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A Computer In Every Classroom

By Tobywankenobe in Op-Ed
Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 03:46:49 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Schools are spending a fortune on technology in the hopes of gaining relevance with Generation I.

Bad news--they've already lost.

Back in the heady days of the dot-com era, there was a feeling that a computer in every classroom, wired to the Internet of course, could produce the miracles in education that the Internet was creating in business. The former gave us Net Day, and the latter gave us Pets.com. Both missed their mark.

The holy grail of education these days is the buzz-phrase, "integrating technology into the classroom." Translation--a teacher showing a PowerPoint on a TV. I'm often asked by my fellow teachers, "what's your beef with PowerPoint"? I think this site, pretty much sums it up. If you doubt me, ask yourself if you can remember any ppt you've ever had to sit through.

So what has wiring every classroom in the nation brought us? For the most part, it has done wonders to the bottom line of L.L.Bean and Amazon (I check the logs on our firewall pretty regularly) but has done virtually nothing to make teachers more effective. In fact, it's made some horribly inefficient, as they spend countless hours pouring over their email, shopping, and playing solitaire. I've been in education a very long time and spent the last ten years of it wiring classrooms, configuring servers and workstations, and spending the flood of money schools pour down the technology hole. In my defense, the money they spend on technology is nothing compared to the money they spend on athletics, but it's still very disheartening. I've begun contemplating joining the Prozac generation in response.

In their defense, teachers have one of the worst jobs on the planet. We have to take your children, many of which that have been abandoned long ago both emotionally and intellectually, and somehow turn them into responsible, reflective adults that can read, write, and are competent in mathematics. Ok, so if we have this absolutely impossible job, and we had to get a college degree to even be eligible for it, why is it the student parking lot has much nicer cars in it than the teachers' lot? Ever have a 12 year-old tell you "go f*** yourself"? It happens to teachers pretty regularly. So I can cut them some slack if they want to find a nice pair of shoes after a particularly bad day--I just really wish there was something truly better for them to do with the expensive box sitting on their desks.

Wiring classrooms for students is another matter entirely. Besides my tech duties, I also teach Cisco, Oracle, and Java, and I am proud that I am able to provide my students with these opportunities. Other classes do amazing things as well. But the vast majority of computer time for most students is spent mindlessly going though module after module of vapid, mind-numbing material schools have paid a great deal of money for. Not to worry; most of the money for this junk comes from federal programs or state programs financed through federal grants, so your local taxes are going toward the more important things like stadium upkeep.

Lately, I've spent a lot of my time visiting other schools and helping them "integrate technology." I'm absolutely shocked by the sheer amount of stuff other schools have, yet comforted by the fact that so little of it works. It makes me feel a little better when I go back to my own school. We may not have everything the big dogs do, but at least our stuff works. For some reason, it's much easier for schools to find the funding to buy things than it is to support them. It's crazy.

So what's to be done? Not a clue. A nearby school just got a grant to give every one of their students a laptop. Sweet! That'll help them with Geometry. Exactly who are the idiots that come up with this crap? To make it worse, all the laptops are Macs--not that there's anything wrong with that (shameless Seinfeld ripoff). Prozac doesn't make you fat or impotent or anything does it?


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A Computer In Every Classroom | 230 comments (203 topical, 27 editorial, 1 hidden)
Question (3.00 / 5) (#4)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sun Sep 26, 2004 at 10:29:33 PM EST

What about things like streaming video? What about using technology not as an end, but as an enabler for learning? Maybe you're right that schools don't get it right now, but you can't deny that streaming a video from a massive library is better than wheeling the old cart out from the AV room. What about homework that students can download, and lecture slides they can view at home? It's hard for me to process information that I hear, that's just how my brain works. Lecture slides and notes have helped me big-time in college, but in high school my teachers didn't have any motivation to use this technology. They just got angry because I "spaced out" all the time.

Also, don't you think elementary education still needs to branch out from the 3 R's? All the kids know how to send instant messages, but computer science has fallen out of favor in high schools. Have we given up on preparing kids for specialized degrees? I'm afraid the computer as a "revolutionary tool for learning" has interfered with education in technology fields such as CompSci and engineering.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

Personally (2.50 / 4) (#16)
by Verbophobe on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 12:36:10 AM EST

I've always found any sort of learning process in which the teacher isn't in front with a chalk in his hand and writing shit on the board to be totally pointless.  So that includes any sort of A/V, streaming video, transparencies or whatever.  

Both teaching and learning are extremely active processes, so all parties need to be alert and involved.  Passive tools, such as TVs or boring teachers, contribute little to your overall education.

As for CompSci, it's fallen out of favour mostly because the policy makers at the higher levels of government are mostly flaky liberal art-types whose idea of computer science is learning how to save a document in Word.  And even then, they don't really need to learn that since, as you pointed out, they know it already.

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]

Transparencies can be useful (3.00 / 3) (#57)
by fishling on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 02:04:14 PM EST

Both my parents were teachers and I took classes from each of them.

My father taught physics, chemistry, and calculus using transparencies instead of a chalkboard; they were almost all handwritten and developed over many years (he had neat handwriting).  He would uncover more of the transparency as he talked.  Each point was a complete sentence as opposed to a useless powerpoint-style summary.  Additionally, he wouldn't just read the lines out; he used them as a basis of what he was talking about.  He would transition to a blank transparency for examples or to answer questions.  The chalkboard was only really used to record the current homework assignments for various classes.

I found this to be an effective teaching technique as an improvement over the chalkboard.  For one, he didn't have to write things down himself and could concentrate on the lecture (and was facing the class as well).  Also, you never had the "things were erased so quickly that I couldn't copy them down" problem.  Also, he did NOT give out photocopies of his transparencies to the class, which is a good thing IMO...it is too easy to assume that all of the content in the lecture is in the notes and zone out if you aren't forced to write things down.  Also, I personally have better recall for things that I've written down and understood, even if I never refer to my notes.

I agree that a lot of the A/V and video resources are not as useful as most people seem to think.  History/Social studies are the only high school classes I recall having really useful videos and documentaries.  But, I think that many students just fell asleep during those.

In case anyone was wondering, my mother was a Home Economics teacher - cooking and sewing mainly, but she also made up some fashion and beautification courses and took over some junior high math and social studies as well.  Cooking and sewing requires a lot more hands-on and follow-my-example teaching, but also had some chalkboard time and worksheets.  She had one of those angled mirrors on a prep table like on some cooking shows, so you could see down on what she was doing.  I also helped her to record some "cooking show" style videos for various units, which saved her on time and ingredient cost when teaching, but as this was after I had already taken her class in grade 8, I never actually experienced those resources in a classroom setting.

[ Parent ]

Innovation not possible in public school (none / 1) (#18)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 12:52:50 AM EST

Somebody might realize that every town with more than 2,000 persons doesn't need a school district with a $10,000,000+ annual budget.

[ Parent ]
Answer (3.00 / 2) (#31)
by bob6 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 09:14:15 AM EST

  1. Building a school over these principles wouldn't be that hard, but schooling every single child in a country is a problem (see duffbeer's comment).
  2. Content is half of the aspect of schooling; the most important thing children learn at school is to live along with people (other than parents). Honestly I don't think streaming video will be of any help with this regard.

[ Parent ]
socialization!..... (3.00 / 3) (#44)
by eudas on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 11:32:20 AM EST

i really, really disagree that the "most important thing children learn in school" is socialization. You don't have to go to school for socialization. You can get socialization at fucking McDonald's, on the playground, in the park, next door at Bobby's house. You go to school to learn actual material.

Socialization, indeed. Grr.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#97)
by kurtmweber on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 08:42:49 PM EST

John Dewey was an utter moron, and possibly the single most vile subhuman in history.

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
[ Parent ]
Actual material... (none / 1) (#113)
by bob6 on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 04:25:28 AM EST

Like how to speak English (or any language) properly? Or to sing the national anthem? Or world history? All this hard material serve one purpose: maintain and build the society. And learning in the same classroom than twenty other pupils, sit and quiet (if possible) is part of the education as it is. Imho the loss of this aspect of education is the only consequence of the use of streaming video.

Besides I could even admit we could build a descent education system with higher technology, but only for a few of us. I refuse that.

[ Parent ]
Descent Education System (none / 1) (#115)
by Ranieri on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 05:53:57 AM EST

Besides I could even admit we could build a descent education system with higher technology, but only for a few of us. I refuse that.

During my last year of highschool, the computer room indeed became a centre of Descent education. I never partook though, the 6-DOF system made me very dizzy.
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

Yes, and no. (none / 1) (#164)
by parliboy on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 01:01:01 AM EST

In later years, the purpose of school is less about socialization (although plenty of it still goes on).  In your formative years, though, the purpose is supposed to provide the foundations children need for later socialization and learning.

You don't learn socialization at Bobby's; interacting with one person doesn't prepare you for that.  The McDonald's playground can, to some extent; but unless you're prepared to let your kid play in the balls seven hours per day, that's not enough.

Speaking personally, I skipped kindergaten.  Intellectually, it had zero to offer me.  I was already functioning in reading, writing, and mathematics at a level beyond anything kindergarten could offer me.  There was no gifted program, and no option to advance me early.  So instead, after a month, I was pulled out in placed in a private school, where I started as a 1st grader.

I excelled in academia up until everyone was popping into puberty.  By that time the socialization became that much more important to affecting my mental well-being, and therefore my performance.

In the long term, not developing those formative skills probably set me further back in life than the year I gained by graduating early.

Eat at the Dissonance Diner.
[ Parent ]

My son had a similar experience. (none / 0) (#225)
by GuillaumeLeblanc on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 04:57:26 PM EST

Interesting. My son did the opposite, however. He repeated kindergarten, even though he was academically ready for 1st grade, he was not socially ready for it. It has been a great decision for him, as he is doing very well both academically and socially with his friends.
Codex gratia Codici.
[ Parent ]
Bullshit (2.42 / 7) (#63)
by sllort on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 03:20:16 PM EST

You can buy a VCR and a TV for $1000. You can buy a streaming file server and a computer for 30 students for $30,000. Net difference in end result: zero. Net difference in teachers: $29,000. So we have shitty, underpaid teachers. SHOCKER.

Computers should never be used as an enabling technology. They should either be the subject, or they shouldn't be in the school. Not until you've paid for good teachers and small class sizes. If you have money left over, GREAT. Otherwise fuck off.

Is teaching a middle schooler today how to use Microsoft Word 9.0 going to help them use Microsoft Word 60.0 when they go to college? Should the education business even be in the position of reinforcing consumerism in the computer business? More importantly can't kids just use 5-year old computers that businesses don't want and can donate as a tax writeoff? "Oh God, Jimmy had to use WORDPERFECT to type his report, fuck, he's stuck in a technology gap and he's going to fail and die!!!"

No, kids go to school to learn how to learn. Learning to use a Mac well can teach you to use a PC. Learning Logo on a commodore teaches you more about how a computer works than Microsoft Word 100.0, and it's FREE.

It's better to have 15 kids learning from a $60,000/yr teacher how to program Logo on a bunch of donated Commodore-64's than it is to have 60 kids "learning" from a $30,000/yr teacher in a $500,000 classroom how to insert a carriage return between two accidentally-merged Microsoft Word tables (hint: YOU CAN'T DO IT).


Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#67)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 03:52:23 PM EST

When did I say file server? When did I say PC for every student? There are services you can subscribe to, which give schools access to large libraries of streaming video over the Internet. A networked PC hooked up to a TV is all you need.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Still pricier than a VCR (none / 0) (#70)
by sllort on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 04:08:01 PM EST

Might be useful for a college, but most of the stuff you need to teach middle schoolers isn't current events, i.e. it already happened and is available at your local library.

I'd still they rather spent the money on smaller class sizes. But I thought you were referring to those god damned "computer enabled learning classrooms".
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

On a side note (none / 0) (#188)
by joecool12321 on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 05:09:20 AM EST

The above is a wonderful argument for homeschooling.

[ Parent ]
Typical political solution (2.60 / 5) (#5)
by rodoke3 on Sun Sep 26, 2004 at 10:31:11 PM EST

To create the semblance of addressing a "problem" by forcing everyone in the trenches to drop everything for some administrator's pet project thus placating the public and earning them some brownie points in the "organizational ladder". Which is what happens every time the educational system is asked "What the hell are you good for"? After all, what sounds more impressive to the uninitiated, a principal who "got every student a free laptop" or one who kept twenty people from becoming juvenile delinquents? A math teacher that gets his class to understand simple 2-D cartesian graphs or one who makes them draw all their graphs in MATLAB?

Excepting the odd teacher that moonlights in a profession that uses technology, most every other doesn't know how to "integrate" technology into their curricula, or they don't feel the need; many teachers don't even know how to use the technology themselves. You are different in that you know what technology is good for.

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

educational software sucks (2.75 / 4) (#7)
by Delirium on Sun Sep 26, 2004 at 11:08:21 PM EST

I remember in elementary school using computers, and they weren't bad. Some of that Apple ][ software was both entertaining and educational, oddly enough. But it seems to have gone rapidly downhill, from what I can tell: compared to its heydey in the Apple ][ era, the "edutainment" software industry is both much smaller and much crappier.

don't get overly romantic (2.33 / 3) (#54)
by mikpos on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 01:33:42 PM EST

You and I both know the Apple ][ was an Oregon Trail box and not much more than that. Admittedly at my school we did learn some simple BASIC (I shudder to think how many people have been harmed by exposure to line numbers), which was kind of cool. I think there was simple adding/subtracting "game" too which was mildly fun.

[ Parent ]
well (none / 1) (#58)
by Delirium on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 02:04:28 PM EST

We also did LogoWriter, which wasn't bad. And just the general availability of software seemed better: there were entire catalogs they used to hand out at school with educational software you could order (I forget the name of the company that organized the catalogs). And it was decent software for the most part. These days most "edutainment" is just crap.

