Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education

No-Tech Schools In Tech Land 538

Posted by timothy
from the OS-choice-is-an-argument-for-home-schooling dept.
manyoso writes: "This article in the Oregonian tells how some hi-tech parents at Intel are opting for a school without computers for their children. From the article: 'Conventional wisdom holds that children can only benefit from exposure to technology', but children, 'shouldn't spend first-grade skipping coloring and learning to keyboard... Emphasizing computers doesn't seem to enhance students' creativity and could even stifle it... We want them to eventually see what a computer can do for them, but only after they know what they can do for themselves.'" Clifford Stoll has argued and written along similar lines.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

No-Tech Schools In Tech Land

Comments Filter:
  • If anything, I think that computers encourage creativity. If you have a fast mind, the computer might be the only thing that can keep up with you, and think of all the possibilities on a computer! Coding lets you do nearly anything, and you could do graphic design or play imaginative games (I still remember playing Cosmic Osmo several years ago, a game by the creators of Myst that let you explore worlds)! I think it would be ok to do other things *in addition* to computers, but definitely not instead!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:48PM (#2997865)
      If anything, I think that computers encourage creativity. If you have a fast mind, the computer might be the only thing that can keep up with you, and think of all the possibilities on a computer!

      Take an example, such as powerpoint. Since powerpoint went mainstream, we have seen the same 50 clipart pics with the same 50 slide changes over and over again. I served as a student teacher (at an inner city Atlanta school) for about 3 months (in order to get a teaching minor), and the worst mistake I ever did was say that kids could use powerpoint for a science project (unofficial) i told them to do. The next day, 80% of my class brought something in on powerpoint. The worst part was they all expected a high grade because they used computers.

      The fact is, computers are good as a tool. However, they are not good when they actually start to become the only tool. Kids these days are now thinking within terms of Power Point... "Oh cool, i can use the sliding fade here into the next scene." They are no longer thinking outside of the box.
      • by FFFish (7567) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:06PM (#2997981) Homepage
        Kids these days are now thinking within terms of Power Point... "Oh cool, i can use the sliding fade here into the next scene." They are no longer thinking outside of the box.

        Worse, the time they spend thinking about sliding fades is time they do not spend thinking about the content of their work.

        The most useful application of the computer in a school setting is as a word processor, and only when the students are trained to type 40wpm or faster. Yes, that's right: the best use of the computer is as a glorified typewriter.

        Why? Because that properly relegates it to "tool" status, instead of "toy" status. Screwing around with PowerPoint does not add quality, detail, nor depth of thought to the content. Fast typing, however, gives the student more time for research and learning.

        I would dearly love to say that there are two superb uses for the computer in school, with the other use being as an encyclopedia (ie. Google). However, I don't think the quality of information that is generally available on the Internet is typically better than that of the school library... and much of the information on the Internet is either dead wrong, or carries an agenda that isn't discernable to your average student.

        (Wait, there is one other good use: computers make excellent flashcards. They can take rote learning and make it more interesting -- times tables, etcetera.)
        • by John Miles (108215) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:16PM (#2998035) Homepage Journal
          ...and much of the information on the Internet is either dead wrong, or carries an agenda that isn't discernable to your average student.

          Funny thing is, that's true of most books, too.

          Teaching kids that 90% of everything they see, hear, and read is at least subtly wrong seems like a good idea to me. If the Net can encourage critical thinking skills by driving that point home at an early age, so much the better.
          • by gblues (90260)
            Actually, young children are much more likely to take the Internet at face value. Critical thinking skills don't kick in until around 7th grade (e.g. puberty).

            Nathan
            • Actually, young children are much more likely to take the Internet at face value.

              Has anyone actually tried telling them not to?

              • Actually, young children are much more likely to take the Internet at face value.

                Has anyone actually tried telling them not to?


                You can teach a dog to sit and you can teach a dog to roll over, but you can't teach a dog to think critically.


                I mention this because folklore science tells us that a dog has about the IQ of a 4 year old. Kids aren't just minature adults with less knowledge; they also have different winring in their brains.
                By all means, you need to teach your kids how to think critically, but not until they are ready.


                On another note, there is also a difference between computers today and computers when you grew up. When I got my first computer at age 5, you had to type in the programs from a book. It was tedious (and ridiculous, in hindsight), but you did learn something.

                -a

              • Has anyone actually tried telling them not to?

                "If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?"

                I'll bet almost every mother in the world has said something like that at least once in an attempt to get their kids to think critically. Kids don't develope the ability to think critically until around puberty, and there are very good reasons for that. Small children are excellent mimics; that's how they learn the basic skills they need to survive. In order to be good mimics they need to believe that the things they see and hear are important, useful, and correct, and thus their brains are developed in such a way that they do just that. Only after learning the skills they need do they develope the ability to question what they know, which generally leads right into good old teenage rebellion as they explore alternatives to what they've been taught.

                It isn't a matter of simply telling kids not to believe everything they see. I think we all know how effective the phrase "Do as I say, not as I do" isn't, and that's essentially the same as what you're suggesting.

            • Critical thinking skills don't kick in until around 7th grade (e.g. puberty).

              That's funny. Seriously, most adults I know will believe nearly anything you tell them as long as its probable.

              Why? Because the alternative is unthinkable. Imagine trying to function in the world if you required everyone to prove everything they told you. Even if you've been trained to think critically, you have to tentatively accept what you read or hear as true unless you have cause to disbelieve the source.

              While young children may be the least capable of judging the reliability of what they read, they are far from alone in lacking that training/experience. What's far worse is that older people can do more damage with the unreliable information they embrace.

              The earlier kids are exposed to the Internet, the sooner they discover that you can't believe all things you read, hear, or see. Eventually they'll embrace something that is patently false and be corrected when they repeat it. Lesson learned.
            • Skills dont kick in, they are taught.

              I was taught critical thinking, its not like it just kicked in.
        • by modecx (130548)
          I have to agree that fast and accurate typing is essential to people who actually use computers.

          But I'll have to argue that having the next generation keyboarding from the age of 4 is a bad thing. As a young programmer-to-be, and a computer user who has been using computers and the internet for longer than nearly all of my peers, I'm starting to experience carpal-tunnel, or RSI (Repeated Stress Injury).

