Students Promote Discovery Through Play


May 27, 2009

Learning through play. Giving back to the community. Not things you would initially think of in conjunction with Ph.D. students. But students are doing just that.

Students taking the New Media Rhetoric class, a requirement for the online Doctor of Philosophy in Technical Communication and Rhetoric through the College of Arts and Sciences, are using XO Laptops to promote learning through discovery.

In order to do this, the class is exposing the children of Lubbock to the XO Laptops using an interactive display at the Science Spectrum. The XO Laptops are a part of an international effort to create educational opportunities for children around the world through technology.

While the program is geared towards learning, Anne Papworth, a student in the class, said the experience should also be fun.

“Our theme is iPLAY; the idea that play is discovery,” Papworth said. “So many people, when they talk about computers, see that kids are playing these video games and they’re ruining their brain. But really play is discovery and its creativity and the computer fosters that.”

Student Emily Loader agrees, but also says there are other uses for this technology that should be considered.

“We are looking at a couple different things,” Loader said. “We are looking at tools designed for kids, and we are looking at this international perspective in that these are much cheaper to make and send.”

In choosing their two-week seminar project, the class had several requirements to consider. They needed to use new media and give back to the community, student Craig McKenney said.

“Dr. Rich Rice had a list of projects and he was open to suggestions from us and we were all excited about the Science Spectrum installation,” McKenney said.

In the past, he said, there has been a community component in the seminar projects that enables the online students to give back to the community.
“That was something that resonated with all of us and we wanted to keep that trend going,” McKenney said.

Papworth agreed that working in Lubbock on this project made her feel more connected to the community.

“With the two week seminar and coming to Texas,” she said, “the service learning component has really made me feel like I am now a part of Texas Tech and becoming familiar with Lubbock as opposed to being isolated in my office looking at my computer.”

The XO Laptops have been used in countries such as Rwanda and Cambodia in order to create an educational experience for children, as well as their families and communities.

“The idea is that there are lots of places in the world that these kids can get exposure,” Loader said.

The XO Laptops are specifically designed with developing countries in mind. The laptops have built-in wireless, allowing access to other XO Laptops in the absence of wireless Internet. The laptops have also been designed with a screen that can be read in direct sunlight for students that are studying outdoors.

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