[ Parent ]
Yes it does, but why? (none / 0) (#84)
by Tobywankenobe on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 07:12:29 PM EST

One of the things I had to do was tear out our Apple ][ lab to make way for a new Win98 lab (wasn't that long ago really). The teachers were excited about the new equipment, but they soon started asking if they could have this or that program back. Before you know it, I had quite the list of programs they really liked but no way to get them.

I'm not being nostalgic here or anything, but some of that stuff we didn't really appreciate until it was gone. When your code has to be small, I guess you tend to focus on what's really important. Sure the graphics were lame and the sounds crummy, but the play/learning was good, and that's what's important. Eye candy will never replace that. And man, those old Apples just kept on running.

[ Parent ]

No way to get them? (none / 0) (#140)
by Polverone on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 01:50:58 PM EST

Any machine able to run Windows98 is able to more-than-adequately emulate a 6502 based micro. Unless you were using programs that required special attached hardware, you should've been able to use everything under an emulator.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
Australian experience (3.00 / 3) (#85)
by Chewy2k on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 07:13:29 PM EST

Growing up in Australia during the late 80s/early 90s, Acorn computers were a major part of my education, as they were for most Australian (and British, I belive) children at the time.

The computers were incredibly rugged, with a foolproof, very simple OS and adequate utils for word processing and so on (Long live PenDown!).

In addition it boasted a wide range of educational software/games that didn't suck and actually had some merit to them, and the computers certainly wasn't seen as the be-all and end-all of education.

Contrast that to today (my Mum is a teacher, Dad's a principal) where politicians throw dozens of new x86 computers running win2k or XP on a fairly advanced network (requiring an army of admins) at teachers. Without exception they are used for very basic wordprocessing (ie, nothing that the Acorn A5000 couldn't have handled) and browsing the Pokemon website.

[ Parent ]

OREGON TRAIL! (none / 0) (#179)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 10:17:16 PM EST

Oregon Trail ROCKED, it ROCKED!!

But seriously. Think of how cheap all that hardware would be these days. You could probably load an entire school with Apple II's now (if you could dig them out of a landfill) for, like, 20 bucks. The games on them are no less educational now.

My favorite: Robot Oddysey. That game was an entire Computer Science degree all rolled into two 140k disks.

[ Parent ]

We could... (2.50 / 10) (#8)
by The Amazing Idiot on Sun Sep 26, 2004 at 11:31:40 PM EST

Say the same for a bit of different devices..

I know the worst invention for math classes was the calculator. Many kids can barely do math without one, and less can do any sort of intermediate college math with one.

I personally have seen people who cant even determine the area of a rectangular room with a fixed counter in the center. Many places like Lowes or other hardware stores can attest to that.

If anything, computers in each classroom is a horrible idea. Keep learning focused on learning, not some space-eater with glowing buttons to click and play games.

It also seems that many schools think the internet replaces many books including encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other "researchable" non-fiction stuff. And the worst is teachers who require many internet sources. Some just think that the internet is the end-all-be-all. My sisters' 6'th grade teacher is exactly that. She barely knows how to read encyclopaedias (including refference book and such).

As a note, unless you're correcting mistakes, USE TOPICAL. I'd rather not have good posts be eaten by K5 because somebody chose Editorial instead of topical.

An interesting side-effect to calculators (3.00 / 5) (#11)
by rodoke3 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 12:24:01 AM EST

is having to go to school around a class of children who were raised that way.  At my school's Engineering college, they've even become a sort of status symbol: the better the Texas Instruments (anything else is unthinkable) graphing calculator you own, the smarter you must be.  This isn't to say you have to know how to use it, as is evidenced by the (depressingly growing) number of freshmen coming in with $200 calculators who wouldn't even be able to tell you how the memory functions work.

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

[ Parent ]
Side effect is a calculator-pissing contest... (2.50 / 2) (#13)
by The Amazing Idiot on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 12:30:43 AM EST

---is having to go to school around a class of children who were raised that way.  At my school's Engineering college, they've even become a sort of status symbol: the better the Texas Instruments (anything else is unthinkable) graphing calculator you own, the smarter you must be.

It was the same for me in the AP Calculus class in high school. You "must" have a ti-83. AT that time, ti-86 was 5$ more, and a lot more memory (3* as much). I, of course, was the oddball out. Didnt matter much, as I did a lot of programming and needed space.

---This isn't to say you have to know how to use it, as is evidenced by the (depressingly growing) number of freshmen coming in with $200 calculators who wouldn't even be able to tell you how the memory functions work.

Heh, too true. Of course, the TI book wasnt exactly clear either.. Still, it'd be better if those engineer freshman did read it....

[ Parent ]

TI manuals. (none / 0) (#102)
by glor on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:31:19 PM EST

I discovered that the TI-85 manual was a great reference, but a lousy teaching tool.  In my undergraduate years I would find it about every six months and skim it; each time I had taken some new math class and discovered that I now understood another section of the manual.

Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.
[ Parent ]

Math (2.44 / 9) (#22)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 01:44:00 AM EST

Don't you mean arithmetic? I, for one, have been working for a while now and never felt the need to break out the long division. Aversion to calculators can be traced to two sources: Either you're a technophobe, or you had to do it so you want your kids to go through it too.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
How wrong you are (2.75 / 4) (#33)
by The Amazing Idiot on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 09:55:34 AM EST

---Don't you mean arithmetic?

No, I mean MATH.

---I, for one, have been working for a while now and never felt the need to break out the long division.

But if the need arises, can you do long division?

---Aversion to calculators can be traced to two sources: Either you're a technophobe, or you had to do it so you want your kids to go through it too.

Aversion? Nope. How about training the kids how to be effective without some sort of "do it for me" tool.

By the way, how do you do complex formulas on a calculator? I know the TI calcs can do a limited range... Engineers and higher math degrees use pen&paper, and then computer to CHECK them.

[ Parent ]

Arithmetic (2.00 / 4) (#42)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 11:07:53 AM EST

You know full well that I wasn't talking about "complex formulas," I was talking about arithmetic. Calculators don't hurt your knowledge of theory, they just make rote computation easier. But hey, don't listen to me, just look at almost every college calc program and see how students are required to have a calculator. I guess they're all wrong too.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Almost, but not quite (3.00 / 2) (#46)
by rodoke3 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 11:40:51 AM EST

Calculators themselves don't "do" anything; they're inanimate objects.  The problem is how people approach it.  When they are seen as a way to make rote computation easier, they help learning.  When they are seen as a way to "program and forget", as is common in high schools and colleges, it is an impediment to learning.  I doubt anyone will find a math class where at least a few programmable calculator owners haven't spent hours entering textual cheat sheets into theirs and other's calculators.  One last thing, what evidence do you have that "almost every college calc program" requires a calculator?  None of mine ever did, they just recommended them because of the growing number of high school programs that let students get away with reliance on the calculator for things like basic trigonometry and simple cartesian graphs.  It seems to be the path of least resistance to allow calculators, rather than taking the path of "teaching Susie the cosine of a 60 degree angle in second year calculus".

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

[ Parent ]
Mathematicians use Calculators (3.00 / 5) (#75)
by SageGaspar on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 04:28:44 PM EST

I'm an aspiring mathematician taking grad-level courses, and I can tell you that the people on the very top of their mathematical game do not monkey around taking crazy integrals and doing numerical computation unless it's absolutely necessary. The first move they make when they encounter some crazy integral (i.e., something non-trivial) is plug it into their favorite symbolic integration program, whether it be Maple, Mathematica, or a TI.

The reason is two-fold: first, if there is an indefinite form for the integral, it'll give you an idea of what you're working toward if you need to rigorously prove what the closed-form is. Secondly, if there is no closed form, you're going to be plugging and chugging on the computer anyway.

I realize we're not talking top-of-the-line mathematicians, we're talking teaching people how to take derivatives. This is to mathematics what handing out fliers with survey questions and tallying results is to psychology. It's part of the work, but it's the manual labor that doesn't require any actual knowledge of the subject matter.

So college courses should should be teaching engineers, scientists, etc (people who need to use these formulae but don't give a shit how they're derived) questions involving computer-assisted numerical computation and interpretation of the results. If you actually get down and dirty with integrals and derivatives (or, hell, even trig functions, square roots, and long division) on a daily basis, you need to have a calculator for both efficiency and also double-checking answers. A little rote memorization of simple things like the power rule, the chain rule, trig functions, etc, wouldn't hurt either.

College courses should also be giving at least a little flavor of proof techniques as part of an asthetic appreciation for what mathematicians actually do, including rigorous proofs for at least one or two differentiation rules -- sure, you could program them into your calculator, but you've probably learned them as well as the next guy by the time you've finished.

On a side note, it's always funny when you tell non-mathematical people that you're taking graduate-level Algebra, a subject they think they've mastered in high school, and you get all these strange looks. "Ya, I've spent the last five years studying the properties of the parabola. I think I might move on to the cubic next."

[ Parent ]
Re: your side note. (none / 0) (#103)
by glor on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:34:32 PM EST

I had the impression that graduate-level algebra was all about quintics, and you give up at the end.

Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.
[ Parent ]

University level (none / 0) (#59)
by fishling on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 02:19:31 PM EST

I don't know about you, but when I went to university (1995-2000), none of my Math courses allowed a calculator to be used.  Many also didn't allow a formula sheet either.  Most of the Engineering courses (electrical) allowed a calculator and often a formula sheet as well (depending on the prof).  Students were often allowed to leave their answer in a non-simplified form, so as not to penalize those whose calculators couldn't operate on complex numbers.

I think that introducing calculators too early is a mistake.  Yes, it is a pain to have to do long division by hand.  It is also a pain to manually do calcuations in an engineering course.  But, when children are first learning arithmetic, they need to learn it without a calculator.  Otherwise, you will have people who can't even calculate a simple sale price, square footage, fencing perimeter, or the effects of Enhancements in the MMOG City of Heroes.  :-)

[ Parent ]

symbolic (none / 0) (#78)
by runderwo on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 05:21:29 PM EST

At my university, most exams required the students to evaluate the whole problem in symbolic form. Substituting the parameters and deriving an exact answer was optional as far as grading was concerned. This went for all the math and physics classes I can remember taking; notable exceptions were statistics and numerical methods classes.

[ Parent ]
I dunno about that (none / 1) (#51)
by Delirium on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 01:19:01 PM EST

I know a few chemical and mechanical engineers, and they sure as hell don't use pen and paper to solve their systems of equations. They use modelling software that does it.

[ Parent ]
typical example (none / 0) (#130)
by speek on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 11:44:39 AM EST

Which do you see more often:
  • Person in restaurant whips out his/her calculator and figures out a 15% tip, or
  • Person hands bill to friend and asks "what's the tip for this?"
Maybe in the future we can all have cell phones with a special "tip" button, and wouldn't that be great.

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

I know (none / 1) (#142)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 02:07:05 PM EST

The sky is falling because some people can't do arithmetic in their head. I'm one of them, and it's not for lack of practice. Just not how I'm wired, sorry. Damn right I'll ask a friend.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
wasn't my point (none / 0) (#144)
by speek on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 02:24:30 PM EST

I wouldn't be bothered at all if many people never learned any math. I don't think it's important for everyone to learn the same stuff. But, a calculator isn't the solution. I never use one, and I was wondering how often you really do.

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

the future is here (none / 0) (#208)
by jayrtfm on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 02:23:44 AM EST

my Virgin Mobile slider phone (kyocera) has a nice tip calculator, which allows you to input the % you want to tip, and number of guests you want to split the bill.

[ Parent ]
I agree (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by Vilim on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:14:42 AM EST

I agree, alot of people in my first year calculus class did poorly because they would make stupid, simple mathematical mistakes. They had been raised on calculators. None of the math classes in my universities math classes (that I know of) allow calculators on tests. You can use them on assignments they really won't find out, but most of the time they aren't required. The professers just write the tests so that the intermediary steps are relativly simple math. If you don't understand the subject in the first place, then a (non programable) calculator won't help you

[ Parent ]
Additionally (none / 0) (#60)
by fishling on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 02:24:29 PM EST

I recall that many university math courses allowed you to work directly with symbols and you weren't required to give a final numerical answer even if you knew the value of each variable.  This usually depended on the professor, because it affected marking time (for their grad students).

[ Parent ]
calculators suck (2.50 / 2) (#36)
by LilDebbie on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:21:18 AM EST

my calc prof never let anyone get away with that crap, and strangely enough we all learned calc!

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
That's a key difference between (none / 1) (#40)
by rodoke3 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:47:35 AM EST

good math teachers and "the rest", as evidenced by the great number of stories of fast food wage slaves who can't be bothered to do even two-term addition without the aid of a calculator.  Luckily for me, I had a good calc teacher too, and though I graduated high school about half a decade ago, my school was too poor to impose unnecessary technology on us :^)

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

[ Parent ]
Then there's that person at the back cash window.. (none / 1) (#105)
by Mizuno Ami on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 11:03:45 PM EST

Ever thank that person at the back cash window who sees you going for that nickel, puts the 95 cents back, and hands you four dollars for your 99 cent hamburger before you even have the nickle ready? No, probably not.

[ Parent ]
Thank (none / 1) (#154)
by rodoke3 on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 06:57:02 PM EST

I was one of those people! And I don't know about you, but I don't think adults should be thanked just for being able to do third-grade level arithmetic in their heads.

Oh, and confidentially, decent burgers don't cost 99 cents :^)

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

[ Parent ]
and yet, (none / 0) (#180)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 10:28:58 PM EST

And yet, we don't live in a technological vacuum. We shouldn't be teaching our students as if they lived in one.

In the 11th grade, I took a math class where the instructor used very small elements of logic, to create a formal proof explaining very carefully why subtraction worked. You'd think it's as simple as can be - 5 minus 2 is obviously 3 - but there are in fact subtle principles at work that ensure the answer is not 2, -5, or 0, but ALWAYS 3.

