Last week I started work towards my second Masters degree, this time in Education at University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). I am not surprised, though I’m still dismayed, at how little representation there is of math and science curricula in the student population, and even more so at the general lack of competency in basic information system skills amongst today’s teachers.
But, then again, perhaps my happiness about my own ability to stay abreast of information is all for nought. If I’m to believe this report, reading email can lower your IQ worse than smoking cannabis regularly.
The Register’s article also linked to another article, this one focused on how computers are lowering the intelligence level of our children, primarily because they can be so gosh darn fun and distracting. The article makes a point I’ve been making for years and years now:
“The pervasive use of advanced technologies and their low cost have reduced hands-on experiences for children, including the simple but overwhelmingly rewarding experience of taking things apart and putting them back together. Without this, technology becomes a mystery, leading to a perspective that might well be called ‘magic consciousness’,” observe the Alliance for Childhood authors.
We have been able to produce simple enough computing systems that can be disassembled and understood by children since the 1970s; we have easily been at the point of making these affordable to all but the poorest of social strata since the 1990s. And, yet, all we can do as business owners is keep pushing the absolute latest and greatest technologies, completely unqualified, into schools at exorbitant cost – only to have those very same machines resold back to the public years later, for a fraction of the original value. The complaint? The machines turned out to be a major waste of effort, because no one knew exactly how to use them.
At the middle school where I volunteered recently, every classroom had an original iMac (in the fruity colours), and yet they mostly went unused – and I know the Toronto District School Board worked hard to try and make good software available on each of them. Heck, I could make use of an Apple ][+ in every classroom to enrich, but perhaps it’s unfair – I could program them to do what I want. Macs with System 8.5 or 9 can do incredible things; my high school made a point of teaching everyone HyperCard, and instructing folks in doing various presentations with this technology. Logo was another popular computing attempt, one that seems to have lost a lot of momentum after the TI-99/4A dropped off the market (it had a fantastic Logo + sprites implementation).
I’m gonna stop here before I get too frustrated to be coherent.