Reading for 3/11/08, et cetera

March 10th, 2008

Now that my internet seems to be working, I can post my blog:

Today’s reading once again brought in the question of education and computers. Papert argues that, essentially, with the use of computers, children will become active, rather than passive learners. Of course, they have to be the ones programming, because otherwise, teachers are just using computers as essentially another form of formulaic worksheet or exercise. (Does anyone remember “Green Globs” from high school or middle school? That was essentially a graphing equations worksheet, but with, er . . . green globs.)

My feelings toward what could be called such self-guided education are still mixed, because while I feel that the freedom of being able to develop and program and improve your own knowledge through education is very important, I also understand the difficulty that the education system has in giving children too much freedom in dealing with their own education. The system wants to make sure that kids know what they think kids should know, and therein, perhaps, lies the difficulty. (It could be argued that Papert’s propositions raise many of the same questions as the movie Accepted, albeit without Lewis Black.) How do you give kids freedom and still make sure that they learn enough and learn the right things? What’s more important, learning to be a free, independent problem-solver or learning all the Presidents of the United States? (Although, for the latter, Jonathan Coulton has written a very handy song that you can hear here that far surpasses any of the worksheets I did in school.)

I was intrigued when Papert wrote that the subjects in the LOGO computer were “embedded in a way that permits the player to learn them in a natural fashion, analogous to how a child learns to speak.” This phrase struck me because it seems to imply that more difficult subjects can be easily mastered if taught in said “natural fashion.” Does this mean that the reason so many young people (using that phrase makes me feel so old) struggle academically is simply that the subjects are taught in an unnatural fashion? Papert’s LOGO, then, seems sort of ironic, because it suggests that a computer is the more natural approach.

And now, to suddenly revert to something we read some weeks ago, I was thinking about Computer Lib/Dream Machines again. More specifically, I was thinking about the high level of hand-lettered, hand-doodled content that was integral to the work. I assume that the intention was to give it a more hand-crafted, informal, whimsical appearance, but if that’s the case, it leads to the conclusion that the analog/hand-created is more approachable and friendly than the digital/computer-created, which seems counter-productive to the basic intent.

EDIT: Erm, my blog posts all seem to be showing up on this class’s mainpage.  Which doesn’t seem right.


One Response to “Reading for 3/11/08, et cetera”

  1. » Reading for 3/11/08, et cetera Rock/Soul/Prog, Spring 2008 on March 10, 2008 11:29 pm

    […] Original post by Alyssa Johnson […]

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