I didn't learn this until the 11th grade, but I was very comfortable with the idea of subtraction already, and of course I used it all the time. In general, people don't consider the advanced theoretical nuances of subtraction when they use it, but they get meaningful results.

And people don't consider the advanced physics behind the LCD screen that makes a calculator so efficient that it can be solar-powered. Yet they gleefully use it, and get meaningful results. People don't know the chemical structure of gasoline, but they drive their car to important places. They don't know the fundamentals of Netwon's law, but they can play basketball. Et cetera.

My point to all this is, we need to teach our kids how to thrive with the tools at hand, and later, perhaps as added courses and bonus material or if they're genuinely curious, we can teach them how and why the tools work.

[ Parent ]

So much is lost if not for a little more (1.33 / 6) (#9)
by QuantumG on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 12:11:38 AM EST

The problem with the education system of every country on this planet is a clear lack of goals - and facing reality. I think the best education system is the boarding school. Or at least it would be if the teachers still lived at the boarding school like they used to. Schooling should start earlier. In fact, schooling should start from birth, and frankly, only professional child rearers should be giving birth. The children should be raised on an island off the coast of whatever your country is or in some other isolated part of your country such that the citizens of that country can have no external affect on the raising of those children. At the end of their education children should be integrated into the mainstream society. They should be assigned jobs and accommodation.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
*bite* (none / 1) (#10)
by rodoke3 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 12:16:43 AM EST

Wouldn't putting all the children and professional child care givers (they'll need to always be with or near the children) in one spot put national security, or rather future security, in a fairly precarious situation?

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

[ Parent ]
No (2.50 / 4) (#14)
by truth versus death on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 12:33:16 AM EST

That's exactly what the terrorists want you to think. And if you give into the terrorists then they have already won.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
well it was deliberately over-simplified (1.33 / 3) (#19)
by QuantumG on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 01:07:38 AM EST

You'd have more than one of these schools. Probably with fences and armed guards around it. Sort of like a prison.

Speaking of prisons, I believe the purpose of a prison is to seperate certain people from society. Schools are exactly the same thing. We seperate prisoners from society because we believe they are harmful to it. We seperate children from society because we believe society is harmful to them. But children are harmful to society too. Allow me to go on another rant.

Libertarianism is a really simple philosophy, which I boil down to:

  • Everyone is responsible for their own actions.
  • No-one is allowed to use force.
  • Everyone can do anything they want.
  • The purpose of the state is solely to hold force in society.

In that order. The first one is the most important. Children are not responsible for their actions. Crazy people are not responsible for their actions. These people suck. What's more, people who care about these people (I'm thinking about parents here) also suck. They make things complicated when things really should be very simple.

So let's take them out of the society. Crazy people go to asylums. Children go to boarding school. Anyone else who is declared a danger to society goes to prison. To get out of each one of these places you have to demonstrate that you are responsible for your actions and not a threat to society.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]

I doff my cap to you sir (2.50 / 4) (#25)
by GenerationY on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 06:02:12 AM EST

Libertarianism is a gold-mine of humour.

[ Parent ]
Tis truely amazing (none / 0) (#96)
by QuantumG on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 08:24:24 PM EST

how few people have a sense of hyperbole.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
True enough (none / 0) (#104)
by GenerationY on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:39:39 PM EST

The corner stone of humour indeed. Which few people seem to have retained lately, I think the brusing battles over the election are souring quite a few people.

[ Parent ]
Insight into the Libertarian mind (1.00 / 2) (#28)
by rob1 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 08:24:15 AM EST

Libertarian theory doesn't fit fact. So, what do we do? Well, we change fact to fit theory with coercive, fascist measures ("all children go to boarding school!").

Here's a plan for you. Why don't we keep our kids and our mentally ill and just kick you Libertarians out? Works for me.

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we. -- GWB
[ Parent ]

Sorry, No Insight (none / 0) (#137)
by Wildgoose on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 01:29:59 PM EST

IF QuantumG is serious, (a big if), then he's no libertarian. Hence, no insight.

[ Parent ]
Too obvious (none / 1) (#26)
by bml on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 06:11:20 AM EST

Try harder.

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]
did you finish that book? (none / 0) (#53)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 01:26:35 PM EST

'cause books with that theme usually end in some sort of evil disaster explaining why what you said is not a good idea.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
The real problem... (2.63 / 19) (#23)
by jd on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 01:47:08 AM EST

Is that a lot of computer-aided learning is passive. You don't learn passively. You learn actively. Even rote learning (probably the worst system in the world, when it comes to understanding what you've just learned) is an active process. You actively listen, you actively repeat.

Powerpoint is a useless CAL tool. It sits there and looks ugly. Sorry, but I don't find Powerpoint the least bit interesting to stare at. Worse, many teachers cram slides. The absolute rule for any slide - powerpoint, overhead projector or any other kind - is that you absolutely keep content to a minimum.

If a slide has more than 5 points, 3 colours or 2 paragraphs then it is too crowded. If a slide has a diagram, it should have nothing else on it.

Technology "allows" more, but the human brain does not. Teaching is for the benefit of said brain, not for the benefit of the computer. Or, at least, that's the theory.

As noted in the article, it doesn't help that teachers are grossly underpaid. It means that the only people in teaching are either those who are fanatically dedicated to education or who are utterly incompetent at the subject. Everyone else gets a job that pays better than beer-money.

(Most University lecturers long ago abandoned the idea of getting a decent income through education. Universities, these days, are where companies outsource the really specialised R&D or where companies dump work that needs some "independent" credible source.)

Frankly, I'm amazed that more schools haven't adopted this model. Most kids are force-fed Ridalin anyway, so having drug companies sponsor elementary schools makes perfect sense. They could even slip some of those new experimental kid-safe anti-depresents into school meals. God knows that kids could do with kicking off the depression school usually leaves them with.

Gateway tried using prison chain-gangs to assemble their computers. That turned into a media fiasco. Getting high-school kids to do the same thing, calling it "vocational training" would be just as cheap and might even be popular. Sure, it'd be child labour, but that's not stopped Nike.

(In fact, as many IT products are actually made in third-world countries, it's very likely that at least some parts of the computer you're using to read this message with were made using child labour.)

Indeed, Bill Gates has invested heavily in schools. And it's not been for his health. With major technology lock-ins resulting from his donations, his net worth has increased far beyond the amount he has given away. He even gets a nice tax-break, in the process.

I guess I am a little cynical when it comes to education. Schools are grossly overcrowded, grossly underfunded, often grossly mismanaged, and the decor is often just gross.

To teach well, class sizes need to be somewhere between 12-18. The more vaired the class is in ability, the more teachers you need. Even a class where there's a very narrow range of ability, you really need to have between 1-2 teacher's aides. The more times the teacher has to stop, the harder it is for children to maintain their attention.

Classes should also be short. The bulk of the material should be covered in the first 5 minutes for young kids, and no more than the first 20 minutes for high-school kids. Mental fatigue makes it impossible to take in new material much beyond that. The rest of the class should focus on reinforcing the material. (In mathematical terms, attention span follows a Poisson Distribution, and a lesson/lecture has to follow that if it is to be effective.)

Again, going back to Computer-Aided Learning, the bulk of the material out there isn't distributed like this. In consequence, it's useless. The brain may be like a computer, but it cannot learn equally at all times. You need to adjust the material to suit the brain, because evolution isn't going to adjust the brain to suit the material.

Child labor? (none / 0) (#74)
by damiam on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 04:17:59 PM EST

Getting high-school kids to do the same thing, calling it "vocational training" would be just as cheap and might even be popular. Sure, it'd be child labour, but that's not stopped Nike.

Where I come from, high school kids are allowed to hold a job and earn money. What are you talking about?

[ Parent ]

Actually, I find the reverse... (none / 0) (#222)
by Pxtl on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 01:30:12 PM EST

When I compare the Powerpoint slides I've seen to other approaches teachers have taken, I think the big fundamental difference is threefold. First, powerpoint is innately distracting. Perhaps simply using plain black-on-white presentations would help people to ignore the pretty pictures. Second, powerpoint is not interactive. This means that the teacher can't get out a pen and circle the important parts or start running formulas up there. Most good math teachers shut the screen down and go to the blackboard when its time for numbercrunching. Many managers I've talked to have wished they had a better, more interactive pointer system for PP presentations - the ability to draw, highlight, and add notes to the slide onscreen. Third, and this is the point on which we disagree, but is closely related to the other two problems: I find that powerpoint presentations contain too little information, not too much. When a prof puts an overhead full of information onto the projector, we can simply copy down whats on the slide and listen to understand, while taking additional notes here and there. Most effective profs use such systems. Meanwhile, on powerpoint, the same profs will use simple, glib, meaningless pseudofactoids that don't actually contain enough text to even be considered information. The mesmerising effect of PP means that students will simply copy these pseudofactoids down and fail to properly add the discussion provided by the prof. So my point is this - Powerpoint-style slide presentations if used in the typical corporate-marketing approach in the classroom are completely useless. However, if the teacher thinks "how can I literally translate my overhead transparency approach to the screen so that I can gain access to the computer's tools without losing the advantages of the old approach" then they do much better. Still, from what I've seen the only real advantage that powerpoints have over simple overheads is polish. If a classroom has a computer, I would leave the computer off except for displaying graphical or dynamic content - for simple conveying of written information, just use an overhead. And last: the students only get the ppt files if they're dyslexic. "I can download the notes" means "nap-time".

[ Parent ]
Would it help? (2.75 / 4) (#29)
by codejack on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 08:26:37 AM EST

If one of the earlier classes were "How to use that fucking box on your desk!"? Especially if you made the teachers take it? The biggest problem I see is that very few people are any good at all at using the computer; Even my Dad, who teaches at the local university, and has been using computers since the punch card days (DON'T get me started!), has a hard time understanding how to effectively use his computer, particularly the Internet.

I think each school needs a resident computer guru, whom the teachers can go to for relevant programs, web sites, etc. to whatever it is they are doing that day.

Please read before posting.

Professional Guru, you mean (3.00 / 2) (#37)
by rodoke3 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:29:10 AM EST

Most schools already have some poor bastard whom the other teachers found out was technically comptent, thus ensuring that that person'll never hear the end of stupid, ignorant questions, not unlike those that fill the pages of the likes of "Computer Stupidities".  If the school paid someone specifically for the time, and gave him the ability to set prerequesits for asking him the questions (aye, there's the rub) like "Don't bother asking me a question, unless you at least tried googling it first", it might encourage people to start acting intelligently toward them.  That, or they just might  stop using things altogether and complain that the professional "Isn't helpful", and getting him fired...

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

[ Parent ]
And... (none / 1) (#90)
by codejack on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 07:35:53 PM EST

This would be different from working on a help desk how? lol

Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
None really, (none / 0) (#101)
by rodoke3 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:22:20 PM EST

except they get paid to deal with idiots all day :^)

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

[ Parent ]
luddites like you are holding us back! (1.06 / 16) (#32)
by the ghost of rmg on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 09:35:50 AM EST

it's easy for you to stand in judgement of the whole educational system with your superior station and ivory tower, but all you're doing is dragging your feet on what should be a revolution in learning!

i don't know what your angle is. i would guess you're just worried computers will make your job unnecessary and leave you out on the street, at which point you'll have to submit to a contract stipulating random car searches and the like at your nearest temp agency. well sorry, i am not sympathetic.

now it may be that your powerpoint presentations lack the punch of the average instructional film reel, but that is just user error. i've made my share of powerpoint presentations, and let me tell you: it works for me. there are lots of good books on it and it speaks volumes about your dedication that you haven't bothered to pick one up. microsoft's office suite has all the tools you need to make dynamic, interactive, proactive presentations that will get your students excited about learning.

of course, you'd rather just complain and drag your feet, swimming against the current of technological progress. just by the tone of your article, i can see you are bogged down in ancient technologies (like java), slow development time, and poor OS and database integration. isn't it time your classroom was a .NET experience?

the .NET platform offers all of this and more:

  • rapid development through an advanced integrated development environment (visual studio .NET) and an interpretative, interactive environment;
  • tight integration with microsoft office and other microsoft products essential to any learning or business environment;
  • easy database access for maintaining data about student progress and creating stateful educational applications;
  • and superior crossplatform performance so your students will never get bored of the wait and go eShoe shopping.
once you've made the switch, your cynicism will give way to the world of potential that is classroom.NET. stop fighting it. it is for the good of your students and society at large.

rmg: comments better than yours.
wow, that's a horrible troll. (nt) (3.00 / 3) (#52)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 01:22:18 PM EST

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Nice Troll (2.50 / 2) (#81)
by ThinkingInBinary on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 06:09:27 PM EST

Nice... funny but not so subtle it's just being stupid.

[ Parent ]
yea but he got one (none / 0) (#114)
by WetherMan on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 05:17:02 AM EST

kc7gr 15 may have a uid in the 56k range, but he bit hard...

and he's got a terrible website that makes me think psychophrenic first and "computing professional"... well not really at all.
fluorescent lights make me look like old hot dogs
[ Parent ]

Hello! (3.00 / 5) (#87)
by Agent1 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 07:19:29 PM EST

You appear to be typing a K5 post. Would you like me to:
  • Properly capitalize your writing
  • Allow you to post whatever it is you call that

"Thats the whole point of the internet, to slander people anonymously." - Anonymous
[ Parent ]
You've GOT to be kidding... (1.50 / 1) (#108)
by kc7gr 15 on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 01:05:58 AM EST

You really think the original poster is a "Luddite?"

Let me invite you to read Clifford Stoll's two books "Silicon Snake Oil" and "High Tech Heretic." THEN decide.

As others have pointed out: Computers are tools. Nothing more, nothing less. They are not miracle machines, they do not automatically and magically enlighten whoever is sitting in front of it. They are tools, period.

How much use is a word processor going to be to someone who has poor reading and writing skills? To someone for whom English is not even their first language?

