Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Seminar Day at Wellesley High School

Wednesday was Seminar Day at Wellesley High School. This was my first experience with this event and I had a great day. On seminar day (actually a half day) students, teachers and people from the community give presentations. Students and teachers choose (from a very long list) which presentations to attend. I think my choices represented the many sides of my personality. Here is what I did on Seminar Day:

1. One Laptop Per Child: In this session Walter Bender, a founding member and current president of the OLPC association spoke about the program. Some of the highlights from his talk include a definition of technology (attributed to Alan Kay) "technology is anything invented after you were born," everything else is just "stuff." He spoke about the OLPC program as an agent of change that must be implemented broadly and to scale in order to be productive. He talked about the relationship between OLPC and Intel as being inherently at odds. According to Bender, Intel's goals are to create machines that are bigger and faster - and convince us that we need them, while the goals of OLPC are to make machines that are smaller and more efficient. He described the software on the XO laptop as having a low floor and no ceiling - accessible to beginners, while providing many more sophisticated possibilities for exploration. Finally one of my favorite quotes from the session was the philosophy of the designers "you can't fix it until you can break it."

2. Favorite Poem Project: In this session, based on a project started by former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, two English teachers invited students, colleagues and members of the community to share a favorite poem and explain why it is meaningful to them. It was wonderful to hear teachers and students share and talk about poetry.

3. The WHS Varsity Dance Team: In this session the 8 members of the varsity dance team performed a few of their routines and taught a portion of the routine to the audience. Unfortunately, most members of the audience were unwilling to participate in the lesson. There were a few brave souls - all male - who stood up and learned how to do a kick line. They did amazingly well. Here is a video of the team performing at a basketball game.

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