per parent, which the children have accounts on
as well.

Even though this means sometimes there is one child per box, when they all
get together to play on them, they do naturally move from one workstation
to another, comparing their work, showing each other new things,
"collaborating".  I make little or no attempt to direct their activities
(unless specifically asked for help).  It is almost all "discovery"

But I also have occasion to watch them when computers are limited.  Not
all my systems are suitable as desktop boxes, and sometimes both parents
would like to use their own systems while the children use theirs.  This
leaves just a pair of 486 workstations for four children to queue up for. 
When this happens, if the children waiting for their turn aren't occupied
elsewhere, they are often attracted by what their siblings are doing and
hang around to watch, talk, and again, share from their experiences.  The
only difference here, is that if they want to try something they have just
seen a sibling do, they have to wait their turn.  Or, sometimes one sib
will voluntarily give up their seat to have another show them something,
and then go back to their turn to try it out themselves afterwards.  The
thing is, again, they quite naturally interact, perhaps to the same degree
as they would have if they each had their own system.

Computers are not a novelty in the house, and computer time doled out
fairly liberally (no more than an hour a day is the rule, provided all
homework is taken care of first, with a bit the rule being bent a bit on
weekends, depending on what else we have on the go :) so I think the
children are more inclined to be generous with their time and give some of
it up to show each other new things, than if they had more constraints,
such as limited "computer lab" time.

I haven't given much thought to what other factors might affect my
children's tendency to interact with each other when they use the
computers, but I don't know if, in the end, the ratio of children to
computers has much of a bearing on it.  Far more important, I think, is
that I give them the lattitude to explore.  Being social creatures, they
naturally do this in a social fashion.

But then, if you are finding that two children per computer works best in
a more structured educative environment, with more clearly defined and
focused tasks on the computer, then, well, clearly you are going to give
your own experience as to what works best more weight.  As I said, I just
wanted to give a slightly different point of view from my own experiences,
even if it might be ever-so-slightly tangential to the discussion. :)

    nSLUG       http://www.nslug.ns.ca      synrg@sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
    Debian      http://www.debian.org       synrg@debian.org
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