It’s Elementary My Dear Watson… School That Is

Pardon the horrible pun, if you please, but there is a reason.

When I was but a lad, our computer class consisted entirely of the LOGO program. Grades 2-4 involved us doing naught but sending our adorable turtle avatar on increasingly complex geometric adventures.

Bentley the Turtle

Eh, close enough.

Of course, I learned more about shapes than programs, but it was a start. Kinda.

Actually, no it wasn’t. The creators of LOGO had intended for it to be a tool in which children could be free ranged with guidance and supervision. Instead, my teachers turned into a drill that would instill the knowledge of basic geometry in my skull.

And this never got better. In middle school and junior high, we got Mavis Beacon and little else. If you don’t know already, Mavis Beacon is a program used to teach the skill of typing.

typing-of-the-dead

An effective, if unorthodox, teaching program. But, unfortunately, not Mavis Beacon.

This was no doubt useful- it increased the number of words per minute a student could type and showed us the “correct” position for our fingers on a keyboard ( which I never learned, choosing instead to use my own heavily modified version).

Even in high school, we mostly used programs within the computer, never really getting into the gooey nougat. We learned how to use excel, photoshop, word, and more, but it was a tightly regimented program.

Instead of becoming a mighty tool for individual growth and advancement, the computer has become another shackle tethering education to ages past. Whereas visionaries had forseen a world in which students could use the machine to learn on their own, at their own pace, and what they wanted, the education system saw a more efficient version of drill instruction.

And even then it has failed. Computers have spread to many, many households and most teenagers are intimate with them these days. Heck, most preteens can find their way around a computer better than their instructor.

So is it really any surprise that students spend most of their time trying to get around the firewall instead of actually doing the class work?

But there are alternatives, though rarely seen or implemented. This blog is one of them.

Because my instructor is insane brilliant, I write these blog posts for my class.

I am given certain criteria I am expected to uphold, but they’re just guidelines; my leash is rather long and I revel in it, chasing mailmen and harassing the neighbor’s cat. In this medium, I am allowed to unleash my creativity, something greatly hampered in more structured environments.

Nedroid 5

Pictured here: Pure, distilled creativity. More at http://nedroid.com/

So, if we wish to make computers a useful part of education, we need to allow students to use them more freely. As is, only a fraction of their potential is utilized. Instead of making it a chore, let’s make it fun. Watch as kids use the computer skills indoctrinated from a young, and getting younger, age, to not only learn but to enjoy it.

Come on guys, let’s get those creative juices flowing!

brain-in-jar

Another type of creative juice.

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Published in: on November 3, 2009 at 1:30 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Another thoughtful and tremendously entertaining post. It’s a real gift to be able to be both at once. I especially liked the part about the long leash and the mailmen–reminds me of Bryan Alexander over at Infocult.

  2. Great blog maddok. I enjoyed every bit of it, from the tail to the tusks of that grand ol’ prancing walrus (yet another form of that creativity you mentioned). I wish I had had the teaching (I use that term lightly by the way) you did in the skills of programs such as Photoshop and Excel because I had to explore those mostly on my own (especially Photoshop), but can say that my experience of learning on my own was perhaps more rewarding in the end.


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