We are not afraid to take risks on new ideas or projects and we are not afraid to tell the world when they have gone wrong and failed. The Kusasa project has failed. Essentially we could not reconcile the original vision of the project with the practical realities we faced in South Africa.
We started the project, back in April 2006 with an incredible meeting (and sometimes clashing) of minds in London, we had Alan Kay of the Squeak project and Squeakland educational software platform, Guido van Rossum of Python fame, and James Dalziel of the LAMS project, to name but a few. We essentially decided that we wanted to produce children from the education system that could, as Mark Shuttleworth’s blog states:
- Learn a set of tools quickly and efficiently. In life, the set of tools we apply to the problems we face changes every few years. So it’s not the specific SET of tools you learn, its the ability to grok a new toolset, figure out when to use, and do so efficiently that counts.
- Break problems into simpler pieces, solve them using familiar tools. The whole process of analysis is about taking a big hairy problem that is new and unfamiliar, and teasing it into pieces that look solvable based on tools that you already know.
- Put those simpler answers back together to make an answer to the big problem. This is the synthesis part – taking the results of your analysis and making them meaningful in the real world.
We also wanted this to be a programme that would be very easy to replicate and use as they wished. To be simple and easy, peer-to-peer taught and evaluated. To enable the teacher, not to be the holder of the domain specific knowledge, but to be able to facilitate the learning.
It has become apparent that the project success depends on teachers developing skills we did not initially anticipate and due to learner abilities the project used illustrated stories to introduce and role model effective thinking, which whilst the right thing to do, strayed from the original vision.
It is important to shout about our successes, and to acknowledge our failings and whilst the project has failed, the materials produced are fabulous and pedagogically sound. I would encourage those using them to continue to do so and those in environments that do not have the same constraints as we have to take them and add to them. You can find them on the website and are all licensed openly.
Whilst there have been a lot of people who have been key to driving this project forward, Sam Christie and the Bright Sparks team have been fabulous.