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No-Tech Schools In Tech Land 538

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.
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No-Tech Schools In Tech Land

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  • This makes sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by e1en0r ( 529063 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:45PM (#2997848) Homepage
    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.
  • by questionlp ( 58365 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:47PM (#2997859) Homepage
    If Oregon is so right-wing, then how do you explain that we not only have a law that legalizes medicinal "Mary Jane" but also legalized assisted suicide? Both of those laws don't seem quite so extreme right-winged to me. (Yes, I'm an Oregonian!)
  • by ekephart ( 256467 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:50PM (#2997879) Homepage
    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 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:50PM (#2997881)
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:52PM (#2997894)
    Oregon and Washington have been notoriously right-wing

    Yeah, I bet Gore won in Oregon because of all that "right-wing" support. The Portland-metropolitan area, of which Hillsboro is part, is the most liberal part of the state.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @09:53PM (#2997902)
    Washington right-wing? What are you smokin', dude? We have a far-left democratic governor and Attorney General, the Seattle city council didn't go to the Democratic convention 'cuz most of them were for Nader; we have two democratic senators (including the spam queen Maria Cantwell of real audio fame), and a congressman (Jim McDermott) who was the one who turned the Newt cell-phone tape over to the NY Times.

    If that's right-wing to you, then I'm pretty concerned about who you'd consider left.
  • 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$
  • 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 zaffir ( 546764 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:13PM (#2998017)
    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.
  • Re:Here here! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kallistiblue ( 411048 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:13PM (#2998021) Homepage
    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 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:15PM (#2998031) Homepage Journal
    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 [] or Mindstorms [] 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. []
  • 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 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.
  • by drink85cent ( 558029 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:17PM (#2998042)
    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.
  • by rufusdufus ( 450462 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:18PM (#2998048)
    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?
  • Re:Here here! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by system5 ( 167402 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:01PM (#2998083) Homepage
    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.
  • by BlackGriffen ( 521856 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:21PM (#2998176)
    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 ;)).

  • Balance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by f00zbll ( 526151 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:35PM (#2998226)
    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.

  • by gblues ( 90260 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:36PM (#2998232)
    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).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:57PM (#2998326)
    It probably wasn't a lack of understanding. Musicians always spread that FUD about how all great scientists are musically inclined. If musicians are so smart, how come they aren't all scientists? Just because Einstein dabbled in music, all of a sudden his abilities outside of music apply to all those who are musically inclined? Not.
  • by xconslash ( 521219 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @12:01AM (#2998360) Homepage
    I think is shows that computers could be used as a tool. Except that only the students thinking clearly enough outside the box will be able to utilize their power to geta good grade. For example, you compare a poster to a PowerPoint presentation both about the same subject. Whichever actually presents the information better would get a better grade. That makes kid think about the content rather than the computer. It would give an outlet to those students who spent the time to learn how to present the content effectivley in the computer medium.

    Computers should be used simply as a medium, another outlet for communications, not as an overall teching stradegy.

    My 2 cents
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @12:07AM (#2998395)
    I'll have to agree with this completely!

    I was never really great at arithmetic, although as I went higher in the math world, I got better. Once I gained a higher understanding of what was going on behind the scenes, the simple stuff was just that : simple.

    I think the way I was tought to do arithmatic when I was a child was contrary to the way that my brain works.

    I plain just can't do long division. I forget the rules! But, I can factor that number in my head, and obtain an approximation. There are other techniqes to arrive at the same answer, and I have used those much to my agreement. I've learned that the way I think of math is very much opposite what everyone else is thinking when doing a project.

    That said, even Einstein had troubles in arithmatic. His brain just wasn't wired to do that type of work, in the manner that they (tried) tought him to do it.

    Imagine that, one of the most respected mathematical minds in history, and he couldn't add shit as a child.
  • by John Miles ( 108215 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @12:26AM (#2998485) Homepage Journal
    Actually, young children are much more likely to take the Internet at face value.

    Has anyone actually tried telling them not to?
  • Re:I disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:20AM (#2998807)
    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.
  • by samdu ( 114873 ) <> 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.

  • by Grab ( 126025 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @06:02AM (#2999152) Homepage
    Nope. Colouring _inside_ the lines teaches hand-eye coordination and an appreciation of visual shapes. Until you can colour inside the lines, you're not ready to express yourself by colouring outside the lines.

    It's the difference between someone who drives 100mph bcos they know the road perfectly and are a good driver, and someone who's only had a half-dozen lessons driving 100mph bcos they don't know to look at the speedometer. Or the difference between a kid hitting random notes on a piano, and a great jazz musician hitting apparently-random notes on a piano.

    Until you've got an appreciation of what the conventions are and why they're there, breaking them is NOT good. Conventions like "don't drink the results of a chemistry experiment" for instance have a very good basis - it isn't until you have enough knowledge of chemistry to know that the substance you're producing is harmless (or a recreational substance ;-) that you should break it! That's where adults have to provide some control over kids - children are born literally unable to associate cause and effect, so they cannot associate shooting their little brother with their little brother dying, it's just not in their range of experience.

  • by God! Awful ( 181117 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @06:17AM (#2999170) Journal

    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.


  • 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

    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...
  • by DahGhostfacedFiddlah ( 470393 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @08:10AM (#2999300)
    But just about *everything* important is learned during the first five years of life - after that, it's just a bunch of fleshing out. If you want your child to have an innate understanding of *anything*, it's best to start early. I think the basics of computers, math, spelling, and yes, "humanity" should all be taught in pre-school - even if it's only in rudimentary forms. That's what provides a base for everything else children will learn in their lives.
  • Creativity? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @08:38AM (#2999348)
    How can a child learn to code or do anything related to computing until he has gross & fine motor control skills. If the kid can't click on something that is smaller than 1/3 the size of the screen in 640x480 mode, or he can't spell "ABC", much less anything to code, how can you expect a child to gain advances because there is a computer in front of him.

