Miguel Nussbaum has been working to transform the classroom experience with the support of technology since 1995. Early on, he saw the potential for interactive gaming in the classroom, using a Nintendo Game Boy to introduce 1:1 and games in the classroom. He was also an early innovator (in 2001) of face to face collaboration, using wirelessly interconnected Pocket PCs to perform small group collaborative learning. And in 2007, he introduced One Mouse per Child, a program allowing up to 50 kids to share one screen using an Interpersonal Computer. Nussbaum presented his ideas at a Microsoft Research conference a few days ago, and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
One Mouse per Child implies a focus on the mouse as an enabling device, but you’re actually focused on much more.
That’s right. The aim is to transform the classroom experience where the student is the main actor and the teacher is the facilitator and orchestrator of resources. Today, teachers teach without feedback from within the classroom, so our kids are not progressing. If kids can work at their own pace, all of them can learn.
We can achieve this with the simplest possible technological frame, where cost is not an
impediment to learning. One PC in the classroom saves costs on maintenance and support, too, so total cost of ownership is much lower. Why the mouse? What’s important is the idea of the Interpersonal Computer, which is one screen, shared by different users, each with their own input. It’s not about the mouse; it’s about personal input and a shared screen so each kid can learn individually.
Many times, schools (and politicians) focus on buying devices first, so they never prioritize learning. It strikes me that this is something different.
Yes. The question is not what device to buy; it’s a pedagogical problem. The question should be: what learning problems do we want to solve? How do we create personalized learning to address these issues?
You’re approaching the problem in the right way, by focusing on the outcome. What are some best practices?
The key issue is how do we approach the teacher, and how do we assure that the teacher
continues to use the technology once initial support has ended. The answer is in orchestration. Teachers must have a guide or script to help them work through the whole curriculum and to use the available technological resources adequatly. We must bridge the teachers’ needs with the students’ needs, and those needs are very different. Technology can do that.
This approach is particularly important in underserved areas, but it seems more sophisticated than approaches taken in some wealthier parts of the world.
Although the multi-mouse idea came as a solution for limited resources, I see it being used more widely as a tool to teach collaboration. It’s a very effective way for students to learn how to work together.
What’s the next step?
We need to show that technology can make a big difference. There are no independent assessments of big projects that show technology effectiveness. We need to show that for 100 schools in a country, or a state, technology works. We can do this with the multi-mouse approach because of the low cost. If we don’t do this, politicians will stop buying technology. We must show that technology can support pedagogy.
If you could change one thing about today’s “system” of education, what would it be?
The opportunity is to transform the classroom to a place where children are the main actors and the teacher is a mediator in the learning process. The technology is here; we need the adequate pedagogical methods and their integration with conventional resources.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
To transform the classroom into a space where children are active learners and the teachers mediators that support and help them.
What is your greatest hope for the future of education?
A classroom where the kids are active participants; a teacher that knows how to bridge the
children needs and the systems ones (what is being taught); and a curriculum that follows the 21st century principles and is relevant for the kids of any given classroom.
Daily Edventures readers: using Interpersonal Computers with mice is one way to overcome resource challenges and teach collaboration. What other approaches might address those needs? Dont hesitate to share your thoughts on the Reply part of this page!
About Miguel Nussbaum
Professor for Computer Science, School of Engineering of the Universidad Católica de
Chile, Santiago, Chile
Miguel Nussbaum has worked with the support of Microsoft, HP, INTEL, Plan Ceibal
(Uruguay), Fundação Bradesco (Brazil), UNESCO and the IADB, among others, in schools in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Brazil, Guatemala, India, England, USA and Uruguay. In 2011 he won the prize for Innovation in Education in Chile.
Birthplace: Santiago, Chile
Current residence: Santiago, Chile
Education: Electrical Engineer (Catholic University of Chile, 1980), M.Sc. in Information and Computer Science (Georgia Institute of Technology, 1984), Doktor der Technischen Wissenschaften, (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH), Zürich, Switzerland, 1988)
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Paris