          If you have the kids in an ergonomically sound environment, maybe the chanes of injury are lessened. Still, over their lifetimes, if they don't get the excercise and pay attention to their bodies (as so many hackers don't [what we call engineer ass]), the children of the future are going to be unhealthy as adults.
        • Wait, there is one other good use: computers make excellent flashcards. They can take rote learning and make it more interesting
          -- times tables, etcetera


          This is a very narrow view of the role and possibilities for educational computing use. I agree that we don't need our children sitting in front of computers instead of engaging in creative, hands-on activities that push them to develop mentally, physically, and socially. However, I also see that computers can offer opportunities that are simply not available or feasible in any other form. As just a few examples:
          • Dynamic geometry software like Geometer's Sketchpad offers learners (middle school through death) the opportunity to "construct" (which is significantly different from "draw") geometric shapes to explore mathematical properties. Through these constructions, students can develop an understanding of geometric concepts and relationships in ways that are not practical otherwise.
          • Spreadsheets can be used as a scientific and mathematical modeling tool. Students have to develop an algorithm for exploring a phenomenon and enter it into the spreadsheet, but once it is there, the computer takes care of the "Plug and chug" work that would make a single problem too big to be feasible in a typical classroom setting.
          • Various java and flash-based simulations can allow students to experiment with the world around them in a safe environment. Through the wonder of the technology, sixth graders could easily investigate how to maximize the efficiency of an engine (a lesson full of scientific possibility for the teacher to build from). In real life, they could never build an engine or interact with it because it would simply be too dangerous.
          • For social studies (as well as many other topics), the Internet can serve as a primary research tool. Most of the laws and court decisions, policies, etc. are online. Online communications can allow students the opportunity to learn about the government or other people by actually interacting with them.
          • For younger children, software can be used to support writing, counting, adding, subtracting, place value, etc. (And, I'm not talking about calculators that do it for them - I'm talking about programs that provide a visual representation and numeric representation side-by-side to help students move from concrete to abstract as they move from manipulatives to numeric representation.)
          • In the area of information organization, technology allows dynamic concept mapping, outlining, sorting, sharing, etc. These are all tools that can help students better learn to look at and deal with a variety of information - just like people have to do everyday in their adult lives!


          In short, the possibilities for computers in education are limitless. Even the research done on computers in education points to the potential of these tools to support learning as long as they are extending beyond drill and practice (which does not help them at all.) The key is how the technology is used. As with any educational innovation, the way the teacher or parent sets up and supports the interaction with the tool is vital to the learning experience. Kids need adults to work with them, to frame their learning, to ask questions that help them tie what they do to other things they know. They need to be allowed to explore things, then have to tell someone how they explored those things and what they learned from the exploration. Kids have to be able to ask their own questions and follow-through to get answers to those questions. In this area, computers offer tremendous possibility. It's all about how they are used!

      • This is not altogether true. It depends on how the students approach the project. I know that I loved using powerpoint for my presentations in high school. Why? Because it was easier to hook up a school laptop to the overhead projector than it was to go through the trouble of printing out my figures on transparencies and then worrying about keeping them in order and switching them at the appropriatem time. Powerpoint makes those concerns trivial. If the students understand the importance of content and realize that the presentation of that material is secondary, then powerpoint is an extremely good tool for them to use! But I don't think that the problem, in this case, lies with the fact that the students have been trained with computers, but that their training has emphasized the wrong things. Computers can't teach creativity - that's been said a dozen or more times already. If, as early as teachers start asking students for projects, they deemphasize the "prettyness" of the student's presentation and reemphasize the clear conveyance of information, students will realize long before high school that a computer is not a shortcut to a good grade anymore than a nice binder for a report or a proessionally mounted visial-aid is.
    • I dunno - I feel a lot less creative now that I use a computer all the time.. of course that could have something to do with the booze.
      • Don't forget the caffine. Ever since I replaced water with caffinated beverages, my creativity had dropped through the floor (I also blame the internet and video games, low drinking ages and easy access to guns, just to cover all the bases ; )
    • by xeeno (313431) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:56PM (#2997916) Homepage
      It completely ruins the ability for a student to do basic math skills. I teach college-level classes in which lots of math is involved, and I've seen kids use a calculator to add 50 to 50.
      • by MathJMendl (144298) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:59PM (#2997942) Homepage
        I've seen kids use a calculator to add 50 to 50.
        Nah, I'd have to say that the stuff about calculators ruining people's math abilities is a bunch of hype. I mean, I don't have my TI-89 with its Computer Algebra System on me, but it doesn't take a calculator to tell me the answer to that is 200.
    • by npietraniec (519210) <npietran@resisti ... t minus caffeine> on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:08PM (#2997991) Homepage
      a game by the creators of Myst that let you explore worlds)!

      There's a real world out there that's more fantastic than any imaginary world that some computer nerd dreamed up. Children need to be socialized - yes, sitting in front of a computer stifles creativity.
      • I don't know about you, but i wasn't allowed to cross the street without an adult when i was in 1st grade. I don't think my parents would have let me explore the world.
    • by Vikki_R. (532184) <vikki.roemerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:16PM (#2998036)
      Coding lets you do nearly anything, and you could do graphic design or play imaginative games.

      Yeah, but how many K-6 or -8 grade kids do you know who can program? Granted, playing on the computer is better than laying around watching TV-- it's more interactive, and most of the time you have to have some sort of reading ability to use the computer properly. I think what the parents are concerned about is that other, more important, areas of the kids' education may be neglected in favour of computers. It's far more important for the kids to learn to count, add fractions, write letters, and colour by hand in the lines than it is for them to learn about right-click menus and mail-to links at this point . Later, after they master basic skills, then is the time to teach them about the wonderful world of computers.

      I don't know how many of your parents were like this, but my parents have a rule about the calculator for both me and my younger brother. Before we're allowed to use a calculator for a certain type of math problem, we have to be able to do the work by hand, or in our heads, proficiently before they let us use a calculator. Now this rule doesn't apply to me so much, but when I was in elementary and middle school, it did. And since my parents have & enforce that rule, I know (past experience) that I can, if need be, solve almost any geometry and most algebra problems in my head. Because I learned the math myself before I was even allowed to touch a calculator. Compare that to most of the kids in my class in school-- they struggled with a calculator, forget mental math. They weren't stupid; they just never learned to function without a calculator.

      So hold off on the computers till about 4th or 5th grade. And even then keep the computer time within limits. Let the kids learn to read dead-tree books first; let them learn to use their imagination, rather than use the computer to provide one for them; let them learn to do math by themselves, so that the computer/calculator only becomes an easier way to do the math, not the only way. The kids will be much better for it in the long run.

      That is what the parents were getting at.

      (Sorry this post was so long, but I had to say all that.)

      • Yeah, but how many K-6 or -8 grade kids do you know who can program?

