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Computer education parallelisms

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!)


Classroom Computer News vol. 1 no. 1, sep-oct 1980 (3622 KB)


agb67 2010-02-19 13:11:58

Thanks for ideas

I have a 9 years old daughter, and her school program in computer education is just a computer training program for microsoft office software (italian public school). So, my taxes are used to teach my daughter using proprietary software, while I want teach her to use a machine in wich some free software runs. Thanks for your article, it gives me some arguments to explain teachers about the difference existing between teaching and training.

toxickore 2010-02-19 06:52:36


Que casualidad. Precisamente ayer me puse a ponerme a rememorar mis primeros contactos con el cómputo y también me tocó usar LOGO allá por 1987-88, hace unos 22 años atrás. Y también atari-basic para el atari XE, que contenía un libro con programas para introducir en la consola. Ciertamente han cambiado mucho las cosas. Que tiempos aquellos.

vicm3 2010-02-20 07:54:01

I disagree

Yes I think that training on how to use MS Office it’s not ideal, as computer learning, it’s as pointed training on use of a tool, until version 2007, most of office suites where almost the same also with a good teacher one learns how to use the program to get results and solve problems, the other way around exists, that only learns one way to resolve things with only one tool worse if it’s proprietary. But on my experience, I learned basic with sigma in 1985 before that Logo on Rosenbleuth foundation, in fact my worst problem was that I at the time know more of logo than my teacher. At high school they tried to teach me Pascal, but had the worst teacher I can remember only know how to use recipes and no how to create a project from zero.

So now I think that teaching office it’s a half mistake (same with the use of Internet and search engines that some one had pointed out as no useful) I wish on the primary education they learned scratch (logo as beautiful as is don’t think anymore will catch with today’s boys) however I have found that what is teach at schools this days goes from using Pipo (Spaniard proprietary software ranging from ‘where is wally’ to ‘search numbers’, math, language, etc) to some other niche applications to paint, draw and do simple math. I know from SOMECE and the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias exists programs to teach robotics and how to program but not the general public had reach to those programs…

Finally yes I know the current state of computer instruction state on elementary school it’s not what could be and I think if the parents won’t get involved the things are going to keep this way… but also as with other topics the important things are learned home. As you pointed out you had the chance and space to use Tex and Emacs (well that last I don’t know if was an advantage) from your father, I’m in the same way I preparing myself on scratch and other things I believe will help my family to get better results…

In any case I have found that the people that wants to really do things it’s autodidact and only needs a little push to do really good things.

As an anecdote in all my adult age I don’t have write one original program, from scratch, yes I have fixed a lot, reworked more than I can remember and so on… none of my teachers could teach me how to really program… and thats sad.