Welcome to Orcmid's Lair, the playground for family connections, pastimes, and scholarly vocation -- the collected professional and recreational work of Dennis E. Hamilton
OLPC: Bring on the How-Tos
Expanding Video Capability for How-Tos
I also want to expand the variety of techniques used to support the learning of those who are inquisitive about the computers they are using, whenever and wherever they have the need and the desire to explore and master more of the technology they find at their fingertips.
Here is the variety that I am exploring:
Beside authoring tools and software-development utilities, my attention is on ways of capturing and demonstrating computer technology:
Targets of Opportunity
I have a number of projects that provide opportunities for how-tos and mastery of various kinds.
Everyone Into the Pool!
The initial work will not look like much and it certainly won't address everyone's questions. Over time useful materials will accumulate, there will be course corrections along the way, and there will be consolidation in accessible forms. Blogging and subscribing to each others blogs is a valuable approach. A large part of my compilations are based on researching blog feeds and discussion forums.
For the OLPC program, the initial resource for Give 1 Get 1 recipients (the Get side) is the OLPC Wiki. There's a certain anarchy around the wiki process and it takes some useful gardening to provide organization for seekers of information and also for those who want to contribute. This is the primary resource at this time and you can find me there.
It's all learning and development, all the way down.
When is How-To Too-Much-To?
In my superficial understanding of the constructionist approach to learning embodied in the OLPC program, the idea is to actively acquire experience and develop comprehension through activity and exploration. A key aspect is to learn to be fearless about learning.
I want to cultivate the same spirit in supporting of learning and mastery of software-development technology based on Microsoft Windows. How-tos should provide a platform for exploration and for confidence without somehow short-circuiting the pleasure of discovery by over-scripting an activity.
For me, I want to provide resources that support initial confidence through confirmation. These are tiny steps intended to avoid start-up difficulties and support the idea of confirmable experiences. So initial how-tos are very specific and detailed. Later ones might be also, so they can be accurately reproduced/confirmed and provide a comparative example that can help in understanding a difficulty that comes up in original, derivative activity. What I don't want is to provide scripted, monkey-see-monkey-do activities that do not allow room for understanding through modification, experimentation, and innovation.
I'm not sure where to draw the line. I am fairly certain that the beginner activities and those around toolcraft acquisition do need to be finely-detailed, perhaps through progressive disclosure and availability of easy ways to locate details from higher-level descriptions. I am doing everything I can to forestall is the situation where a beginner ends up out on a limb, experiences an inscrutable failure, without resources for isolating, identifying, and resolving the difficulty. I believe this is a defect in many beginner materials, especially for software developers, and I want to see what can be done to overcome that by equipping the novice to recognize and deal with the inevitable breakdowns.
The OLPC is an interesting test case, because it is meant to be usable without being a computer expert, yet there needs to be computer expertise for advanced projects and for learning how to trouble-shoot and resolve difficulties that will come up. The operating system is exposed to the users and there will be many tips that involve working directly with it. Navigation among the clashing abstractions on the OLPC computer is a great opportunity for some useful and powerful support for the learner.
Refining this approach and finding the appropriate balance is all by experimentation. Let's see how it goes.
[update 2007-12-28-19:08Z: I added photography, drawing, and graphics to the list of ways to capture information for how-tos. Looking over that list, I am amazed at the variety of ways we have for communicating via computers and networks now.
Thanks for this post. I have one OLPC tech question already. I installed Flash, in order to use the flash & browser-based instant video conversation site Seesmic. It works, but the video image from the camera appears to be incompatible with Flash for the moment. I can't get the settings to register a picture from the cafe_ccic camera. Any thoughts? Thanks, Laura Fitton
Hey pistachio, I saw your Seesmic video taken of you making a video on your XO, and I wondered if you had been able to post it anywhere.
My first thought was to find out the format of the file used to record on the XO, but then I realized that the workflow from camera to on-line video site was much more involved than that.
Also, since Seesmic is in alpha right now, I think it might be better to start with something simpler, like uploading the completed video to kyte.tv or somewhere else like that (YouTube, whatever).
My best concrete suggestion: let's meet up on the discussion page of the OLPC Wiki Support FAQ and see what we can come up with as a brief step-by-step, along with finding answers to questions needed each step of the way?
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