        "Programming" here is not necessarily C++ or Perl. It can be just a map design for Unreal Tournament or whatever. As long as it is a design, it is a programming - and it is as creative as any other art form.

      • Good post. The do it on paper rule was the same one I was subject to. Makes a lot of sense today.

        Another way to look at it: You are at your job interview and someone wants to know your opinion of some figures and graphs. As they slide across the desk you either....

        1.) Panic because you did not bring your calculator because it just screamed "geek!" with your nice new suit. So you bullsh*t and hope it works. (You can always have your machine at your desk so who cares right?)

        2. Calmly look things over, do some quick mental math to understand the limits of what you are looking at and make some conclusions. You say something that actually matters and that leads to an interesting conversation and your new job.

        No brainer.

    • by bman08 (239376)
      I did a creative writing workshop with fourth graders who all had laptops. It was great that I could read their writing, but overall, I think the effects were negative.

      Spell check was really intrusive. Kids want to spell right and they'd waste tons of time on spelling.

      Also, the delete key enabled them to destroy work beyond the possibility of recovery. In groups without computers, a crossed out page or ripped up notebook can still be transcribed. By the time I could reenforce that what they'd written was great... it was already gone.
  • This makes sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by e1en0r (529063)
    I know that ever since I've been using a computer regularly, my math skills have severely suffered. Why do it in your head when there's a calculator on the computer? And i'm sure other skills have too. Sure, my logic has become more advanced, but there's more to education than that. If you start out with a computer to do everything for you, you won't really learn how to do it yourself. Kinda like how they don't start out teaching you how to use a calculator in math class before you learn the manual way.
  • I'd like to bring up my experience...

    Ok I attended school in a small town in central, NY in the late 80s early 90s(I'm 21 now) where we had all your usual art, music, blah classes to help make you more well rounded. They used to have this computer that they pushed around to whatever teacher wanted it so their 1st and 2nd grade kids could use it to make pictures. In 3rd grade, well that was the shit. Thats when the school decided to have us use paws to learn to type. You had until 5th grade to finish it (a long time, but most people never did). Once finished you could play with carbuilder, bomb, other games that required alittle bit of thinking. This all continued to junior high were we would have computer classes that tought us to program basic and logo. Nothing tough, but enough to spark an interest in people who were well computer oriented. This lasted until 8th grade, where once you got to highschool computer classes dropped off the face of the earth. I think the way they looked at it was, if you weren't already computer literate... they weren't going to help. I know that when I have children sometime in the next 5 years, I'm going to make sure that while they're young (kindergarten, first,2nd grade) they're going to start to learn to type. Once they learn to type, then they should get a basic understanding of using the computer. After that if they wish to persue computers great, if not... well, at least they'll have an idea of how to use it.
    • Sounds familliar. I think computers in later grades would be more useful. Computer 'labs' (as in experiments) could be used in math classes to teach calculus. For example, you could figure out a closed form of a limit and check it numerically by writing a computer program.
  • I agree. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wakko Warner (324) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:46PM (#2997853) Homepage Journal
    By the time we finally learned how to use a computer (in 7th and 8th grade, and we learned BASIC programming on TRS-80s), anything we'd learned was already obsolete. Those of us who already knew computers couldn't care less about what we were "learning" in class, and everyone else just saw no point to it. All it really did was take time away from actually learning real shit. Teaching kids how to use a word processor or "research" things on the Internet gives them no advantage at all over somebody who's spent most of their school life in more creative endeavors.

    I'm glad I didn't bother learning how to use a PC until I felt like it.

    - A.P.
    • Re:riighhht. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fireboy1919 (257783)
      I remember learning the basics of arithmatic from one of those little learning calculators - I used it a lot. I think that little thing was the beginning of what I loved about Mathematics.

      I also remember learning to read with the help of a Tape device with buttons that formed a menu - it was called a "Talk 'n Play," I believe.

      A few years later (about third grade) I started using the computers, and learned about the order of operations, flowcharts, and basically everything that I needed to know to start thinking about writing programs. I also read at least 8 novels a year for from third grade on until about my 9th grade year (I don't actually remember how many I read anymore; that was a while ago, so I did a low estimate).

      When I got to use an X86 finally, I really took off, learning things left and right.

      Whats the point? Computer-like learning interface enhanced my ability to learn and accelerated my education.

      If you ever read anything about learning, you must know that there is a special case of learning: the untainted learner - the person who fundamentally desires to learn as much as possible in an area (or in all areas) with whatever means of learning are available.

      For these people, the best way to teach them is to try to transfer the knowledge to them as fast and as much as possible, and they will work hard to absorb it. This is exactly possible with today's computers and computer-based learning interfaces. They are totally designed for this.
      It IS possible to work on gaining knowledge without worrying about learning "computers."

      This is not always the case, however, and certainly doesn't apply to most learners. Usually, its much better to give a little bit at a time and give periods of absorption.
  • It seems to me learning how to do things "the old fashioned way" is how we broaden our minds. A computer is a tool, and a narrow one, for interfacing with and manipulating certain types of information. As much as I love my Athlon 1800+, Photoshop is no substitute for for learning how to paint.

    You exercise different parts of your brain doing different things, and much of art and engineering are built on the lessons we learned playing with clay, Lego's and blocks as children. Actually dissecting a frog teaches a hell of a lot more than using an "interactive" multimedia CD on the subject. Doing long-division by hand is the only way to really understand what that division key on the calculator really does.

    Let's keep it real, folks. :-) That being said, typing classes should be mandated by law. Heheh.
  • I agree. (Score:2, Informative)

    How many times have you run into cashiers, tellers, etc. who need computers or calculators to be able to do math?


    Learn the basics first. The computer should suplement, not replace.

  • by GlobalEcho (26240) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:49PM (#2997870)
    I've noticed that the more a parent spends time with computers, the less important they think it is for their children to use one.

    As a parent who spends all day on the computer, I feel they are nearly useless as teaching aids (except for programming, naturally). That's particularly true for small children.

    People who don't spend time with computers tend to (it seems) mystify them. Perhaps they think there's some profound skill in moving a mouse around.

    B
    • Yes, it makes more sense to use a computer as an assistance to learning, but I don't think it should be the primary tool for learning.

      IANAChild Psychologist, but I think that there are many important skills that you need to learn that a computer cannot teach you/help you with, such as creativity, imagination, etc. Sure you can use some paint program or whatever, but it is very different to create something on paper with finger paints than it is to move a mouse around then print it out.

