[IAEP] food for thought - learning with computers?
donna at cc.com.au
Fri Dec 4 04:00:59 EST 2009
This was posted to the Linux Users of Victoria mailing list today.
I've anonymised the post... but thought it might be food for thought in
the twilight of 2009.
I am 34. I went through a terrible period in computer
education. The first computer that I saw was in 1987 [from memory an Apple
2e at school] in year 7. I left school in 1992 knowing absolutely nothing
about computers - nada, zippo, zilch. I didn't know where the on button was.
I couldn't insert a disk [which was a floppy back then]. Yet I had been at a
school for 6 years with stacks of computers that were, for that time, good
computers - mainly IBM clones since apples were only in the year 7 section
for some reason. I had tried to learn. But in the final analysis school
utterly failed my technological needs. The reasons for this were complex.
There were qualified computer teachers. But in the main they were not used.
Rather, incidental teaching of computers was the norm such as an English
teacher teaching word processing, or, to be more accurate failing to teach
anything. I remember my English teacher saying to us on year 12 "you are all
using computers as glorified typewriters" meaning that nobody was
cut/pasting. In truth nobody had learnt how to cut or paste. There were
issues of room layout/architecture such as the computers being at the sides
of the room, not leaving room to use a mouse. So I never saw a mouse in my
entire school life.
Yet the worst aspect of it all - the worst of all possible worlds - was that
it was assumed that I was learning about computers when I wasn't learning a
thing. For instance there was that dreadful Australian Studies unit that was
compulsory and the teacher said "I want to everyone to print out their final
assignment on a computer". I had no clue. So I got a mate to do it for me.
Thus I learnt nothing. It is cute how outcomes in computer illiteracy are
very analogous to issues in alphabetical illiteracy. Then I failed a year 12
maths unit called Reasoning and Data. It was assumed that I knew how to use
a spreadsheet and use minitab. I didn't have a clue how to type on the
keyboard. And as usual I got no help from the teacher. For practical ends he
was no teacher; he was as bad as an administrator.
I would have been better off with maths and computers had I been in year 12
in 1980. At least then issues were clearcut. People didn't assume that you
knew how to use a computer. You were not assumed to have a PC at home [I
didn't.] And in maths A/B I would have had Pascal in the back of the
textbook. Maths A/B was ahead of its time. The idea of combining
maths/computing at year 12 was not new despite the pseudo-revolutionaries
of the VCE trying to tell you that it was. IMO Reasoning and Data was a
major step backwards.
I have the deepest jealously of people who learn computers at school now. It
was an utter failure for me.
Donna Benjamin - Executive Director
Creative Contingencies - http://cc.com.au
ph +61 3 9326 9985 - mob +61 418 310 414
open source - facilitation - web services
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