How much use is web access going to be to people who do not have critical thinking skills? Who are unable to analyze what they're seeing? Who lack the common sense to even tell if a bit of web info is factual, a clever fabrication, or outright lies?

Such critical thinking and analytical skills cannot be taught by computers, because they are often a mixture of emotion, logic, and perceptions created by the very experience of existence. If you don't believe me, try feeding, say, a Zen text or a book of modern poetry to a Pentium IV system and see what happens.

Asking questions, open debate, critical analysis... these are all skills that are learned from OTHER PEOPLE, not machines or the web.

To put it even more simply: Until you gain the mental filters and skills to ANALYZE the information flow that a 'net-connected computer can present, until you can intuitively compose what you're seeking into an appropriate Google query, computers in the classrooms are nothing more than pretty distractions, and free advertising for the companies that make them.

I'm not a "Luddite" (my own side business depends on my computer skills to keep our 'net presence alive), but I grew up (and attended college) during a time when even calculators in the classroom were relatively rare. Given the quality of learning and teachers I saw back then, and comparing it to what I'm seeing today, I think I can say with utter confidence that computers should be kept OUT of any classroom until at least high school.

Giving every student a laptop? Don't be ridiculous. The money would be better spent on salaries for hiring and KEEPING good teachers. Besides, laptops will just turn into another target for bullies to pick on weaker kids over.

"Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati" (Red Green)
[ Parent ]
the only thing worse than a luddite (none / 0) (#131)
by the ghost of rmg on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 11:49:24 AM EST

is a luddite who pretends to be "one of us."

a computer is not a miracle machine? don't be a fool! look at the wonders they accomplish everyday! stock simulations, online auctions, ecommerce, search engines providing information resources beyond the wildest dreams of our forefathers, online forums that allow people on every continent to discuss any topic at the click of a button!

what we are witnessing here is a miracle and i want you to fucking acknowledge it.

as to your comment about microsoft word, i'll remind you of its powerful grammar and spellchecking features. such technology may, in short order, make the tedious learning of spelling words in elementary school obsolete. that, my friend, is progress.

so i'm sorry you feel so threatened by computers that you have to point out their every flaw, but they are doing the best they can, and in time, maybe they will be able to teach children critical thinking skills on their own without careful programming by teachers. that is the wonder of technology -- one day, it will all be possible.

today's impossibilities are tomorrows... uh, possibilities!

rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]

I thought that was just another lame (none / 0) (#168)
by Empedocles on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 03:14:44 AM EST

rmg troll, but the I got to the .NET ad at the end and I fell off my chair laughing.

And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]
Well done. (none / 0) (#181)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 10:31:23 PM EST

Awesome. A perfect cariacature of Silicon Snake-Oil.

[ Parent ]
Hmm (2.27 / 11) (#34)
by pHatidic on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 10:12:11 AM EST

You are right that computers for the most part offer absolutely nothing educationally...But then again I probably would have killed myself if I had to go through HS without being able to surf the web during my free periods and lunch. For what it's worth my school system of 3,000 kids has a total budget of 50.5 million dollars, and of that 850,000 is devoted to technology. There is a TV and a computer in every single classroom, including my band room, and there are 4 or 5 computer labs in addition to this with 20-25 computers each and then another 30 comps in the library. All of them have decent specs but they run like shit because they have windows on them, half of them are completely unusable and some don't even turn on.

In addition to this we don't even have access to the internet, only the world wide web through port 80 and that's it. I asked the head of technology for our school system for access to usenet and the woman was like "uhh what is a usenet." Then a month later she was like "I researched it and realized there is bad stuff on usenet so you can't have access to it." As if there isn't 'bad' stuff on the web. This is why you don't make women the head of your tech department.

this is why (2.25 / 4) (#65)
by zenofchai on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 03:31:52 PM EST

This is why you don't make women the head of your tech department.

Nice. Sexism at its rawest, native form.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

Haha (none / 1) (#68)
by pHatidic on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 04:07:27 PM EST

That was actually a joke, I was wondering how long it would be for someone to catch that :)

[ Parent ]
I think everyone caught it (none / 0) (#149)
by wurp on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 04:55:27 PM EST

and just didn't honor it with a reply ;-)
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]
"It's a joke" (none / 0) (#195)
by Ward57 on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 01:49:29 PM EST

is never and excuse. It never makes any difference if it's a joke.

[ Parent ]
That Sucks (none / 0) (#80)
by ThinkingInBinary on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 06:08:12 PM EST

Luckily, my schools have been good about this. At my previous school, the administration itself was uptight (of course) but there was always a person beneath the top who knew what she was talking about. At my current school (very small) the computer administration is one person, and he's really friendly.

Try changing your tech head's web page to some of the "bad stuff" on the WWW, or just use Google Groups. Or a proxy. Or Knoppix and some kind of TCP/IP-over-HTTP thingy. Or show her some of the good (educational) stuff on Usenet. Or get a wireless connection from somewhere else.

[ Parent ]
I had to make do with D&D and Shadowrun (n/t) (none / 0) (#107)
by tuxedo-steve on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 12:48:21 AM EST

- SMJ - (It's not just a name - it's a bad aftertaste.)
[ Parent ]
50.5 MILLION dollars! (none / 1) (#112)
by Wildgoose on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 04:00:11 AM EST

I am a school governor in England. We have about 500 kids aged between 5 and 11, and we have a budget of less than 1.1 million pounds, i.e. less than 2 million dollars.

And a crumbling concrete structure thrown up around 1950 to maintain as well.

I think this difference does a good job of illustrating (as if it was needed) why Tony Blair and New Labour are a bunch of lying hypocrites. So much for Phony Blair's claimed priorities of "Education, Education, Education"!

[ Parent ]

To be fair.. (none / 0) (#187)
by xria on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 04:32:01 AM EST

Those arent really all that comparable, compare the amount spent in your school to one in Europe, but the UK government has to spend within a limit of how much it takes in from taxes, the US government has no such restraint.

For example at the end of 2003 the UK National Debt was at £437.4 billion and although the last couple of years this has increased overall it has been stable or falling.

Compare to the US they currently aim to run up a single year deficit of $521 billion, and already owe about $7.4 trillion and has being growing constantly even including inflation since 1983.

I'm sure if any world government was told its okay to spend anything they like with no regard to how much they are taxing they could match the spending on US education...

UK Government stats
US Government stats (parsed automatically)

[ Parent ]

books? (3.00 / 3) (#126)
by nh1 on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:48:14 AM EST

I probably would have killed myself if I had to go through HS without being able to surf the web during my free periods and lunch.

When I was a kid, 40 years ago, I carried a paperback book in my pocket for such occasions. On the whole, I think a better way to spend your time. I read much less now and am realising that most of what I "read" on the web is hardly better than TV.

[ Parent ]

+1, posters name contains "wank" (2.00 / 8) (#48)
by Nursie on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 12:21:06 PM EST

Also it's a good article, but y'know......

Meta Sigs suck.

just FYI (none / 1) (#49)
by eudas on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 12:26:57 PM EST

toby wan kenobe. ie making fun of a star wars similarity.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

Yuh! I know! (1.50 / 1) (#79)
by Nursie on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 05:54:44 PM EST


Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Okay. (1.66 / 3) (#50)
by bakuretsu on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 01:10:06 PM EST

Grammatical errors notwithstanding (they ought to be fixed, but I'm not going to hold it back)...

+1 FP, thinks we spend too much on athletics.

-- Airborne
    aka Bakuretsu
    The Bailiwick -- DESIGNHUB 2004

SF Bay/Silicon Valley (2.88 / 9) (#61)
by Gooba42 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 02:26:21 PM EST

The schools in my area are, oddly, very proud of their computer in every classroom spiel. Big problem at the local elementary though is that the district decided only to wire the library for a Net (or even net) connection. Most of the computers in most of the classrooms were donated by concerned parents and local businesses. Most of the support is done on a regulated volunteer basis, meaning, someone at the district gets to tell you what you get to volunteer for.

What we've wound up with now is a Pentium Pro with a 2 GB Hard Drive, 16 MB of RAM, a recycled NIC, a $5 video card, a $10 sound card and no OS because people don't donate their old Windows disks so it'd be a pirate copy if left installed. If you suggest Linux or BSD or anything free people get twitchy. If you suggest just tossing the useless pieces of crap you get a horrified "but think of the children".

So what do you do with a slow, old machine with no OS and no network to plug it into? For most of the teachers they just gather dust. They're no good even for computerized gradebooks which are basically glorified spreadsheets because the district is really married to the idea that MS Office=Productivity.

My mom just got a computer for her classroom from Intel by taking some seminar. The computer is decent, running a licensed copy of Windows XP. Her classroom still isn't wired and there is no extra software installed. She'd need to get special permission to install anything on the machine, much less something as controversial as a Free software office suite. And so it sits in her classroom doing absolutely nothing. We hooked it up to a nice color inkjet printer that someone donated so it can also print nothing useful now too.

Schools don't need computers, they need training in what to do with a computer that is educational and useful without having some product shoved down their throats. Everyone wants to sell the school the brand-new XYZ Education-O-Rama but nobody has ever really shown us how that would benefit the students.

The way we use computers in the classroom has changed too. In 3rd grade we worked on Apples and learned the barest smidgen of Logo to make our "Turtle" draw the picture we wanted. Contained in that lesson was geometry, algebra, art and even a bit of rudimentary programming. We learned that we could bend the computer to our will, how to make it so, and that we needed to know a bit more about math before we could really do much of that cool stuff. We sure as hell didn't just watch a set of PowerPoint flashcards.

British Columbia, Canada (3.00 / 4) (#106)
by Ogygus on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 11:45:40 PM EST

Our school district switched the entire district over to IBM Pentium II workstations with 15" monitors running Red Hat. Scrapped were several generations of Macs and all of the Windows boxes. Everything, including administration, runs off the server. The savings in software licenses and new support costs paid for the entire project in one year.

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]
Tell your mom (none / 1) (#182)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 10:33:59 PM EST

Tell your mom to download an Apple II emulator, and use the machine to play Oregon Trail, or Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego.


[ Parent ]

Nothing to do with computers (2.75 / 4) (#62)
by minerboy on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 03:05:27 PM EST

or calculators for that matter. Computers are a tool, if you don't know how to use them effectively, they are a bad tool. Both students and teachers need to better understand and use computers. I've spent some time helping teachers use computers, and you find a huge diversity of capabilities. For example, I had to show one teacher how to create folders, copy files to other directories, and other basic stuff. Even using a spread sheet to create a gradebook (essentially adding a bunch of weighted columns) is beyond some. Of course, a computer is useless in the hands of these people.

Students abilities are better, but not alot. The ones that are good are limited by their teachers.

Training for the workplace (2.00 / 6) (#64)
by Cock Blocking Playa Hater on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 03:22:03 PM EST

We need a computer on every child's desktop so that they can master the skill of clandestine web surfing -- obviously an essential skill in the work place.

BTW, this article's lead sentence does not reflect what the rest of the article is about, the author makes numerous grammatical and logical errors and the quality of the piece over all would have given my 9th grade composition teacher fits. So what the hell has happened to this community that lackluster pieces like this are getting voted up?!

Boiled down (2.62 / 8) (#66)
by Cock Blocking Playa Hater on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 03:32:27 PM EST

I read your article with an eye to boiling it down to whatever points it is trying to make. I came up with this:

Massive investments in technology for the classrooms of US public schools are translating teacher's boring lectures in front of chalk boards into teacher's boring PowerPoint presentations in front of large monitors.

The interesting question that this article does not raise is: How can we best leverage the significant investment in classroom technology to improve the quality of education?

You are correct: (2.66 / 3) (#71)
by Tobywankenobe on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 04:08:07 PM EST

That's exactly the point. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I suspect one place that might point me toward answers is here. So I thought I would toss it out there and see what this community might have to offer. Before you can identify solutions, you have to fully understand the problem. If nothing else, the responses I'm reading are certainly helping me understand the issues more clearly.
We are all assuming identities
[ Parent ]
What you should have done... (1.00 / 2) (#73)
by Cock Blocking Playa Hater on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 04:11:30 PM EST

...was to submit this to the edit queue (check the request editorial feedback button when submitting) then used the feedback from the community to refine your problem statement as expressed in this article.

It is an interesting topic...interesting enough to deserve some more careful writing.

I look forward to more from you in the future...


[ Parent ]

If you put it that way... (none / 0) (#99)
by student on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 09:47:44 PM EST

Powerpoint is superior, because blackboards are harder to read.  Assuming the powerpoint screen is large enough, or the projector is bright enough - which is easier to standardize than board cleanliness or handwritting.

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.
[ Parent ]
Easy. (none / 0) (#183)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 10:35:16 PM EST

Stack it all on the floor, and prop the overhead projector on it. >:)

[ Parent ]
a good comparison is Europe vs North America (2.33 / 9) (#72)
by xutopia on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 04:11:19 PM EST


In European universities they don't buy books.  The teachers give them the notes they require to learn, often they have to handwrite them in class at the speed that the teacher talks.

In North America we have to buy books.  Most of which we only look at once or twice.


In Europe most computers universities have are old machines or terminals.

In North America many universities have laptops for all students.

Cost to the student:

In Europe many countries think that education is an investment, everyone should have equal access.

In North America you have to have rich parents, be lucky or borrow to have education.

End result:

Europeans kick our ass in terms of educated workforce produced.  The US even import what they want in great numbers because they lack the brains in their own country.  Ever wondered why that engineer working for NASA, Microsoft, IBM has a German name, French or Spanish name (well many are Indians or Arabic but I don't know how they compare to the USA, but we can try to guess can't we)?

North America can throw as much money as they want at the problem, the reality is that most schools suck.  There is also a culture of stupidity here.  We accept that it's uncool to be part of the debating or chess team but cool to be some monstruous rugby men with an IQ below room temperature (Celcius).