      Besides, the kids don't get to eat glue if you only teach them using a computer. I don't think we were exposed to computers at school until maybe 2nd or 3rd grade (I'm a junior in college now), and even then it was just simple learning supplement programs on a black and green screen apple of some kind. I think my home computer ruled compared to what we had at school =]

  • I'm a little frightened for young kids today. I know too many parents who will buy a beeping thing with buttons before they throw a ball back and forth with their child or at least supply Legos. Even "educational" games and television programming will drain you if its ALL you do. I'm almost 22; thank god I grew up before most of all these beeping gadgets were on the market.
  • Already Exposed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by quantaman (517394)
    The kids of these Intel workers probably get lots of exposure to technology at home. Perhaps they feel that the schools are mearly teaching their kids to use computers rather than learning with them, kind of redundant if the kinds are already experienced with technology. They probably feel the need to ensure that their kids can write essays and do research without computers rather than locking them into this medium for life.
  • I spent my "formidable years" in small religious private schools of varying quality. The one consistency amongst them was the shunning-upon of calculators and other such aides. The forced development of street math and the fast thinking that comes with it carried over very well to other parts of my life.
  • Here here! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:56PM (#2997919) Journal
    The voices of wisdom speak!

    I am a father of 5, and we home-school the children. At first, we thought that having all the computers around the house (I am a freelance programmer) along with educational videos would allow us to accelerate their progress - boy were we wrong.

    Educational games do little more than encourage the kid to click on stuff randomly. They couldn't remember what they saw in a video 20 minutes after seeing it. And they lived their day around TV shows and video games... nothing much happening.

    But, after we mandated "No TV - No computer games" - we saw stunning improvements! Suddenly they took an interest in their environment. We saw sharp improvements in their creativity and curiosity. They also behave MUCH better towards each other - much less aggression and infighting. Additionally, they took/take a much greater interest in reading, music (other than top 40s), etc.

    Since then, we've done some research, to find that children's psychological development reaches a real understanding of abstract concepts beginning at around age 12-14.

    To expose kids to abstracts, (such as the images on a TV Screen or computer) rather than "real" things (like play-dough, the sand pit, Legos) etc, deprives them of basic understanding of these "real" things then making it more difficult to understand abstracts later.

    So, despite my very strong tech background, I do not feel that computers and "technology" should be introduced to kids until at least Jr. high.

    -Ben
    • Re:Here here! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kallistiblue (411048)
      I'm in partial agreement.
      One thing that frustrates me is that most people seem to want to view it as binary.
      0 Either you teach computers
      1 You dont' use computers at all

      I don't think that it has to be that way.
      Why not allow them to do what they want to do.
      that they should be taught the basics and allowed to do what they want to.

      You can try to encourage, but a kids going to do what a kids going to do. I like freedom :)

      I do agree they need better educational software though.A lot of the stuff out there is hard even for me to read.:)
    • Re:Here here! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jacoplane (78110)
      I think it depends. Sure, I agree that the educational value "educational games" is quite doubtful. On the other hand, if your young kids are spending time doing stuff like logo [mit.edu] or Mindstorms [lego.com] then you probably don't want to stop them from doing so. Since they're already playing with Lego, introducing them to mindstorms might turn out great.

      Alltogether I agree with the article though. Schools teaching "how to use the internet" is a joke. And I think stuff like office, online collaboration using things like , etc. are better taught at a later age. [groove.net]
    • Wait a minute. You said "No TV - No computer games" and this somehow validates your point? I think not. Would you let your kids hang around playing poker all day and that would be OK because its not electronic? And what does TV have to do with the debate?

      My friend, it is you that is mired in confusion.

      If your children use the computer as a learning device, they will indeed learn the concepts of mathematics and improve their reading and writing skills much quicker than without. Assuming you guide them properly. Perhaps it is you who are ignorant of the power of the computer? You gave them games, but did you give them Mathematica?
      • by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:47PM (#2998287) Journal
        (tv != computer games != videos)==abstracts.

        Interestingly enough, there's alot to be learned in poker - skills of reading human behavior are not ones taught in public schools, as they aren't "book" learning. But, as Mr. Gates, and many other marketroids have shown us, are no less valuable.

        These skills comprise the heart and soul of salesmanship - a most valuable skill, fundamental to the operation of a successful business or organization.

        How does watching "Simpsons" or "Friends" teach our children even that?

        Perhaps you can see why I'd much rather have my children play poker than watch TV?

        -Ben

        PS: My teen sons (13) are learning PHP and Python. Please re-read my post!

    • Re:Here here! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by system5 (167402)
      I agree in some capacity with what you said, but I have to cite personal experience and disagree with waiting until Jr. high school to introduce children to computers. I started programming at the age of 7, and I actually learned the abstract concepts of computer logic a few months before that in a matter of days. You see, my father wanted me to learn how to make electronic circuits (because that's what he did), and he taught me the basic gates (AND, OR, XOR, NAND, etc.) I had little interest in electronics, but a few months later when I first started programming, I immediately applied the abstract logic. I think that children's minds at that age are ripe for understanding concepts that adults sometimes can never learn. In fact, I find myself today (at 25) having a hard time learning new computer languages/technologies, while when I was a kid (even before Jr. high), I could pick up any language or technology in just days.

      Now, with that said, I do agree that video games (of any sort) should not replace legos, play-do, etc. However, I think that exposing children at a young age to computers, foreign languages, etc. is a great thing. If they show interest (beyond the entertainment value that is), then I think they should be given the opportunity to explore. We all know that computing skills are pretty much mandatory in today's job market, so imagine what it will be like in 20 years. This will also increase the demand for computer programmers and content creators over time. So why not?

      My wife and I are actually expecting our first child. I am already in the planning stages for providing a Linux-based X terminal for him or her (we do not know yet :) I want to make 100% sure that my child is comfortable and competent on the computer at as early an age as possible. That does not mean, however, that I will not provide traditional toys, games, and other things. And the child will not play games on the computer or surf the web mindlessly - I expect him/her to learn their way around Linux and I will do my best to teach abstract concepts as soon as I see that he/she is ready to listen to that.

      Is this selfish? Maybe. I will do my best not to force my career choice on my child(ren) But I also do not want to watch them to have their first serious exposure much later in life, when if they want to go into the field, they will regret not learning at an earlier age. There is plenty of mediocrity in this industry, and I think one great way to help it is to get children who show interest some heavy exposure as early in life as possible.
      • I agree with what you say, and I'll expound a bit based on my own experiences.

