Turtles, Technology and Service

Walter introducing Turtle ArtThere are many days, working at UWCSEA where I pinch myself and think, “Is this for real?” Friday was one such day for me, as I got to spend some time with the founder of Sugar Labs, and co-founder of the One Laptop Per Child organisation, Walter Bender.

Walter kindly agreed to spend some time with a Grade 5 class to introduce Turtle Art, a programme he designed, which runs on the Sugar operating system. What a great learning experience that was! Turtle Art is the perfect introduction to computer programming, however Walter introduced it as a tool to make art. I think that made it less threatening for the students. Only 1 student had tried programming before, but everyone had made art before.

SpiralI appreciated how Walter taught the students a little bit about how it worked, then let them explore, make mistakes, and play. He would occasionally nudge them forward by sharing some more tricks or ways to do something, before leaving them to their exploration.

Two hours went by for us in the blink of an eye, and the students complained loudly when it was time to finish. They were absolutely stoked when Walter gave them each “Sugar on a Stick” so they could play with it at home. Here are some thoughts from kids in the class:

CreationsSofia“I was and still am thrilled to be able to have worked with someone that had taught us a tonne of computer info that has helped us create incredible masterpieces!!”

Poppy “We learnt to make lots of different patterns by commanding the turtle to do things. E.g. Arc 90o and go forward. Using this we could create many different things including paint which you could control using your voice! I really enjoyed it because I never knew something so complicated could be really fun and quite simple as using a command! I never thought I could be quite capable of doing something like that.”

XO LaptopFollowing a day of teaching and meetings at UWCSEA, Walter joined colleagues Jeff Plaman, Dave CalebKatie Day and me, together with Danishka Navin to travel to Malacca for the OLPC Basecamp 2013. I enjoyed listening to Walter’s stories of historical happenings I had only read about. It was a very entertaining trip.

The conference proved to be very useful in connecting us with key people within OLPC, who will be invaluable in our work with UWCSEA’s Global Concerns. We are exploring ways of implementing and supporting the use of technology for learning in the many and varied organisations we work with.

XO Laptop close upA key theme to emerge from the conference was the importance of the role of the teacher and training to support both teacher pedagogy and technology use. I was pleased that our delegation from UWCSEA might be of use in helping other deployments develop a plan of action for working with teachers.

We set up a focus group for Learning and will hold meetings every month to move some of our ideas forward. I am eager to see where this all leads.

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