Cool / Uncool (none / 0) (#82)
by Rhodes on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 06:32:55 PM EST

The size of the school has as much to do with the coolness factor as anything. I was a tops in my class academically, on the Model UN, student representative, and played sports. And depending on which college you go to, and which you are better at will be a larger determinent- I am only 5'10", and a slow runner, so my chances of athletic stardom were very low. Somehow you're denying the possibility would choose to be less popular than they could be. That devalues all the other propaganda we've learned about free-will that all I ask is : what color is your hair? http://www.spiralvisions.com/cuthbert/junkfood.jpg

[ Parent ]
w (none / 0) (#127)
by tylermoody on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 10:06:43 AM EST

what the hell is that trainwreck of a sentence supposed to mean?

[ Parent ]
Having been to both US and European schools... (2.40 / 5) (#86)
by ckm on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 07:16:26 PM EST

... I can tell you exactly what the difference is...

American schools teach you to be critical, to analyze and how to find & present information.

European schools teach you facts and figures.

The net result is that Americans don't know sh*t, but they are very good at innovating and being creative.  They will learn what they need to know.

Europeans know a lot, much more than I know, but they have difficulty challenging existing ideas and being creative.

All this has a downstream effect on the shape of the societies and the economies.

Oh, and before you Europeans blast me for not knowing what I am talking about, I went to primary and secondary schools in 4 European countries, and university in 2 (undergrad year abroad & post-grad).   I also went to middle school and high-school in the US and to an American university.

Personally, I would take the American school system over the European one.  It seems to produce a more dynamic economy in general, although the intolerance and abuse in American high-schools is insane.  

But American universities (although too US-centric) are very good at encouraging free-thinking, which is mostly not the case in the European universities I attended.


[ Parent ]

hrm (1.50 / 1) (#109)
by auraslip on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 02:14:54 AM EST

I wonder just WHAT american school you went to, and if you payed to attend.
[ Parent ]
His CV is on his homepage<nt> (none / 0) (#117)
by GenerationY on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 05:58:24 AM EST

[ Parent ]
well (none / 1) (#153)
by Cornelius on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 05:47:53 PM EST

Your oversimplifications tell me that you've neither learnt critical thinkig nor facts and figures.

I mean how in god's name can you keep a straight face talking about "education in Europe", as if it was a homogenous entity. From Ieland in the west to Russia in the east. From Norway to Greece... The differences between the many countries in Europe are _very_ big.


"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
European vs individual countries (none / 0) (#173)
by ckm on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 03:05:43 PM EST

First off, I was following the same wording as the original poster.

Plus, I guess you haven't lived in many European countries.  The differences from country to country are far smaller than the differences between the US and Europe as a whole.  While it may rub Europhiles backwards to label them as 'Europeans', the fact is that European nations have far more in common than they have with the US.  [as a side bar, I would argue that there are more differences between Seattle and Birmingham than there are between Amsterdam and Madrid, but that's another issue]

Oh, and I have 3 nationalities (French, American and Italian) in addition to having lived in a lot of European countries, so I am well placed to speak of 'Europeans' as a whole.  Matter of fact, English is not even my native language....


[ Parent ]

OK (none / 0) (#189)
by Cornelius on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 05:14:19 AM EST

I could perhaps agree. There are surely important similarities between european countries and there are indeed vast differences between different regions within the US. (Sometimes even within the same state.)

This does not however apply to the system of education. To the best of my knowledge it is fair to describe the US educational system is fairly homogenous Of course there are schools that have more money than others, etc. But the structure is similar: one high school looks pretty much like another when you look at things like curriculum, general forms of teaching, ideological content, etc.

If you take the case of Europe you'll see that these things differ greatly. In Bavaria education is traditional with for instance courses in latin in pre-college classes; in Finland and Denmark they stick to a curriculum that goes at least 50 years back (in high school). In Russia teching is very authoritarian. In Sweden none of these things are true...


"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
Nope. (none / 0) (#204)
by ckm on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 05:11:38 AM EST

Things are just as different in the US.  However, most EU countries have extremely similar Baccalaurea (sp? it's 2am, I can't think straight) -oriented teaching structures.  Some (mostly germanic-origin schools) have Greek/Latin/Technical groundings that are different that what you would find in, say, France or Italy.   But, for the most part, the idea that you learn a lot of facts and are segregated into certain learning paths by the age of 13-14 is pretty much the norm across the EU.

While most of the US has elementary, middle and high-schools, the similarities stop there.  Even the ages at which students transition from one to another (and some places don't even have middle school) differs widely.  Each county sets it's own curriculum, with overall themes usually approved at the state level.  This leads to things like teaching creationism and other oddities.

Another odd twist is that school boards, which are responsible at the county (and sometimes municipal) level for setting curriculum, are elected and mostly reflect what the local (adult) population wants.  That's one of the reasons sports are so big in American schools.

What you would find, were you to drive from Anchorage, AK to Miami, FL, is that school curriculum is set by thousands of counties, and that there is much less uniformity that across the EU, and 100x less than within a particular EU country.

There's been a recent attempt by the Federal gov't to provide uniform standards for schools across the US, reinforced by testing (the "Leave No Child Behind" Act), but since these things are subject to interpretation and democratic process up and down the political chain, it hasn't been much of a success.  It's also an unfunded mandate, which doesn't help.

All of those things are in large part why people consider the American school system to be a mess.  Unfortunetaly, they also look at the rather more centralized European model for answers while ignoring the cultural and social basis for that model, and what adverse impact importing it might have on American education.


[ Parent ]

agreeing and disagreeing (none / 0) (#206)
by Cornelius on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 05:24:15 PM EST

Check. I am taking your word for it. I have not done any deep research on US education. I read a book on the topic a few years back and got the impression that the US system was fairly homogeneous.

I do however still contend that european educational systems differ greatly. My first example would really be the modes of teaching and the roles that teachers and students play in forming education.

In some european countries students particapte actively in shaping the methods of teaching and learning. In some the system is very authoritarian. In some countries the curriculum is very traditional, in other not so. Some regions are clearly secular, whereas other are obviously confessional.

I could realy make a mile-long list on differences between the schools of europe. I still do believe that you're generally wrong in your description. Perhaps you have see some striking similarities between german and dutch or Italian conditions. But are you sure you've got a fair sample. The similarities could've been coincidental.


"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
The funny thing is (none / 0) (#169)
by anno1602 on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 03:17:42 AM EST

that that is entirely the opposite of what we here hear. I've no idea where you went to Uni, but at least in Germany, the critics of the Uni system say that the German universities produce people with too much abstract concepts and not enough hands-on knowledge, while the American universities are being stylized as workforce schools (that is, not the type of system that curns out classical academia). Along with that goes the critical thinkgin part.

Oh, and critical thinking? Have a look at American belief in the TV news and repeat that to me with a straight face.

Oh, and btw, where where you? There's no such thing as an European school system, you know. Schools  differ greatly from country to country.
"Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit." - Murphy
[ Parent ]

European Schools & abstract thinking (none / 0) (#172)
by ckm on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 02:58:21 PM EST

To be honest, I wasn't talking about abstract thinking, of which there is a lot of in European schools.  That is mostly a philosophical type of thinking and it's not really relevant to the real world.

I went to primary and secondary schools in France, the UK, Belgium and Switzerland.  I went to university in France, the Netherlands and Austria.  (Also, my wife is Dutch and went to school in Austria and the Netherlands and has a Masters from an Ivy-league school.)

My experience at all of them is roughly the same (except for the UK, which is closer to the US), that learning by rot is the norm, the students have a lot of theoretical knowledge and that they are unable to apply it to the real world (tm).

This experience was further reinforced when I started companies in both the US and the Netherlands, and found that European employees were unwilling and unable to expand their scope of work beyond what they were trained for, in contrast with American employees who always assummed that they could do anything (and sometimes did it badly....).

Fundametally, I think that the schooling systems in various cultures are representations of fundamental values of a society.  By enlarge, American society is much more Darwinist than European society and school systems in the US are rather good at elevating the best while leaving everyone else behind.

Conversely, European schools may produce a population with a high level of education, but that is not translating into a more productive society (by American standards) since the itself goal is a more educated population...

Just some thoughts.


[ Parent ]

Pfff, alright whatever guy. (1.33 / 3) (#94)
by Esspets on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 07:56:23 PM EST

In North America we have to buy books. Most of which we only look at once or twice.

Liberal arts? Psychology? I'm curious what joke major you have/had because what you're talking about with respect to books is ludicrous. Would you prefer: (a) an authoritative academic work up for peer review forever and public scrutiny or (b) the scribblings of someone who may or may not have a definite grasp on their expertise? I think even you could answer that.

The rest of your comment barely warrants a reply because it's waxing romantic about a culture of ultra-specialisation. There's a reason those douchebags work for NASA, and that's because the only thing they know is bloated and wasteful bureaucracy.

[ Parent ]
Textbook != authoritative reference (3.00 / 2) (#110)
by smithmc on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 02:16:50 AM EST

Would you prefer: (a) an authoritative academic work up for peer review forever and public scrutiny or (b) the scribblings of someone who may or may not have a definite grasp on their expertise?

Well, when I was at university, many of the textbooks were written by the profs themselves! Books which, of course, you had no choice but to buy for ridiculous amounts. So does that count as (a) or (b)?

[ Parent ]

IAWTP - most NA textbooks are terrible (none / 0) (#123)
by nlscb on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:12:41 AM EST

I don't know who reviews them, but clearly no one who understands what it takes to learn. You pay a fortune for the problem sets the book generally does not prepare you to solve. A good text book is a rare thing, and should be considered more precious than gold.

Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange
[ Parent ]

Europe v. America/Apples v. Oranges (3.00 / 3) (#100)
by Tobywankenobe on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 09:54:10 PM EST

I would like to point out, in a most polite way since you took the time to read my post and reflect on it, that European schools are much more efficient. They do this by basically segregating students once they become teenagers. The more promising go on to a traditional college-prep curriculum, while the rest take vocational training. The result? Their students always do better on standardized tests because only the best are taking them. The same is true for most Asian countries as well. When this simple fact is taken into consideration, American students do quite well against foreign students.

So American schools could be more efficient if they adopted the same model, instead of our insistence, no, make that mandate, that all will have equal access, whether they are up for it or not. It does costs us more, leaves many with a very bad taste in their mouths about school, but it does help foster a vibrant, creative economic system. Where would you be now if your academic fate had been set when you were in the 8th grade? Probably not much different, since you're a bright K5 reader. But I know if you based my life on what I was like in the 8th grade, I'd be a mechanic now. Wait, I guess I am a mechanic after all, since all people ever want me to do is fix their computers.

[ Parent ]

To be honest (none / 1) (#116)
by GenerationY on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 05:56:27 AM EST

I don't think "Europe" is a very helpful term to use here. I've spent time across a few different countries in Europe and it was different in all of them.

I have to say I don't recognise the system you are talking about; its not Britain thats for sure and it doesn't seem to be France. Where are you talking about?

[ Parent ]

Offhand, (none / 0) (#165)
by Empedocles on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 03:00:15 AM EST

I know the German education system is set up like that. Not sure about any other Western European countries, though.

It would kinda suck to be pigeonholed at such a young age, though.

And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]

As a European, (3.00 / 4) (#119)
by MrHanky on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 07:04:25 AM EST

I can tell you that many of your points are wrong. Going to university without buying books? That's a joke. If you can get past a university education without reading, that education is of little value. This means that I don't actually believe you when it comes to American universities either, since many Americans are quite well educated. They must have read some books. No, you just don't learn as much from lectures. This will, of course, differ from subject to subject, as some studies requre studying and some aren't.

Also: WTF is Europe? Albania? England? Portugal? Norway? You'll find bigger differences between these countries than between Texas and NY. You can't do a good comparison between Europe and North America.

"This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics." Lettuce B-Free, on being a total fucking moron for Ron Paul.
[ Parent ]

You are simply wrong (2.71 / 7) (#141)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 02:00:00 PM EST

You are wrong, and you're oversimplifying.

I can't speak for Europe, but if it's true that you have to copy down everything the teacher says - that's a terrible system. Any time you're copying information, you're not processing it. You can't have time to think about something and copy it down at the same time.

In North America a few students don't look at their textbooks. These are the worst students, and I don't think you can get away from that, whatever your method.

Most colleges don't have "laptops for all students." I know UMass sure doesn't. But I do know that nearly every student owns a computer and uses it to type papers and do research. What's the problem here, exactly? Do you really want to go back to handwriting?

You have to have rich parents? Bullshit. Maybe it's not as easy to get an education as it should be, but it's pretty damn easy to get a subsidized loan or even a need-based grant, or a scholarship. Do you really see no difference between hard work and luck? Work hard, and you can go to many great schools for free.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

I agree with you in general, but... (2.00 / 2) (#150)
by wurp on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 05:02:55 PM EST

Poor people are not properly educated about the existence of loans, how to get them, and that they really are worth it.  Nor even the existence and accessibility of grants.

I did quite well in school and I had the highest ACT score in my school's history.  Even so, I was poor and came from a family culture with no association with higher education - I probably would have gone to college if I didn't have a scholarship that paid for everything waved under my nose, but I'm not certain.  I can easily imagine that someone who was above average but less smart than me would skip college just because they didn't really understand their options.
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]

I disagree on the textbooks part... (none / 0) (#221)
by Pxtl on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 01:04:14 PM EST

I can think of numerous Engineering courses I've taken where the textbook was illegible, inappropriate to the course content, or simply so orthogonal to the teacher's teaching style that it was difficult to connect his material to the book. More often, the professer bases his testable material directly on his notes, so the textbook provides a backup reference to concepts that weren't properly grasped in class. If the prof is good enough, then there are no such concepts, so the textbook is never even opened. This has happened to me several times, and I am performing quite well.