        I too started fiddling with computers when I was around 8 years old and found them fascinating machines. Unfortunately it was a fair number of years before I got the opportunities to really start hounding away at them. I was 12 when my family got their first PC, so I had about a 4 year gap between initial exposure and a period where I could really start experimenting and learning for hours at a time. Sure, we had Apples and some PCs around school but you weren't allowed to actually -do- anything with them but run Works 2.0 from the Novell network.

        I beleive that complex thinking starts developing in children around the age of puberty, at least for males. I'm still not sure when it develops in females, if ever <tongue in cheek>. For better or worse when I was going through this period my biggest intellectual "outlet" if you will was programming. Perhaps because of this I was hindered, if you wish to look at it that way, later in life because to grasp a new concept I had to categorize it in a series of steps that I could picture in my head as a computer program. Makes me a hell of a programmer I'd say, but terrible at calculus.

        I'm all in favor of the education system making computers more accessible to students, and perhaps even providing some structured classes in how they work, but certainly not as just another tool which they're requied to used because they'll possibly have to deal with one in the workplace. Use them to teach kids how to think about complex problems -- not how to use a word processor. The same could, and I beleive should, be done in other areas too. I'm all for some robotics experiments in classes, with the ability to go "above and beyond" if the students wishes. Same for programming, or networking, or auto-repair, engineering, things like that.

        Giving kids the tools and guidance to do something they like earlier on in life is something that I think is -really- lacking in the US education system. I'm often told how horrid it is in other socities where before you're even of the age of 18 you're enrolled in a vocational program of some type. Doesn't sound that horrible to me really, so long as it's -your- choice what you're studying. We're sending alot of talented people out into the world after high school here with barely enough knowledge to keep themselves employeed at any trade. Why? We don't want to pigeon-hole kids... nor do we want them to stick themselves in a pigeon hole. I just don't get it.
  • by joshv (13017) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:58PM (#2997936)
    Ok, computers used to be a great motivational tool, because they were a novelty. Kids would use them because they were new and cool. Well, wake up folks, its a new century and just about everyone who wants one can have one at home. Most kids (even poor kids) grow up with one now. It's nothing new, and just because you put your stupid flashcards on a computer doesn't mean Johnie is going to want to learn.

    The novelty of computers has worn off, there is no magic bullet here. Teaching is all about the basics. Lets face it, some things are hard to learn, and even harder to teach, and no computer is going to take the place of a trained and creative human being.

    School districts that waste tax dollar buying laptops for every student pain me no end. These are teaching tools, no more, no less, and there is no value in a 1-1 computer student ratio, anymore than there is value in a 1-1 blackboard to student ratio.

    Certainly computer skills should be taught, just like reading skills, math skills and arts are taught. But there is no value to allowing computers to encroach on other subject matters, no value in allowing computers to be the delivery mechanism for all information. A learning and research tool, no doubt, but the end all and be of education they are not.

    -josh
  • The whole point is not that we should 'ban' computers, but they should be regulated to a role - just one skill. Computers should be a -component- of education - like art, music, etc... Certainly, it is crucial to have exposure to things 'off screen,' but it is equally important to be familiar and comfortable with computers

    My ideal situation: hands on (one machine per kid) twice a week for about 3/4ths of an hour for K-3rd grade, typing and lego programming in 4-5, and use of comps for programming, research and word processing during 'free time' (and programming / literacy classes) in 6th grade untill high school
  • It seems quite stupid to teach kids research skills without computers! Sure, the library is important, but the computer makes using the library more productive.

    Moreover, the internet is, realistically, a critical component of *any* reserach these days!
    • Sure, the library is important, but the computer makes using the library more productive.

      Step back and think a moment. Why are these kids doing research to begin with? One major reason all the way up to high school is simply to learn how to do research. The productivity of the research is irrelevant. Learning how to find that information, how to found out how to find out that information, and how to put it all together, is much more important.

      Kids can be as productive as they want when they leave school and get jobs. Until then they need to learn the basic skills that will allow them to be productive in the future.
  • I totally agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SevenTowers (525361) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:06PM (#2997976) Homepage
    My parents did not want me fooling around on their computer becaus my dad felt I'd screw it up real bad (because he didn't know much about computers). My dad also refused to let me access the net cause he felt all I'd do was check out some pr0n. Well, when I finally got the money (17 years old) I bought my computer and internet access. I'd already been around on BBSs so I thought I new some... Oh shit was I wrong! Nowadays I compare myself to some of my friends and I have to say that I estimate the age for learning about computers to be around 13-14 years old. Later than that and you've got a hell of a lot to catch up.

    Creativity is VERY important and I totally agree that a young kid should stay the hell away from computers, especially that every program I see being designed for kids is usualy idiotic anyway compared to what caring parents can provide.

    just my .02$
  • Outside of obvious ones, such as learning a specific computer skill, there are a few cases where I would argue students can benefit from having a computer in the classroom.

    When I took physics in high school, the school had just acquired a number of laptops and different types of electric devices for measuring forces, distances, etc.

    Using some program on the computer, we were able to obtain very accurate measurements of acceleration, force changes, etc. compared to time and what not. Without the computers we would have had to have used various rules and stop watches, and hope that we came up with something that was similar to the expected results.

    In cases such as these, where computers are used as a supplement to learning, instead of the primary focus, I think that they are very beneficial to the classroom. However, if the computer is doing something that could be done just the same without a computer, I see little need for the computer, and the student would probably be better off without it.

  • by Theodore Logan (139352) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:10PM (#2998005)
    Once the dot-com boom was a fact and everybody went ballistic and cried for "IT" scheduled in public schools from an early age, there was conducted an experiment.

    Two large groups of school children (and one control group) were chosen. One of these group had massive "IT" training. The other group had massive music training. A year later results clearly showed that the "IT" students had not enhanced their creativity, formal reasoning or anything else of interest. The music students, however, had enhanced creativity, analytical thinking and other areas of significance enormously. They also seemed to get along better with each other, and to be more content with their lives than people in the control group or in the IT group.

    Unfortunately, nobody took much notice of this study, although it was huge. Probably because it didn't show the results the politicians wanted it to show. Nowadays there's a lot of "IT" training in elementary schools. I have, however, yet to come across a normal elementary school with an increased number of music lessons.

    This was in Sweden, by the way.

