There is fear that OLPC deploys the cart before testing the horse. There are questions about teachers and localized educational content. Critics say learning learning is untested theory.. this idea that curious, creative, communicative kids will somehow construct learning troubles doubters. These are reasonable concerns. So can we actually test "learning learning"? Even push toward the edge of teacherless kids constructing localized educational content? I, Duke Crawford, believe we can.
If we narrow focus to language learning, we can test the theory in practice. How? Millions of the laptops ship soon and in many languages: Arabic, Yoruba, Hausa, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, French, Portuguese, Spanish. Kids may use these machines to learn some English, too. So you may dare describe these laptops as a ''multilingual'' education project.
As these kids interact, some may want to grow bilingual, some even multilingual. How will the children learn language? Some may want instruction. Others may want construction. For these, let's provide a simple tool, maybe even with no explanation, then test the results..
Let the kids try learning language learning. Let them wixi.
Wixi? Wixi is simply a wiki for language learners. Wixi lets language learners try new things, as they emerge. Like, for starters, maybe getting text twext. Twext? Twin text formatted to give language learners more comprehensible input. The basic twext translation interface is so simple even a child can use it.
On a wiki platform, twext translation errors will tend to be corrected, you know, the wiki way. So using wixi and twext, kids who know more language might help teach kids who know less.
Kids choosing material that kids find interesting may cause content to be instructive. For example, even without teachers, kids know lots about popular music. Might popular melodies and lyrics teach language? Even without teachers, services combining popular music, images and lyric texts are today proving to boost literacy in India.
Children are, by nature, creative language learners. With simple free wixi software running on communicative machines, kids may find new ways to help even know-it-all-adults to learn more language. Not impossible? Worth a try?
Wixi software development ain't rocket science and there's plenty of room to grow. A demo is done and a multilingual version will be working within weeks. With minimal support from the OLPC team we can deliver an XO integrated wixi activity for children to try starting this summer. Your cost today? Two minutes.
If you want to test an actual case of "learning learning", why not take a little action? With very little risk now, we may soon learn a lot.