    I teach computers to preschool through 8th grade, and until they are at least in the third grade, the best thing that a pc can do for a child is help reinforce the basics: letters, numbers, colors, fine motor control (mousing), reading and math.

    Unless they have the basics of education, they can't explore higher levels.

    -A teacher in the midwest

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:45AM (#2999812)
    People who place limits on their themselves become limited people. Rather than absolutely ruling out a given tool such as a computer, just moderate it and use it wisely. Dont worship it, as many educators have, nor demonize it.
  • by GTIChick ( 444849 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @10:49AM (#2999833)
    I work on a major children's website, and, according to focus groups, know that parents use it as a babysitter. It's a way to keep Junior occupied while dinner is cooking, the TV is on, or mummy or daddy "needs a break". Sure, we make the content educational, but we can only do so much without the interaction of the parents and children.

    Two of my close friends have had children in the last two years. One has chosen to spend time with the child, playing with him, and showing him non-computer activities. He's turning out to be a well-adjusted and bright child.

    The other child has more electronics than I have! For Christmas, she received her own computer keyboard and software, in hopes that she would become a genius through computing. My gift to her- a set of pots and pans and a teddy bear.
  • by ivrcti ( 535150 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @11:00AM (#2999893)
    As the father of 4 kids (ages 6-14) I hope I can speak with some experience rather than conjecture. It has been my experience that IF the computer is positioned as simply a TOOL to an end, it works fine in the educational process. A couple of positive examples: My 9 year old daughter loves the songs on the JumpStart series Spanish. Does she remember every vocabulary word, NO. But it has helped her gain a very accurate pronuciation through fun repetion. My 6 year old watched me and learned how to play Ages of Empires 2. I am confident it increased his ability to handle simultaneous complex problems. Now for the counterpoint: In our family the PC is NOT the primary focus. Each kid is involved in learning and enjoying music (all 4 enjoy our lcoal symphony). They understand that in order for your mind to work, you have to care for your body. Growing up in a large family (with lots of drop-in friends) they learn to work together. Recently my 14 year old expressed interest in programming. Once I made it clear that programming was about using logic and he was still interested, we began with VERY simple logic and graphic manipulation. He enjoys it, but still knows where it fits in life. So, my conclusion would be: keep it in perspective.
  • by think_hard ( 558583 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @11:21AM (#3000040)
    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!

  • by jmertic ( 544942 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @01:37PM (#3000971) Homepage Journal

    Here's a perspective from my personal experiences.

    I worked for a public school system that was loaded with computers ( about 4-5 per classroom plus labs of >20 machines ). Some teachers were dependant on it a teaching aid, other used them once in a while, while some ignored them entirely. Some teacher took a active part of using the computers ( as have the students do word processing or research ) while others used it as a reward ( which is where myself as a tech really hated to go ). In most cases, it seemed to me that the number of computers in a school were inversely perportional to the acedemic achivement of the students.

    It all comes down to how the computers are used; it shouldn't be more technology, but rather better use of technology. It is beyond me what is needed by a school that could be resolved by some lower-end machines with web browsers, word processing, and that's it. Most schools out there with any computers made in the last 5 years will handle that. And they don't need 5 per classroom either; maybe a lab for an entire classroom to work and then (maybe) a few machines on carts with projectors for any teacher presentations. Kids in elementary schools need basic skills and not how to render images in Photoshop or make Powerpoint presentations. Computers in the classroom are to much of a distraction and an easy way for lazy teachers to deal with unruly kids.

    Putting computers in classrooms is just advocating that our lives should revolve around the computer and the internet. That is definitly the wrong focus for schools.

  • by Eric Green ( 627 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:01PM (#3001145) Homepage
    Home schooling is regulated by the states, not by the federal government, and regulations vary wildly. In Louisiana, for example, all you need to do is send a piece of paper to your local school district saying you're home schooling your kids. In Texas, you must register a private school with the state and announce that you are using a regular curriculum, but private schools are unregulated in Texas -- you'll never have anybody come in to audit your curriculum. But some other states try to say you must be a certified teacher in order to home school, while others have the requirement you mention (for a BS/BA degree). In virtually all such states, however, home schooling groups have work-arounds. For example, sometimes home schooling groups will incorporate a "private school" (private schools are unregulated in many states), and if anybody questions why their kid is in school, will say that their kid is enrolled in said "private school".

    As to whether home schooling produces anti-social kids or whatever, I have no opinion. I've seen it used in a number of ways. For example, the Louisiana law is sometimes used by "parents" who wish to exploit their kids as slave labor in the family business (fishing, farming, or whatever), who have no intention of teaching their kids how to read and write because it would "just give them airs and they'll leave the farm". CPS can go after these people for neglect, but CPS is too overloaded dealing with kids in danger of being killed or severely injured to spend any time on neglect. On the other hand, I've met some home schooled kids who are as articulate, broadly educated, and sociable as anybody else. As with all kids, it mostly depends upon the parent, not the way they're schooled or by whom. A good parent will make sure that his kid gets good schooling -- whether at a traditional school, or via home schooling.

  • by t482 ( 193197 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2002 @02:26PM (#3001423) Homepage
    Take this one step further. Remove all tools in the classroom. We should be like the greek philosophers. Walking, talking and ... nothing more.
  • by timecop ( 16217 ) on Saturday February 16, 2002 @01:14AM (#3016854) Homepage
    Beacuse Java simply sucks!
    Now first thing they teach you is Java and ruin you as a potential programmer.

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