    • You wouldn't happen to have a link to this, would you? I would be real interested to read up on this.
    • by WildBeast (189336) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:01AM (#2998768) Journal
      We live in a world where money matters a lot more than anything else. Creativity, analytical thinking? I don't think that fits in the picture. They're looking mostly for workaholics and heavy consumers.
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:16PM (#2998037)
    Until my last semester my high school had exactly one PDP-8 with one VDT and one printer terminal. There were only about 5 dorks like me who cared to use it. We had to be very creative to do anything useful with the antique hardware. We learned quite a bit.

    Then they brought in several TRS-80's. Suddenly, the computer room was filled with luser burnouts playing mindless video games. (Now I too waste countless hours playing mindless video games on 1000X faster hardware.) I assume today's kids waste time on even more useless IRC or something.

    The lesson from this: only let the kids have really old, broken down hard-to-use computers.That's the only way they're going to learn anything. :-)

  • by Brown Line (542536) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:17PM (#2998041)
    I'll be 50 on my next birthday, so obviously I didn't grow up with a computer. I got into the business in my 30s, and have done pretty well as a C/UNIX/SQL programmer. I'm also the father of five children, aged 23 to 4, and their being well raised has been the principal concern for nearly half my life.

    That being said, a few observations about kids and computers. IMHO, it's vital that young children, in particular, develop their limbs and their senses, and stock their minds with as much in the way of sensual knowledge as they can. The more they can explore their hands and feet, their eyes, ears, noses, and, yes, mouths, the richer a store they will have.

    A computer is a marvelous instrument for organizing information; and I think an argument can be made that the Internet is the greatest single artifact ever created by humankind. But if a child comes to using a computer prematurely, before he has acquired a vocabulary of sense impressions that can bring the information to life, his mind - his consciousness, for lack of a better term, will be stunted.

    As a thought experiment, imagine two children who are viewing a web page about flowers. One has actually handled flowers - smelled, them, looked at them close, maybe even planted some bulbs and watched the grow; and the other has not. Which child do you think will be better able to grasp the information on the page? Which will be able to notice its limitations? Which will be better able to notice flaws and inconsistencies? Clearly, the child who has real-world experience.

    It need not be an either/or matter. For children in middle school and up, learning to type is a necessity; learning to navigage the web can be a great help; and the task of building web pages can be a fine exercise in organizing information - as good as a term paper, or better. But if, due to limited time or limited resources, a school system had to choose computers or hands-on classroom work, I think the computers should be put aside.
  • The last thing I want is to have a 7yo child to spend his day hacking a mod for the linux kernel, instead of playing cowboys and indians like he is supposed to.
    I doubt real people want their kids to become linux monkies and be dubbed "the kid with no friends", who likes to spend friday nights eating cheetos while browsing anime.
  • Computers and education frequently comes up in Steve Talbott's NetFuture e-zine, which can be accessed on O'Reilly's web site [oreilly.com]. Here's an example article [oreilly.com] from an indexed list [oreilly.com] of NetFuture articles on the subject.
  • by ocie (6659) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:20PM (#2998058) Homepage
    A 1998 study by the private Educational Testing Service of nearly 14,000 fourth- and eighth-graders found the more time students spent practicing math using computers in school, the worse they scored on math tests.

    I had several teachers who would tell me something along the lines of "a calculator/computer is a useful tool, but you need to be able to figure out if the answers it is giving you are right". I even remember that there was some emphasis on "estimation math".
    • It's not so much that you need to be able to figure out if the answers the calculator is giving you are right, but that you understand how the calculator got that answer, and that it isn't just magic.

      Sort of why it bothers me that I see high school students coming into our Calculus classes here that can do calculus on a calculator, but couldn't tell you the definition of a derivative for the life of them. Sort of sick, they can push buttons, but haven't a clue what is really going on.

  • legos! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Maskirovka (255712)
    Buy the kid $1500 worth of legos at age 6, as opposed to a computer. And keep them away from the TV at all costs.

    Maskirovka
  • Actually a scientific study shows that school isn't good for the development of children below the age of seven years.
    • Can you cite? This would be really interesting.....

      And who says it's good for children above 7? :)

      • Sorry, can't remember exactly, it was a television show I watched a few months ago I believe it was on TLC. Basically it said that school slowed the child's brain development process. They only talked about children.
  • ... and learning to keyboard...

    I sure as hell hope they're not learning to mangle English, either. "Keyboard" is a noun, not a verb, except in Jargonville.

  • And the last time he taught in an elementary or high school was...?

    For somebody who is trained in astronomy, he sure knows a lot about child education...

    Part of the problem with our schools is that people who were children or have children or went to school instantly think they know what is wrong with our schools and how to fix them. From mandatory testing to "moments of quiet reflection" to millions of dollars poured into IT infrastructure while the walls of the school are crumbling to home schooling... all of which are just manifestations of somebody political or cultural agenda. Nobody ever asks what the people who are actually trained in education what they need in order to better educate our children.

    If you ask them, they would probably tell you that to do their job all they really need is support from the administration and from the parents, decent textbooks and a comfortable, non-distracting environment for the children to learn. It doesn't have to be more complicated than that.
    • by nomadic (141991)
      Because "education" as an academic field is mostly worthless. Fads, inept psychology, intuition masquerading as actual research, reliance on anecdotal evidence--why on earth would we expect a workable curriculum out of that?

      If you asked the teachers in the trenches, they'd probably ask for their class sizes to be reduced about 60%. If you asked ME, which you didn't, I'd say to reduce the class day by several hours, and the school year by half. There is absolutely no need to subject young children to 8 hours a day for 9 months a year to teach a few elementary reading and mathematical skills. It's just cruel.
  • creativity cn be applied in the digital world in new ways that aren't possible in the "real world"

    compare creating 3d virtual models of an item with sculpting something out of clay or wood.

    I had a hell of an easier time picking up programming and computers as a young child compared to trying to learn new things now.
    What we need is 3rd graders who can use autocad to learn math and engineering concepts, or grade school age kids colaborating on someones thesis project, researching new ideas...then we'd have some creative juice flowing. How about 6th graders writing math or spelling games for 5th graders?

    we need to do more than teach them how to be office workers, computers should be taught by a teacher who knows more that how to install the latest 'learing adventure' games. perhaps laptops on a roving computer lab cart could let one Computer-EXPERT-teacher move from class to class for 'LAB Time' instead of trying to sit a pc on every desk with teachers that don't know as much about how to be creative with a computer.

    look at me share my opinion/view/insight all over the world via slashdot, that wasn't so hard to grasp now was it?

