[unrev-II] Computers in school

From: Dick Karpinski (dick@cfcl.com)
Date: Sat Aug 04 2001 - 19:37:47 PDT

  • Next message: Jack Park: "[unrev-II] On evolvable software"

    Nicely said sir.

    The guy who started the Macintosh is still around and he sees more than
    mice and windows. In fact I heartily recommend reading his recent book,
    The Humane Interface by Jef Raskin. (I am, myself, quoted on page 18.)

    Then too, there is the guy who wrote Engines for Education. I'll have his
    name shortly. He runs the Institute for the Learning Sciences out of
    Northwestern University in Illinois. Roger Schank.

    One of his associates developed Sickle Cell Counsellor as a rich learning
    environment. It's on permanent exhibit at the SF Exploratorium and again,
    I highly recommend trying it out. The folks there were astonished by the
    length of time it captured folks. Instead of the usual one minute, more or
    less, it captures visitors for half an hour or more. I tried it out and
    now know a lot about the subject despite my experience being years old.

    Another school use of computers is as a *minor* tool. That is, the culture
    and the educational goals are far more relevant than the details of the
    supporting computer software. CSILE, the computer supported intentional
    learning environment, is one such tool. It lets students build a hyper-
    text (including drawings) of questions, answers, and other comments about
    whatever subject is under study.

    Naturally, that reminds me of IBIS and QuestMap which would add structure
    and order to a hyper-text such as CSILE encourages. QuestMap is another
    *minor* tool which is quite neutral to the content of the questions,
    answers, and pro and con arguments input to it. Nevertheless, by the
    structure it imposes, it makes obvious that a question can be reframed or
    posed alternatively; that another answer can be proposed; that a new
    argument can be added for or against any answer/idea.

    I guess my general claim is that computers should best be used in the
    classroom, not even as a tool, but rather as a medium. Like paper or
    film or audio tape. We don't go to the theatre to watch the projector,
    but rather what it projects and the sound it plays. Still, there are
    limitless opportunities for schooling to be improved, and students to be
    placed more centrally in the process, which involve computers in some way.


    Responding to:
    > From: "Vassili Bykov" <vassili@parcplace.com>
    > To: <squeak-dev@lists.squeakfoundation.org>
    > Subject: Re: non-programmer intro (topic drift)
    > Date: Sat, 4 Aug 2001 17:05:01 -0700
    > From: Roger Kenyon <edutec@idirect.com>
    > > Over 20 years ago, R. P. Taylor identified 3 basic ways of using
    > > computers in schools. I think they are still valid:
    > >
    > > 1. As tutor, such as drill and practice, remedial exercises, training
    > > simulations.
    > >
    > > 2. As tool, such as word processors, spreadsheets, multimedia
    > > encyclopedia CD ROM, HTML editors.
    > >
    > > 3. As tutee, such as macros, scripting, domain-specific programming and
    > > any other development environments that enable the student to teach the
    > > computer how to perform some task.
    > I think all of these are only true if you view a computer as a cross of a
    > microfiche reader with a calculator, designed to "aid" the learning process.
    > This was probably OK 20 years ago. It is probably still OK now, since
    > nothing has changed in computers in 20 years.
    > I am questioning what "using in schools" really means and achieves. Is
    > "using" as in spending money and having kids do (1), (2) and (3) something
    > that is a goal in itself? Perhaps it could be achieved by doing the right
    > thing, training teachers, giving them "edutainment" software of all kinds,
    > evironments with robots and whatnot. But, what is the ultimate goal: the
    > process or the result? Will following the three nicely categorized ways
    > really make the student realize the creativity she has, learn about the
    > world around her, and express herself in that world? What is the untimate
    > goal -- building a more efficient pipeline to download preprocessed
    > knowledge into students' minds, or creating an environment where students
    > learn to *use* those minds? I am afraid the three ways above concentrate of
    > the former much more than on the latter. Here are my specific qualms about
    > them.
    > 1 - Computer as a tutor. Everybody thinks different. Helping a person
    > learn to use the cognitive and creative potentials that they have is about
    > nurturing, not about stuffing them with correct concepts in the correct
    > order. Computer in the role of a tutor -- in the sense of something giving
    > instructions and controlling progress -- has as much appeal and chance of
    > success with people as voice mail in the role of customer support. You can
    > lead a horse to the water, but you can't make him drink.
    > 2 - Computer as a tool. This is too narrow-minded. Computer is a tool only
    > because most people have too little imagination to think of it as anything
    > else. After all, the whole history of technical progress was about building
    > better tools. People rarely see what they are not used to seeing. Apple
    > engineers of the 80-ies didn't see anything in Smalltalk except a mouse and
    > windows, and OO technologists of the 90-ies didn't see in it anything but
    > techniques for assembling the innards of their black box "applications" in a
    > slightly more convenient manner then before.
    > 3 - Computer as a tutee. What percentage of "normal" people out there enjoy
    > teaching computers how to perform tasks? We may think it is fun and
    > important because it is so in our little geeky world. What if I am an
    > 8-year old who wants to sculpt, or compose, or make a cartoon, or build a
    > rocket to fly to the moon? Will I be told to stop that and "do what's
    > important" instead? Computer can be an environment where everything is
    > possible -- unconstrained by physics, time, money and common sense. Using
    > it should not be about "using a computer", rather about doing what you want
    > to do. We certainly are not even close to that. Not when the majority of
    > people who are comfortable using computers are programmers, and the majority
    > of those think a powerful environment is when you have a source-level
    > debugger.
    > Sorry if this sounds loony or somewhat offensive to any of the previous
    > posters. This was certainly not intended. This is just what got
    > accumulated while looking at the kind of problems the average CS/IT crowd
    > out there is concerned about.
    > Cheers,
    > --Vassili
    > --
    > Vassili Bykov [|] <vassili@parcplace.com>
    > VisualWorks Engineering

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