[ Parent ]
Facts wrong (none / 0) (#170)
by anno1602 on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 03:22:11 AM EST

In European universities they don't buy books.  The teachers give them the notes they require to learn, often they have to handwrite them in class at the speed that the teacher talks.

In fact, nowadays, most lectures are Powerpoint-or-similar presentations which are downloadable from the course's website (ideally before class, so you can make additional notes in class). Anything the prof writes is electronically recorded and also downloadable (well, Karlsruhe, Germany).

In Europe most computers universities have are old machines or terminals.

Well, no. My Uni replaces its lab machines every 2 to three years.

"Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit." - Murphy
[ Parent ]
On the having of books (none / 0) (#224)
by slippytoad on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 09:45:04 AM EST

I agree that the books are expensive. However, as a Literature major, I still have mine, and I've read them all quite extensively.

When I wasn't in Lit classes, I read those books too. Including the one on Language, Logic and Persuasion, which I use all the time to tear into specious generalizations like yours.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain
[ Parent ]

Speaking as an instructional technologist (3.00 / 13) (#77)
by edremy on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 05:15:23 PM EST

You're half right. (I'm higher ed, so some of my comments will differ) Much of the technology being used today is junk. I personally hate Powerpoint- it's useful for a few things, but it's mostly a distraction. Many of the monster programs with huge budgets seem to be interested in throwing technology at problems without thought as to how it's being used. (See the USD Palm inititiave for a good example, IMHO.) When I teach, I use a blackboard. I ban calculators on tests. But there are some places where tech works, and works a lot better than the alternatives. As examples
  1. 3-d visualizations. I'm a chemist by training. The ability to throw up complex structures on a screen, rotate, move, scale, highlight, animate and the like is simply amazing. You can totally redo the way you teach- things that are difficult to grasp can be made clear instantly.
  2. Course management systems, especially the forum systems. I have professors who are getting their students to talk to people in Japan, Bangladesh and India to ask them about politics from their perspective. Can't do that without the net.
  3. Electronic whiteboards such as the Star/Smartboards in many of our classrooms. Why are you copying what the professor writes on a blackboard? What a useless task. Why not listen to them and make notes on that? Everything they are writing is captured automatically and dumped over to your course home page as a set of perfect copies.
  4. Response systems like PRS and eInstruction. Instant feedback from all of your students, not the 3 who dominate discussion. Look up Just-In-Time teaching methods sometimes- they are very helpful. They can be done without tech, but it's slower and without the anonyimity of the response system much harder to get a good read on controversial topics.

Not an exhaustive list by any means. You have to spend some serious time rethinking the way you teach, and that's the real problem. It's not a panacea, it's not easy, but it can be a whole lot better than what you did in school.

Thanks: (3.00 / 5) (#83)
by Tobywankenobe on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 06:51:32 PM EST

This is the kind of thing I was hoping to get by posting this--things to consider that we might implement to use what we do have more effectively. So at some point the issue has to be what's a reasonable ROI?

I've seen various response systems, which do seem pretty neat, but how many sets of these things would a school have to purchase to be effective? I don't believe the SmartBoards to be a big step forward. I think there is real value in a student taking their own notes, as a way to synthesize what they are learning.

A course management system I do believe to hold great potential, which is what made me find K5 in the first place. I was looking around for software, ran across Scoop, and the next thing you know, I'm making a post without going through the edit queue (won't do that again). There is real potential there, and I am looking hard at that, which your post makes me believe is the right direction. But once again, what percent will use it effectively? Is it enough that only a few will use it? I'm certainly willing to take that chance, since it's so much cheaper then buying a lot more equipment.

[ Parent ]

ROI is an issue (none / 0) (#124)
by edremy on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:20:16 AM EST

But it's less of one than you might think these days. You can do this stuff fairly cheaply if you're clever. (And being a small school, we have to)
  • Course management system? Free. There are several capable Open Source systems available. (We use Dokeos.) Total cost here is a server, and it doesn't have to be a monster.
  • Classroom tech? We can install a computer, projector, network, VCR, speakers, amp, furniture and all wiring in a classroom for less than $10k., and it's not bargain basement stuff. You don't need $20k AMX control systems for the most part.
  • Starboard/Smartboards? The tablets are less than $2000 with some "Get 'em at cost" grants easily available. If you sell yourself a bit, you can get them paid for: I wrote a grant which paid for 10 of them in total last summer. (I'm a bit more sold on them than you. Coming from a science background, I remember that most of my classes were doing nothing more than copying notes from a board, with the usual mistakes. I would have much rather listened, made notes on that and looked at the blackboard notes with my lecture notes at the same time.)
  • Response systems? Get the students to buy the transmitter- you can get them for something like $10 in bulk, and then they get to keep them for multiple classes. The receivers and software aren't that much. I've bought the systems in toto for a few classrooms- it's about $2k/32-person room with everything.

The biggest problem is, as with everything, getting people to use it intelligently. That's the hard part of my job.

[ Parent ]

Those numbers are still pretty tough: (none / 0) (#161)
by Tobywankenobe on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:46:21 PM EST

The CMS I'm sold on. I'll certainly look at Dokeos--thanks. As you point out, getting people to use it intelligently is a different matter. But if they never get the chance to try something, they're certainly never going to do it. So perhaps if I can get something going here, get a few teachers interested in it (or a few students willing to help a few teachers with it), maybe it will encourage others.

The rest of the numbers would be pretty tough. We're at the point where we need more classrooms, so dropping 10K per on the ones we do have would be a tough sell. The same thing with the SmartBoards. So if you instead say that we will target our investment to a few teachers, it's not really fair to the rest. And it's also important to remember that simply purchasing the equipment doesn't end your investment. Every system is going to take support time, and that's actually the one resource I really can't spare.

Having kids buy the RS transmitters is a great idea. That could make such a system affordable. Unfortunately that doesn't work in K12. Kids can buy all kinds of stuff, I just watched a kid drop $4 on snacks after lunch for instance (he could afford it since he's on free and reduced), but I don't think we could ever require something like that. Now if we could somehow convince their parents it was important, and while we're at it, convince them that they should really help us out a bit with the education of their child in other ways while as well... Wow, this Prosac stuff is pretty good after all.

[ Parent ]

USD Palm Initiative? (none / 1) (#129)
by Anopheles on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 11:08:46 AM EST

Well, as a programmer for the Palm Initiative, I can tell you that there was one reason for the Palm Initiative, and it was hardly academic. In the context of this particular reason, the Palm Initiative WAS considered a success.

[ Parent ]
Care to expound? (none / 1) (#139)
by edremy on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 01:50:31 PM EST

I'd love to know more.

I've been to several talks at EDUCAUSE on the project- it seemed like a technically sweet idea and there were some neat apps (I love the interactive map) but when you tried to pin them down on how this would affect learning they kept coming back to one psych prof who had some multiple choice quizzes his students could take, and a few more that had students taking notes in class using Palms rather than paper or a notebook. Didn't seem real overwhelming to me. Has it taken off since? (I'm not going to see one at this EDUCAUSE- spending most of my spare time looking at Sakai-related stuff to see if we need to be going that way.)

For the most part, these "Every student will get X" projects seem to me to be the most expensive way to get the fewest benefits- every time I see the final writeups there seems to be far less there than meets the eye. There's always lots on the technical and logistical hurdles they've overcome, but very little on "Are we doing a better job as a school?"

[ Parent ]

Errr... (none / 0) (#166)
by Empedocles on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 03:02:47 AM EST

You ban calculators on a chemistry exam? Do you give your students an extra notebook for the arithmetic they'll need to do by hand?

And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]
Banning calculators (none / 0) (#171)
by edremy on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 09:18:11 AM EST

No, I tell them to leave me the problem set up correctly, with correct units and conversion factors in place. This was for 300 and 400 level PChem courses- I did some of it with a ~180 person Chem101 course, but it's tough to grade as you might imagine. It's not hard for higher level courses- there isn't that much number crunching, and with a definite integral table you can do a lot of it by hand.

The problem with the modern college students is that they pull out the calculator before ever thinking about the problem, plug in numbers and write down the answer. There's never a thought about the answer making sense, which is why I got answers like "There are 3.561454589*10-45 atoms in this jar of water." all the time. Great- 10 sig figs and ~70 orders of magnitude off.

[ Parent ]

Human nature hasn't changed, (none / 0) (#186)
by Empedocles on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 03:37:18 AM EST

it is only the technology that humans have access to that has changed. Any group of students 2000 years ago given access to a calculator would make the same mistakes that students now do.

I think the problem here isn't so much the calculator as the fact that the calculator encourages sloppiness and (like you said) not really thinking or reviewing what you've done before you conclude the answer is correct. In this context, making the test easily completed without a calculator would perhaps force the student to think about what he's doing and whether that answer is really the correct one before they reach their conclusion.

The problem that I see here is that once they move on to some of the more real-world problems that aren't going to have nice integral answers and require some serious clock-cycles to compute numbers with lots of decimal places, the errors are really going to start. If you're not used to doing the sort of dirty 'n sloppy calculations required in the real world, once you start doing them you're going to make a helluva lot more mistakes than you would otherwise.

For this reason, I would say that it would be better to let them use the calculators and fall flat on their faces ten times before they start to get it right. That way, when the answer really counts, they are already proficient with the implements they will be using.

My .02, anyway.

And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]

From a Student (2.50 / 2) (#91)
by student on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 07:41:49 PM EST

Like almost everything I read about education, this is a gross oversimplification.  No one I have met (including myself) understands the complexity of education.  I recommend you consult "A Place Called School" by John I. Goodlad for a taste of how difficult it is to make any signifigant change in education.

Technology has had almost no effect, good or bad, on most schools.  Schools and the meathods of education have changed only trivially in the past several hundred years, other than getting more complex.

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.

technology having no effect does not mean (none / 1) (#134)
by modmans2ndcoming on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 12:03:03 PM EST

that it is not capable of being effective. teachers do not use the technology correctly. it needs to be integrated well into the lessons, not some crazy "lets get up go down to the computer lab to play with a stupid program that would really be more useful as a lecture tool than a hands on experience" type of thing.

things that will make technology work in education are:

-slide presentations
-programs that make displaying an example or idea easier
-simulated systems for lecture
-virtual replacments

things where technology is bad:

-manipulative (hands on is lost when you have to use a keyboard and Mouse.
-virtual replacements for physical activities that were done previously by hand
-simulated systems used in labs

virtual replacements are good for people who have already learned the hands on stuff, as are simulated systems

basically, lecture is where technology needs to be used in the classroom. then you send the students home to use technology as a tool to do their home work. technology is not a replacement for actual teaching.

[ Parent ]

One issue. (3.00 / 3) (#146)
by dasmegabyte on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 04:03:49 PM EST

A good teacher is one who uses the resources they understand to teach their students.  Technology is not inherently better or worse a teaching aid than blackboards, lectures or mimeographs -- but if the teacher in question happens to be really good at using computers, not having one available would be a disservice.

I have taken a number of courses where the teacher's proficiency with technology led to greatly increased understanding of the coursework.  However, this was a function of the teacher, not of the technology.  Lectures on "the Lady of Shalot" would have held as much information without the slideshow of renaissance art and Lorena McKennit soundtrack, but I doubt they would have held my interest as well.  Course if forced to he probably would have substituted a phonograph and a passed book.
[ Parent ]

several hundreds of years (none / 1) (#151)
by Cornelius on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 05:26:21 PM EST

er, there hasn't been organized education in the form we know for much more than a hundred years.


"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
er, (none / 0) (#177)
by student on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 10:05:43 PM EST

Most teaching is done by lecturing, just as it was in the time of the anchient Greeks.  Millinia?

Part of my point is that "the form we know" is mostly the same as all other forms.

Simon's Rock College of Bard, a college for younger scholars.
[ Parent ]

I believe he meant (none / 0) (#194)
by rodoke3 on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 01:30:28 PM EST

the more recently introduced and (admittedly, more noticeable) trappings of education systems, like the rigidly delineated and hierarchial "subjects", the ubiquitous school bell, the introduction of compulsory education, and its role an agent for "socialization" of the young; rather than the more basic tenets of it like the lecturing style which, like you mentioned have existed for centuries.

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky

[ Parent ]
Computers only solve 1/3 of the problem. (2.75 / 4) (#93)
by recharged95 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 07:49:41 PM EST

the other 2/3's are:
  • Hands-on learning (what ever happened to "real" animal dissections to soldering electronics). And,
  • Progressive learning techniques. I mean the K-12 is basically the same style of leaning until maybe 12th grade, where some will do co-ops, internships, work-studies, etc...

I think using books as direct teaching materials to then using them as references (i.e. via computers) in later grade would be an idea (just an idea). Basically exercise the mind...

Which 1/3 is that? (2.20 / 5) (#98)
by scruffyMark on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 09:16:47 PM EST

Seriously - what exactly is it that computers do solve?

For that matter, what is the problem, 1/3 of which is solved by computers? And what did people do before they had computers - accept that the problem would forever remain at best 2/3 solved?

[ Parent ]

why (1.50 / 6) (#111)
by auraslip on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 02:17:18 AM EST

not install linux on every computer, it would save so much of the taxpayers dollars.
Good point (none / 0) (#138)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 01:50:11 PM EST

But what if the taxpayers want to spend their dollars on anti-aliased fonts?

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
I don't have the cojones for that one. (none / 0) (#160)
by Tobywankenobe on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:20:14 PM EST

I've actually seriously thought about that one, especially for older machines. I mean it's a great idea, and not necessarily for the costs.

Think about it--virtually no viruses, worms, or spyware. Man, that's a sysadmin's dream. And on top of that, most people would be clueless on how to mess it up. And even if someone was determined to figure out how to mess it up, well, they've just learned a great deal, so I'm happy with that too, and I just reimage

The problem? I thought people we're going to stroke on me when I switched some over to Win2000. I can't stand to see a bunch of people crying again.