    • Re:I disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Graymalkin (13732)
      Sculpting out of clay or play-doh is a free form exercise. It is important to feel what you are intereacting with, especially for a young child. Modeling with a computer program is nothing like it. Computer modeling is merely reshaping primitives to fit into a general scheme that looks like something. There are no primitives when you're sculpting with clay. One of the hardest art projects I ever did was I had to sculpt my own bust. I can draw alright and am a decent painter but I'd never sculpted before. It turned out I could sculpt better than I could paint. I had to put a lot of effort into getting the nose and cheeks just right, I didn't my sculpture to look like some abstract art piece. The eyes took me the longest time because eyeballs are more spherical than just about any part of the body. It was a bit of effort to make an eye that was shaped like an eye. A computer program would have made the shape for me. What does that teach me exactly? How to use a computer? Big fucking whoop. I'm much happier knowing I can take a lump of clay and make it into something that resembles my head.

      Teaching children to be office workers? What the fuck is that anyways? Elementary schools aren't vocational training centers. Neither are high schools. Having kids write programs doesn't teach them anything. Having them approach problems logically is teaching them something. I run into far too many people that could not pass a logical thought through their brain if their lives depended on it. Logical thinking lends itself to doing all sorts of stuff including working in an office environment. Office work is thinking and living inside of a box, do you know anyone working in an office that enjoys it? In terms of banality it ranks right about repetitive stress injury prone assembly line work. Autocad to learn math an engineering? That's fucking ludicrous. Give them building blocks and tell them to build something. They'll get more engineering concepts out of watching their sky scraper topple over a dozen times than looking at some lines on a computer screen.
  • Albert Einstein once said something along the lines of, "It's amazing that curiosity survives the rigors of a formal education." My only problem with computers in the classroom is that the kids aren't permitted to play with them. Their interaction is extremely structured and regimented out of fear that they'll break the software. Honestly, though, kids that young can learn the same stuff with legos, bricks, and crayons. At that age, the only thing I'd have them do with computers is basic exposure (maybe some learning games, touch typing games, just stuff to get them comfortable). That's mostly an issue of expense, however, and I'm sure that will disappear in the future.

    In the meantime, the best way to encourage creativity is to get the hell out of the kids' way and let them be creative! If they come up with some wild eyed theory, don't just tell them that they're wrong, help them find out for themselves.... (cutting rant short to go study ;)).

    BlackGriffen
  • In the 80s in Lynn, Mass. there was this program where smart elementary school kids were taken out of class once a week and went to another school across town and taught advanced studies. For example, I remember we learned about prime numbers in the 4th grade. The other thing that was there were a bunch of TRS-80 color computers on which were taught programming. It was great. It was BASIC and simple, but the things I learned in those classes in 4th and 5th and 6th grades I still use every day.

    Even though I went through high-school without a computer, as I got into college and got my first 286, it was intuitive how to get it running. Going to school for design and journalism, I was always the guy who could get the Mac networking working or recover from some error. And now I'm a programmer having switched to technical consulting after college to pay the rent and "magically" having the aptitude to do so.

    My point is that the technical training I received as a child was as valuable to me in my life as any third language I might have learned or some musical training, and it was much, much more useful than "knitting a pair of socks with yarn I dyed myself" like that kid in the story. I think this will only continue to be true in the future.

    -Russ

    If anyone is reading this and has any idea what Project Summit was, please inform me, because beyond having spent a bunch of time in the program, me and my parents don't know much about it or even if it's still going on today... Thanks.
  • Ignoring my computer class there are only 3 classes in which I have used a computer.

    1. English: Here we used computers for writing essays. In this case they were very useful as they allowed we to work must faster and better explore my topic, and also make my nearly illegible handwriting a non-issue.

    2. Math: In one or two classes we worked with a program involving the relationships between angles in circles, this was also very useful as it helped demonstrate the principals in a manner easy to observe.

    3. Social(History for Americans): Here we used computers in two ways, for one we used the Internet as a research tool. This was a great learning experience as it taught us to discriminate between the veracity of various sources (as opposed to the library where we were exposed to a much narrower array of for the most part more "standard"? material). It also gave us better exposure to a much wider spectrum of opinions (when we could find it (((search for relevant material)+ (slow Internet connection))!=fun). Our social teacher also showed us various powerpoint presentations (and DVD's of war movies but that's another story;), these did have a strong effect and helped to drive the point home.

    My point is that technology can be a useful tool but only when utilized properly, you don't know how many kids I saw diddling the period away in computer class instead of doing work. I had a great experience with a limited amount of technology in the classroom. However in all of these cases the focus was not the technology but what we were doing with it. I think the problem emerges when teachers and school start using technology for the sake of using it instead of using it to enhance effect the concept or ability to do the work.
  • Balance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by f00zbll (526151)
    No amount of technology or stupid study plans ensure balanced education. I have no solutions, but the way the school system approaches education is just as bad.

    Balance to me means a kid should do finger painting, bang on drums or some other musical instrument, read books of all kinds including philosophy and religion, math, science, 3-5 foriegn languages and programming.

    Kids are growing up stupid because the adults treat them as if they are stupid. Kids grow up with a lack of creativity because teachers and parents are too lazy or afraid of looking stupid to really try. The failure of children to grow and learn in a balanced manner is the result of our (adults) failures. There's no magic bullet to solve this problem and there's no easy fix. Politicians and school boards need to start thinking of long term solutions and not short term "what will get me re-elected" strategies.

    Spending millions on stupid common sense research studies would be better spent on reducing the ratio of classrooms and giving teachers more training and less micromanagement.


  • The reason computers arent useful in school is because almost all teachers are completely ignorant of them. If they were made available in a more natural way with competent educators around then computers in the classroom wouldnt be such a colossal waste.


    (perhaps this goes back to how horribly underpaid teachers are)


    Although I learned nothing from shcool computers, I did aquire a taste for programming at around 8 years old, outside of school. (You know you are a hardcore programmer when you give a presentation on binary arithmetic in elementary school)


    What these parents arent saying is that they will be making computers available to their childern outside of the school, and that they will be knowledgeable mentors to the curious. That's what matters.

    • I didn't see anything about how useless computers were in this article. Rather, how they were potentially squeezing out the most basic and fundamental parts of childhood--colouring, learning to write, playing with blocks, basic math (WITHOUT a calculator!), and so forth.

      The point is well taken--education shouldn't be about teaching one item to the exclusion of all others, _especially_ at the early levels. Furthermore, kids won't be able to avoid computers--they're everywhere these days. Spending six hours a day at school without them isn't going to stunt their 'digital growth' in the least, but it _may_ make them more rounded (and better educated) individuals, who understand the importance of an apostrophe.
  • Kids *need* to develop important skills through 8th grade. Computers need to be a part, but not early on. (games are enough!) Time spent reading writing and thinking is time spent honing ones mind. Time well spent.

