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Computer education parallelisms

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/18/2010 - 20:09

I opened Slashdot's «Looking back from the 1980s at computers in education» article because I am quite convinced of the point some of the commenters argued before me, (and it's good to know others think as you do ;-) ) — When I got close to computers, learning computing for children basically meant learning programming in a fun way.

For years, my hobbies included Logo and BASIC. At age 7 (by 1983), typing TeX and using Emacs at the computer of the institute where my father worked, I started walking the path I took for my professional life. When I taught computing to high school students as my first paid job (which didn't last long, only a semester, as for an untrained 20 year old it is very hard to control a group of kids nearly his age), I tried to teach some basic BASIC programming (which was the best I knew then)... But no, both students and the school wanted me to focus on teaching MS Office applications. It seemed stupid for me 14 years ago, and it still seems stupid for me today.

Anyway, on Slashdot, I came across this beautiful way to explain what computer education should mean:

"computing is no longer taught in schools (parents look quizzical), they are simply 'trained' (parents look like they vaguely get it). if this was sex instead of computing that was taught in schools, would you prefer that your kids have sex _education_ or sex _training_? (parents finally get it)".

By the way, if you are interested in reading a bit of paleofuturism, to feel the joy and excitement with which computer-aided education was seen 30 years ago, be sure to get the Classroom Computer News issue for September-October 1980, linked from the Slashdot article (and copied over here for your convenience, of course!)

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My inner Neo-Zealanders' fallacies

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 09/12/2009 - 07:59


I just woke up. I was having a funny and surprisingly not-abnormal dream. You know, the few occasions where I remember my dreams, I practically always find a really impossible situation going on. Not this time, and that was the first thing that struck my mind.

The dream was staged on a very nice bar, something not very different from the bar on the park by DebConf (in fact, with nice, Spanish-evening-esque light conditions). I was having there some beers with Andrew (NZ), Penny (NZ), Steve (UK), Damog (MX). We were just ordering a nice round of beers; I paid for mine with the €0.50 coin I found yesterday in my kitchen (hey, that's cheap beer! ;-) ). And the conversation was, in fact, quite logical and interesting.

We were comparing the worldviews with which children across our cultures are educated at school. Andrew was sharing how children in New Zealand were taught about the human migrations that led to the population distribution until the 1500s, when Europeans started changing the face of the Earth. Most of the argument was the same one we all know — Early humans leave Africa, their traits specialized for the different weathers, what is widely regarded as the three main racial branches (European white, African black, Eastern yellow - My inner Neo Zealander does not care too much about political correctness, it seems), with Amerindian brown and South-seas black branching off at some point in the process. So far, so good… Debatable but good.

Andrew and Penny continued explaining that the apparent reason, according to New Zealander anthropologists, why the indigenous population in America accepted the culture imposed after the European conquests in the XVI-XVII (contrary to the almost complete annihilation of the Pacific/Indic ocean native cultures) centuries is because the group that crossed Bering ≈50,000BC, and some later groups with whom they inter-mixed came from a semi-developed proto-Christian society, so the new ideas were closer to their own beliefs. Damog, Steve and me gust nodded with interest.

Less than 30 minutes later, awake and after my morning coffee, I'll have to ask you: WTF‽ A proto-Christian society... ≈48,000 years before Christian era? No, no way your argument holds any water!

(on a side note: At least I know that if at some point I develop a multiple personalities disorder, and they are allowed in the same room at once, I will have a good time debating with myself about interesting topics)

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