[ Parent ]

It can work (3.00 / 7) (#118)
by bugmaster on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 06:08:47 AM EST

At the Israeli school where I studied so, so long ago, computers were an extremely valuable asset. This is because all our classes were integrated: in Math, we'd learn algebra and trig; in Physics, we'd learn about acceleration of gravity (well, and optics later on); in Statistics, we'd learn about standard deviation; and in Pascal/DBase (yes, I'm old), we'd learn how to program. Thus, we could write a software tool that would collect our experimental data from Physics, analyze it using the formulae from Statistics, and compute the acceleration of gravity (or whatever) and its experimental error using our mighty Algebra/Trig sk33lz.

Computers were crucial to this process. Without computers, you can't program anything. And if you can't attempt to write a program, you can never be sure that your own understanding of the problem you're solving is truly complete. Well, you can cheat of course, but you can cheat on paper too.

Israel has taught me well; when I came to the US, I got a used TI-85, and programmed all my physics/calculus equations into it; I also wrote generic problem solvers for some common problems ("a ball is launched with velocity V at angle Theta..."). Trust me: once you can write a program that gives you the correct answer 100% of the time, you will know the subject matter like the back of your hand. If I had a laptop or a PDA, I could've written faster, more comprehensive software with a "save" feature or something, but I didn't, so I couldn't.

That was a complicated example; there are also trivial examples such as "typing your English homework so that someone other than you can read it", and "uh, there are these CS classes, debugging a database is hard to do in your head". Anyway, my point is that, when used correctly, computers can be a massively powerful learning aid.

The catch here is that learning aids only work on people who want to learn. Many, if not most, people in my high school didn't want to learn jack; no amount of Beowulf clusters could reverse that. But the same thing goes for pens, paper, staples, blackboards and other school paraphrenalia; computers should not be singled out just because they're shiny and new.

Sounds like a good school (3.00 / 4) (#120)
by MrHanky on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 07:28:17 AM EST

You school obviously chose to use computers as tools. And not only that, computers were the right tools. The problem with computers in schools these days is that they're supposed to solve all problems. But you don't learn history, human languages, sociology, geography, phys. ed., etc., from computers. So loads of money are being poured on an obviously wrong solution.

Why? Because politicians and school boards either think computers are inherently good, or they think you think they are, and want to fool you to vote for them or send your kids to their schools. Or they believe the kids need to learn about computers at an early age so that they are competetive when they grow up. But this can become a problem if it detracts from other sorts of education.

"This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics." Lettuce B-Free, on being a total fucking moron for Ron Paul.
[ Parent ]

You're basically right (none / 0) (#185)
by bugmaster on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 02:24:12 AM EST

Computers are just that -- tools. A hammer is not going to punch in that nail all by itself; someone has to wield it, and wield it properly, or else it will flatten your thumb, instead. Same with computers.

I would argue though, that computers (and hammers) are inherently good, in a sense that they can amplify human powers. You can't drive in a nail without a hammer, and you can't solve complex problems in one step without computers (and some problems you can't solve at all). I think that even in the "softer" fields, such as history, sociology, and especially geography and linguistics, computers can be useful. For example, I'd love to see an animated map of Europe leading up to WWI, with a slider that let me travel back and forth in time (sort of like the History view in some of the Civ/Age games). If I had a tool like that, maybe I'd actually remember what happened when... Language-wise, there's already a tool that greatly magnifies my language-learning powers; I don't even need to make up an abstract example.

So, I'd still say that computers are a good thing, and can be useful in many subjects -- but if and only if they're actually used. As far as I understand, the current approach is to just put computers on desks and hope that somehow they will magically do the right thing; that doesn't work.
[ Parent ]

Thanks for the link (none / 0) (#193)
by MrHanky on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 09:11:02 AM EST

I'll have to look at that. I always wanted to learn Japanese, but never bothered to take a course. But I seriously don't think gaming is the best way to learn. It's not as effective as actually reading about the whats and whys of the subject. But I can see that it's a way to sweeten the pill for kids in lower grades. After all, one of the main problems with school is that it's terribly boring.

Personally, though, I think school is boring because it's far too slow. Take for instance the way they taught English in Norway in the olden days, when I was a kid: We were meant to have read our home work, a piece of text, usually not the slightest interesting. The teacher would then make a few pupils read out loud parts of the text, and then we would have to discuss the text. I don't think anyone wanted to participate in the discussion, nor read their home work, but that's how the lessons went. Spending an hour on maybe two pages of badly written, childish text. Every single day. I hated it, rarely did my home work, and always had to read and answer questions. I didn't experience these classes as a time to learn; they were control sessions to check that we'd read our meaningless text pieces. But still, if you just throw enough time on something, even a terrible solution will work. Norwegians usually speak English quite well.

There are a number of ways to improve on this sort of education, but computers aren't necessary. First of all, the teachers could start actually teaching, helping the pupils understand some of the basic differences in pronunciation between our languages and so on. That's time consuming, but it consumes time in a better way than the torture we had to endure. What I want is active learning, not pseudo-accidental learning of distantly related nonsense.

Sorry for ranting. This might even seem unrelated to your comment. But I think gaming recreates the problem I've sketched up: It tries to make a subject interesting by being something else.

So back to the beginning of your comment: A computer is a tool, like a hammer is a tool. You actually can drive in a nail without a hammer. Use any hard, robust and heavy object. Rocks are cheap and good. But you know the saying: If all you've got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Computers are a bit more multi-purpose, but they are only expensive calculators. The can compute, filter data and store and retrieve information. Other uses are often like treating any problem like a nail.

"This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics." Lettuce B-Free, on being a total fucking moron for Ron Paul.
[ Parent ]

Oh, no no (none / 0) (#205)
by bugmaster on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 08:41:17 AM EST

I'll have to look at that. I always wanted to learn Japanese, but never bothered to take a course. But I seriously don't think gaming is the best way to learn. It's not as effective as actually reading about the whats and whys of the subject.
Oh no, no, don't get me wrong: this game won't teach you Japanese. What it will do is help you memorize the kana, and some of the kanji. Really takes the edge of the midnless drudgery of sitting there and drilling glyphs.

You're right about hammers and nails, but I think you're wrong about this part:

Computers are a bit more multi-purpose, but they are only expensive calculators.
Computers are radically different from calculators (or hammers for that matter), for two reasons:
  1. They can be re-programmed on the fly, and
  2. They can make decisions
The hammer can't execute a program such as "if(nail.getMaterial().equals(Metals.BRASS)) { decreaseForce(20); }" , but a computer can. This may seem like a minor detail, but it is, in fact, a massive categorical difference. The ability to make decisions on the fly makes it possible for the computer to perform autonomously, which is something that hammers and calculators could never do.

It is also precisely the reason why computers can, potentially, make such great learning tools: before you can use them to automatically solve your problems, you have to program them, and you can't do that without having a deep understanding of your task in the first place.
[ Parent ]

Which school was that? (2.50 / 2) (#122)
by i on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 08:48:49 AM EST

Just curious. I have kids, y'know.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Dude, your school sounds awesome (2.50 / 2) (#125)
by nlscb on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:20:39 AM EST

But I suspect you went to one ISRia's ellite schools. I find it a little hard to believe you just went to an average ISRian high school. Then again, maybe ISRia's education system simply kicks unbelievable ass. I guess the upside of having all your neighbors hate you is that it definitely keeps you motivated.

Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange
[ Parent ]

Shevah (none / 1) (#143)
by bugmaster on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 02:08:45 PM EST

It was called Shevah; it was located near Tel Aviv. To tell you the truth, I really hated that school, for certain reasons, but AFAIK most of the bugs have been worked out of the system after I left. Lucky me.
[ Parent ]
Hooray computer shortcuts! (none / 1) (#184)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 10:41:24 PM EST

Similar story here: In the sixth grade I got tired of doing long division, so I wrote a BASIC program that would display the process results for me, and printed my homework out with it. Then I brought the program to the teacher. He never made me do long division again.

Of course, these days, the teacher would just assume I'd gotten the program from a Javascript+DHTML web page, by typing "long division" into Google. I'd probably be accused of cheating, and being lazy.

The times they change.

[ Parent ]

I got tired of simultaneous equations (none / 0) (#192)
by Nursie on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 07:02:00 AM EST

and programmed my casio calculator to solve them and show all the working. Very very useful. And the numerical solution to quadratic equations.

When I went in to my Maths GCSE I had to erase the memory from the calculator. The first thing I did when I sat down was recode those two programs. It saved much more time than it too.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Computer shortcuts (none / 0) (#216)
by irrevenant on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 05:19:06 AM EST

NOT having a go at you in particular, but I can't really buy into this "now we have calculators, kids don't need to know math" reasoning.  This logic has resulted in a generation of people who (eg) have trouble telling if 750g of washing powder for $7.99 is a good deal compared to 250g for $1.99 or having even a rough idea of the value of a load of shopping until it's rung up.  We deal in numbers every day and it's actually _less_ efficient to use a calculator for a lot of it...

[ Parent ]
but that's the point (none / 0) (#217)
by garote on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 06:26:37 PM EST

Wherever basic mathematics remains useful in everyday life, people will learn what they need to know. That's all about using the best tool for the job as hand. I've never been against the teaching of long division, or other basic symbolic maneuvers, so that students have another tool in the metaphorical toolbox. I am, however, against the exclusion of better tools -- power-tools, if you will.

Imagine how muddy a calculus lesson would be if you had no means of plotting graphs other than manually solving an equation point-by-point. All of the graphs you examine, as you get the feel for what the numbers actually _show_, would be suspect. Who could say whether any particular curve or spike was accurate, or just some lousy clerical error? An accidental transliteration, or switching of sign, or a 1 that looks like a 7?

Programmers use the principle of a multi-tiered toolbox all the time. If we don't _have_ to write a program in assembly language (which would be tedious, but would result in very very fast programs), why should we? We work first with logical concepts, and worry about their specific implementation later, if at all.

Besides: Stores now calculate the price per serving / weight unit FOR us modern shoppers, and print that value directly on the price tag, underneath the total price, in smaller numbers. At least, here in "ye states". And pretty soon we'll be using shopping baskets that display a running total of the items dumped into them, via RFID tags, including coupons and taxes. Human laziness knows no bounds, and tricky lazy people will always find a way to avoid math. :)

[ Parent ]

I think we're largely in agreement... (none / 0) (#218)
by irrevenant on Tue Oct 05, 2004 at 05:26:46 AM EST

...I'm not against power tools either - I just believe people should learn how to do without them too.

Here in Oz, foods tend to be labelled with a price per kg, but items such as laundry detergent aren't.

Re: RFID baskets, maybe.  But given how much in the shop's interest to be able to slug you at the end, I can't see it happening any time soon...

[ Parent ]

Yes, but (none / 0) (#196)
by Ward57 on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 02:23:04 PM EST

they could, I think, fool people into believing that they are learning, but getting a computer program from their friend, when they clearly aren't.

[ Parent ]
That's the way computers should be used. (none / 0) (#197)
by handslikesnakes on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 02:31:41 PM EST

I'm sitting in a high school computer lab right now (no, not as a student, I'm doing tech support) and I can tell you that this isn't the kind of stuff they're being used for. "Computer class" entails several minutes of practicing typing and then copying a document layout Microsoft office. More advanced students may learn how to use WordArt!

Maybe my impression is skewed because I grew up in a shitty little town (this one is even shittier). Computers should be a means, not and end. If you don't have an end to which computers are useful, there's no reason to use them.

[ Parent ]
Just remember kids... (2.75 / 4) (#128)
by clambake on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 10:17:46 AM EST

For the amount that has so far been spent on the war in Iraq, the US could have bought each and every man woman and child in the United States a Mid-low end computer...  Every classroom?  Bah, too expensive.

Gee, and I thought (1.50 / 2) (#132)
by modmans2ndcoming on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 11:50:21 AM EST

that schools already HAD relevance since they are responsible for you know, educating them and stuff.

What every classroom needs is (2.00 / 3) (#133)
by modmans2ndcoming on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 11:54:04 AM EST

a Digital projector mounted in the ceiling connected to a teacher station at the front so that teachers can use technology in their lessons with out having to wheel it down to the room, fight for it with other teachers, or buy their own. using power point and other computer tools to teach students is more effective than placing the kids in front of a computer to learn something.

multi-media in lectures is important because it gives flexibility that is not available using a blackboard.

arrrrggghhh been there, done that (none / 1) (#178)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 10:08:59 PM EST

A digital projector: $3000 down, plus $150 a month for projector bulbs and servicing. And then, the item is likely to get stolen, or bashed in by some frisky student. We already have a relatively cheap and fairly flexible alternative: The overhead projector.

The problem for teachers is not that it is oh-so-much of a hassle to drag a piddly object from a closet to a room every couple days. Teachers are not lazy. The problem for teachers is that they are not very well trained in the tactics of education, and that they are usually thrust into situations with overwhelming odds for failure.

The maximum number of students a single teacher should ever have to deal with is TEN. Not thirty, fifty, or two hundred. Want to raise your test scores through the roof? Put two or three teachers in one room, teaching a class together. This has been done in the K-6 arena, in even poverty-level areas, with stunning results.

Placed in front of ten students or less, a good teacher can teach brilliantly with a whiteboard, three markers, one red pen, and access to a copy machine. ... But no, we'd rather spend money on devices that factor teachers out, and turn the classroom into a freaking movie theatre. Caught in a class like that, it's no wonder students are bored, shiftless, and annoyed. They know when their time is being wasted.

[ Parent ]

you are over estimating the projector costs. (none / 0) (#198)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 04:53:12 PM EST

but, OK, give me a 42 inch or larger plasma screen.

also 10 students would certainly be nice, however, you do not see any educational benefit until you drop the students to less than 18, so if I had a class of 30 students, adding 2 teachers would drop my load to about 25 or so. no benefit to the students, but it sure does cost the district about 80 - 100 grand more.

