Autodesk is a customer of the international One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. As such we have a few of these OLPC machines in our Autodesk Labs offices. Software Architect, Ben Cochran, filed a two-part report. For those who may have missed it, part one can be found on this blog.
I wanted to see how children experience the OLPC, so I took the OLPC home so that my 4 and 3 year old daughters could try it out. While my 3 year old still has a little trouble with the mouse, my 4 year old knew exactly what to do. She found applications I did not even know existed. Her two favorites are making short videos with the camera and using the word processing tool to pretend to work like daddy. Next, I wanted to see if I could use some of the visual programming tools to teach my 4 year old how to program. The OLPC comes with several programming tools and interpreters. One programming tool is an application called Turtle Art. This is a visual version of Logo; the MIT developed programming language used to teach fundamental program concepts. Instead of typing statements, the Turtle Art user drags and drops keywords, visual builds programming language constructs and accesses variables using the mouse. (Why can't creating Project Freewheel be this easy?) I started by showing my 4 year old daughter what can be done. In just a few minutes I wrote several recursive programs (a program or function that calls itself) to draw all kinds of pictures.
Next, I plan to work with her to see what she can do! I find this extremely exciting. I still remember when my elementary school teacher taught me about greater than and less than. She told us, “I am not sure why this is important, but you need to learn it”. That statement has stuck with me through school and on to today. It has always colored my view about the way we teach math. It is disappointing when our teachers don’t understand the value of a fundamental math concept like inequalities. So I was excited to see that a learning tool like the OLPC helps teach not only these fundamental concepts, but even more advanced mathematical concepts like geometry and programming. Unlike facts that are memorized, creative skills like writing, art, math, teach thinking and logic.
More links on OLPC:
Thanks Ben. Experiencing hardware and software in its simplest form is alive in the home.