    My own childhood was spent in a small town in the country. Lots of time playing in the woods, reading, exploring, camping, sports etc... School was similar. Nothing high tech, but the learning happened anyway. Today, plenty of things are easy without using a computer, and I like it that way.

  • Computers in first grade do solve one problem...

    Coloring in the lines...

    Instead of trying hard with that dull crayon to color within the lines, one click with the fill tool in photoshop and you're never outside the lines again ;)
  • I disagree. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Minupla (62455) <minupla@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:51AM (#2998865) Homepage Journal
    Were it not for access to a computer in the early years I would have been moved to a "non-academic" stream. Why? Because I'm dysgraphic and was unable to write my answers down. (Dysgraphia is a syndrome that spawns from the same physiological causes as dyslexia but primarily effects the putting of characters on paper, rather then the reading them off of paper.) My verbal IQ was over 20 points sperated from my written IQ. They worked this out after I started typing my homework, and suddenly started getting the answers right because I could concentrate on the _thought_ process, rather then the physical process of writing.

    I would be horrified to think that children to come after me would be without this incredibly enabling technology.
  • by samdu (114873) <samdu.ronintech@com> on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @03:30AM (#2998929) Homepage
    I'm 32. I got my first computer when I was in elementary school. It was a Timex/Sinclair 1000. It was interesting, and started my interest in computers . My next machine was a Commodore 64, then two Amigas. Maybe it's because of the creative opportunities these machines offered, maybe it was that I was always artistic, maybe it was because I was musically inclined, or maybe it was because MY DAD PAID ATTENTION, but I think I turned out fine. I draw, paint, play sax, write, and think logically. Exposure to computers didn't stifle any of this, it enhanced it. Computers are a tool and a creative outlet for me. The problem with computers comes at the same time that it does with TV, or games, or daycare. If a parent thinks that all little Johnny needs is a computer and Internet access to learn everything he needs to know, sure, the kid will probably fail. But if the parent takes an active part in the development of the child, computers can be a valuable resource. As can the other media listed above. I'm getting really sick of the current crop of parents looking for outside influences to blame for thier kids not turning out right. John Walker Lind, Dillon Clevold, etc... These guys didn't exactly have the most attentive parents in the world.

    -Sam
  • by jpellino (202698) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @06:48AM (#2999206)
    this comes up every so often, and is sheer speculation with no basis in fact.

    it is someone's - in one case cliff stoll's OPINION - and the only reason people listen to him is due to a random opportunity to be the first at tracking down a pretty nasty hacker. the shower scenes and fatality made it titillating, but he's no more a pundit than the rest of us.

    please - whenever people bring this up - play the old name game ("frank frank bo-bank, banana fana fo fan, fee fie fo fank... frank) and replace COMPUTERS with ANY OTHER ENABLING TECHNOLOGY USED IN CLASSROOMS - THAT'S RIGHT - JUST ASSERT THAT
    -- PENCILS STIFLE CREATIVITY,
    -- BLACKBOARDS STIFLE CREATIVITY,
    -- PHOTOCOPIERS STIFLE CREATIVITY,
    -- LAMINATORS STIFLE CREATIVITY,
    -- PROTRACTORS STIFLE CREATIVITY,
    -- CUISINAIRE BLOCKS STIFLE CREATIVITY
    -- MICROSCOPES STIFLE CREATIVITY

    A case can be manufactured for the truth of each of these assertions. Trouble is, folks who assemble these straw men forget one very important tenet of education:

    There is no best way to teach.

    There are many ways which are successful, with varying situations, students, and classes, but there is no best way.

    Being a teacher is in large part being a problem solver - you have a bunch of resources, a bunch of kids, and a bunch of desired outcomes. And being a good problem solver means knowing which strategies to emply for any given moment / situation / personality.

    Consequently, it is folly to simply toss out any method(s) of instruction or expression on principle.

    Unfortunately, this whole debate is usually framed as a guns-or-butter argument - which it isn't.

    And while we're at it - a growing number of districts no longer have kids learning keyboarding as a regularly scheduled activity.

    And for two cases that can be used to refute the generalization, here's how I have put it to parents and clients I've dealt with:

    First - the importance of form in determining specific instructional strategirs - the specific example of music classes - remember your music lessons? What did you do in them? Mostly you attempted to recreate a piece of music, just as the author did it, no mistakes, very little expresion or improvisation. Yet music is one of the subjects lauded as "creative" - and most of what you do is mere skill building. You didn't go to music / band / suzuki to compose your own music -you simply mimicked the form - played heart and soul etc. - until you got it right.

    Transfer such an approach to language arts - and you'd have the equivalent of having a room full of kids copy the first page of Moby Dick over and over again until they could do it flawlessly. That teacher would be out the door in short time. So form DOES matter - not all subjects can be optimized through the same instructional strategy.

    Graduate now, to a music classroom full of keyboards and midi-enabled computers / sequencers / samplers. Now you can create music of your own. Notice the work CREATE - Now you can play with notes, patterns, entire symhponies, burn your own CDs, in record time, and with greater flexibility and ease than if you had to scribe each note on paper (or hire a copyist).

    Yes, people will now put forth the argument that Beethoven didn't have a computer and look what he did - eventual deafness and all. Problem is this argument implies that if Ludwig HAD access to a computer he'd have been a lesser composer. Irrelevant and unsported conclusion.

    As for trhe broader idea - when I was in grammar school, we expressed ourselves academically in two ways:

    Book reports / essays
    Shoebox dioramas full of clay things.

    You had such a narrow window of expression, your work had to fit a very small number of forms.

    Now we can hand a student HyperStudio or PowerPoint or Flash, and they can express themselves through printed workds, sopoken words, sound, music, the world's best graphics, original graphics, movies, 3-D animations, the list goes on.

    Which is more creative? While the structure of the older two methods might be held up as a sort of academic haiku, with the accomplishment detemined by maximizing expression within the narrow form, it doesn't address the more recent benchmarks of creativity - for instance Paul Torrance's measures such as fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration - the amount, range, newness and depth of creative work.

    Plus - a piece of Intel thinks computers stifle creativity? Do they watch their own ads? Enhanced creativity is most of what they push.

    Seems like there are some deeper issues here that aren't seeing the light of day...

Wasn't there something about a PASCAL programmer knowing the value of everything and the Wirth of nothing?

Working...