[ Parent ]

Glaguhalughalhgllh (none / 0) (#200)
by garote on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 06:41:45 PM EST

Your math doesn't make any sense. 30 students divided by 3 teachers = 25 students per teacher!?

And: 80-100 grand or more, eh - $40k a year per teacher? That's actually a HIGH estimate for the going rate for teacher pay, which is a travesty. It should be more like, 100-120 grand a year, and even then it would be worth every penny.

And regarding projector costs: So what? They're still hideously expensive compared to overhead projectors, which don't have to be installed in every damn room but can be moved from place to place, even put side-by-side when necessary.

[ Parent ]

I am a highschool teacher. (none / 0) (#201)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 11:37:09 PM EST

so when you figure that out it comes to about 25.

[ Parent ]
let me be a littl more spesific (none / 1) (#202)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 11:46:00 PM EST

ther are 1250 math students. 8 teachers for math for 5 hours per day (1 hour prep) means that I have 31-32 students per class. but when you add 2 more teachers, that means that I have 25.

no difference in quality and not worth it.

as for elementary schools, you talk about adding 2 teachers, you are not talking about 2 teachers per building, you are talking about 2 teachers per district so the math can still hold up.

you are looking at it all wrong. in your case, you would be adding 2 teachers per building. in a district the size of the one that I work in, that is 30 buildings, you are talking about adding 60 teachers to the rolls, not to mention, grade levels, so if you wanted 2 more teachers per grade level, that would be adding 360 new teachers to the elementary pay rolls (we go up through 6th grade in our elementary district. in Michigan, that means that you will be spending 1,260,000 on just the salaries (the mean in michigan is about 35k per year) when you add in the benefits it goes up past 2 million dollars. you think that a district can afford that? hell no.

lets not also forget that you are assuming 60 kids per grade, but I think I have made my point.

[ Parent ]

oh I agree. (3.00 / 2) (#203)
by garote on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 03:44:41 AM EST

I agree. School districts, funded as they are, cannot afford what I suggest. They should be able to, but they cannot.

They would have been able to, for ten years or more, with the money we spent blasting the shit out of Iraq, but there ya go. Got to have priorities, eh?

[ Parent ]

Its important that every student have a Mac.. (2.00 / 3) (#135)
by siberian on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 12:14:39 PM EST

so that it can more easily support the government funded iPods to follow. I dig my macs but please, laptop for every student? Some road warrior came up with that one i bet.

already been done (2.50 / 2) (#147)
by YelM3 on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 04:33:02 PM EST

Duke frosh all get iPods -- as an organizational tool??

[ Parent ]
Having worked for Henrico County... (3.00 / 5) (#163)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 11:27:35 PM EST

In the capacity of iBook repair monkey, I can say that it was very much a political decision. Sure, Apple did make the price competitive, but their tech culture goes back to the early 80s, and PC's were unthinkable. That, plus a rich suburbs county that wants to snub its nose at the poor Richmond public schools by doling out a laptop to each student, and the deal was set.

Let's see. The things are locked down so completely, that no student could learn to do anything significant computer wise. Want to fire up the console learn bash, maybe do some perl? Oops. No way to install the apple development packages, no way to learn to program. Maybe they'd teach CAD? Oops, this is a mac. 3D modeling? Available, but they aren't teaching it. Maybe video production, or photoshop? Nope. Filemaker Pro and some relational SQL stuff? Nope.

The Intaweb (locked down) and M$ Office. That's right, folks... these laptops are glorified pads of paper. Or maybe typewriters, depending on how you look at it. $1000 per student, to brats that treat them as disposable toys that they might as well abuse.

But it doesn't stop there. If they were willing to spend a grand per brat for a paper substitute, who cares... but the things are the biggest distraction you can imagine. The few times I've had a chance to see what happens with them is indescribable.

Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

The difference between a good school and a bad one (3.00 / 4) (#136)
by Anonymous Hiro on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 12:15:07 PM EST

Is how well the worst and mediocre students fare. Same for judging between a good teacher and a bad teacher. The top students will always manage despite the teachers or lack of them. In fact sometimes the teachers just get in their way.

If you just throw technology/money at the problem, most of the time only the top students will catch it.

Whereas if you have a good teacher, the worst students actually have a glimmer of hope of actually passing and having a good chance of bettering themselves. We're not talking about Ivy League, we're talking about getting some basic education.

Seems the US high school system sucks - schools where it is common for the smarter students to get punished by their peers for being smarter are pretty much dysfunctional.

The top Unis do well only because all the top students head their direction (like duh), and because of the legacy of previous members. As I said, even if your education system sucks, it's got to be really really bad to hold the top students back.

The ones who really lose out are the bottom half.

I dunno about the rest of you but that's how I'd judge an education system - what happens to the bottom half of the class?

The bottom half does ok, actually (none / 1) (#159)
by duffbeer703 on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:14:10 PM EST

Plenty of the "losers" in your high school are making 2x what you make as a mechanic, hvac guy or plumber.

Plenty of the "smart" kids are manning espresso machines or have $90,000 credit card balances and a $40k annual income.

The purpose of the US public school system is to keep teachers employed. Any other explanation defies reality and common sense.

[ Parent ]

purposes (none / 1) (#191)
by Cornelius on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 05:56:11 AM EST

The purpose of the US public school system is to keep teachers employed. Any other explanation defies reality and common sense.

The purose of schools is primarily to keep young people of the streets so that their parents can go to work. The secondary goal of schools is to make people conform to received social structures.

The teachers are just coincidental. It makes the school system look better if you have "certified people" actually running the show.



"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
[ Parent ]
"Smarter students" (none / 0) (#213)
by irrevenant on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 06:49:35 PM EST

I think that the assumption that the top students are the smart students is probably invalid.

  Obviously being at the extremes of the intelligence curve is going to impact academic success (ie. the kid who tries SO hard, but just can't get it, or the student that breezes through in spite of himself).  By and large though, I think that what academic success in High School (or lack thereof) indicates is how important academic success is to a given student.

  Paul Graham's "Why nerds are unpopular" (http://paulgraham.com/nerds.html) makes the point that most High School kids are swotting really hard - but they're working towards the goal of popularity rather than academic success.  The top High School student tends to be someone who would rather work at academic success rather than popularity (or that rare individual with enough  aptitude to succeed at both).

[ Parent ]

powerpoint (2.66 / 3) (#145)
by the77x42 on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 02:34:13 PM EST

i think i'm going to pick up a lot of flak from this, but your conception of powerpoint isn't really all that fair. learning strictly off of powerpoint slides is pretty gross. it just won't happen.

powerpoint slides should only be used to suppliment a good lecture with: pictures, very general key points, or visual data like graphs and charts. don't think that you can learn about gettysburg address just by reading the slides, but used in conjuction with the actual address, it can be very informative.

teachers at my university use powerpoint all the time. mostly it's for financial data, archeological pictures, or programming-related flowcharts. it has uses, don't blow it off.

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

How quickly people forget (3.00 / 2) (#167)
by GenerationY on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 03:04:47 AM EST

I'll take powerpoint over nasty hand-drawn transparencies anyday, which is what it used to be about.

If you were lucky they'd banged out the content on a typewriter (inexpertly, with loads of typos) first and then photocopied onto the slide. Inserting figures was photocopy, paste, photocopy onto the slide...if it was a photgraph or really anything other than a very clear line drawing, well good luck in making out what the hell it was supposed to be. Its like a parlour game or something.

Powerpoint isn't brilliant, but the ye olden days were worse that way.

[ Parent ]

The problem with presentation slides... (none / 0) (#212)
by irrevenant on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 06:37:27 PM EST

..., in my experience, is that they tend to distract everyone's attention from what the presenter is actually SAYING.

It doesn't really matter whether they're Powerpoint or hand-written overheads.

I've been to far too many presentations where everyone sits reading the notes while the presenter natters away.

[ Parent ]

very true (none / 0) (#214)
by the77x42 on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 12:19:44 AM EST

my solution is to make the slides slightly hard to read and have very few words on them so they'll have to listen to you

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
University Physics course (2.66 / 3) (#148)
by YelM3 on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 04:49:45 PM EST

I was in a large (250 person) physics lecture last year. The Physics department was trying out some new web-based homework system. I thought it was handy; it gave you a series of questions segmented into parts, along with hints along the way and tutorials. You had 5 chances to get the final answer correct. This seemed reasonable considering it was sometimes tricky for some people to enter the equation properly, ie sin(theta_one/PI)*4.

This system had the advantages of lowering costs for the department, since it didn't need to hire several graders for the course, as well as providing decent web-based tutorials and more interactivity than the book alone. It also let you know whether or not you had the right answer, as opposed to paper homework, which was turned in with ANY answer and maybe not returned to the student until the last week of class.

Anyway, the students seemed to hate this system. People couldn't figure out how to log on. They couldn't figure out the proper syntax to enter answers. Most everyone I studied with simply obtained the login of one of their friends and copied all the answers. I think ultimately they were lazy, and hated the fact that they couldn't scribble down what they thought was the right answer and forget about it.

I don't know what the department ultimately decided, but in any case this shows that people are very resistant to change, and new technology isn't seen by many students as a necessarily Good Thing.

Heh. 22-23 years ago (3.00 / 5) (#152)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 05:42:58 PM EST

our university put in a bunch of talking xerox machines. the machines were full of helpful hints, such as "you forgot to remove your original".

The machines took an incredible beating, people kept running pencils through the speakers and such. And I couldn't figure out why people seemed to hate the machines so much - until the day I forgot to remove my original.

I had this incredible blast of rage at being corrected by a "stupid machine" - which had nothing (or maybe everything) to do with the fact that the machine was right.

After that I realized that human interface design was a much bigger problem than people thought.

I'll tell you why I don't listen. I can only read so much of your stupid a-- b--- s--- before I lose all faith in the future of humanity and start sort
[ Parent ]

Good point (none / 1) (#155)
by mstefan on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 07:41:49 PM EST

It's one of the real difficulties in designing interfaces with 'intelligent' machines; we run into problems as soon as the perception becomes that we are serving the machine (or the machine is acting in loco parentis, as in your example) rather than the other way around. We want our machines to be smart, but not too smart.

Its also one of the problems that have become apparent in robotics. People react well to robots that have recognizable, even human-like, features; but if they start getting too close to the mark, then it crosses the line into something people find disturbing. ASIMO is probably as close as designers can get to humanoid where the initial reaction is that people think it's cool, rather than creepy.

[ Parent ]
Corrected by the machine.... (none / 1) (#190)
by kmself on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 05:50:46 AM EST

Working my way through college at Kinko's I had a similar experience. Except that the Xerox 9200 wasn't a talking machine. Just that it had its sensors...and rhythms.

When starting up a copying run, it would start whirring and huffing and making all sorts of noise....and then about half the time, suddenly stand down. I didn't even have to look at the blinking status light. "Stop being so damned right about it!" I'd yell, as I removed an original from the platen glass. Frustrated me every time, even without a condescendingly sacchrine voice telling me what I already knew.

Working with that machine over a few years, you got to the point where you'd hear its moods without thinking. I'd take a break and head out across the quiet downtown street at night, and could hear the rhythm break as it hit a paper jam. I'd be back inside the shop and opening access panels before it came to a full stop.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

I wonder .. (none / 1) (#207)
by mrt on Sat Oct 02, 2004 at 04:25:16 AM EST

I had this incredible blast of rage at being corrected by a "stupid machine" - which had nothing (or maybe everything) to do with the fact that the machine was right.

I wonder if the rage is truly to do with being corrected. In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent would often say "So this is it, we're going to die." to the annoyance of everyone around him. Because not only is it a pointless thing to say, it doesn't help you, and it distracts you from perhaps doing something to avoid your grisly fate.

Maybe want we want is a machine that would take the original out and put it in the inbox on your desk, or some other helpful action, rather than waste your time telling you about something which it expects YOU to take some action on.

In other words, machines are supposed to do work for us, not the other way around.


I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous
[ Parent ]
Outstanding Point: (none / 1) (#158)
by Tobywankenobe on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 09:07:27 PM EST

That's very depressing. It seems to suggest that even if we go out of our way to create stimulating learning environments, students are going to whine about it and still find ways to circumvent it. Prozac's looking better all the time.

However, you seemed to think it was worthwhile, and I'm sure a few others did as well, so maybe it was worth it. And maybe that's the point--this stuff is really new to us all, so right now we're at the point where we're just sorting it all out.

I think one thing I've learned is that the kind of technology that powers this site may be one of those things that schools need to look at. WebCT and BlackBoard might just be v.1, but a synthesis of that with something more like Scoop might take it in a whole new direction.

[ Parent ]

Check this out: (none / 0) (#175)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 09:50:47 PM EST

Something similar to what you're proposing: Knowledge Forum

[ Parent ]
If everyone hates a system... (none / 0) (#211)
by irrevenant on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 06:26:42 PM EST

...maybe they're right?  Why assume the students are at fault rather than the system?

You yourself indicated that something as basic as entering the answer was a hassle.

Sounds to me like the system was trying to force physics students to learn computer syntax to submit their work.  If I were being required to learn something new and unrelated to my work just to do my work, I'd probably jack up too.

[ Parent ]

It's human nature... (3.00 / 2) (#156)
by Sen on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 08:26:33 PM EST

...so change human nature. Once the thalamus has been replicated in silicon, the post-singularity being will need no teachers.

Exactly, (none / 0) (#230)
by esrever on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 09:39:17 PM EST

because they'll all be riding around on their flying pigs...

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]
A Classroom in Every Computer (2.80 / 5) (#157)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 08:59:17 PM EST

Children belong inside the Matrix.

If you can read this signature clearly, you are sitting too close to your monitor.
Read Silicon Snake Oil, by Cliff Stoll (none / 1) (#162)
by brettd on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 11:24:37 PM EST

Well over ten years ago, Cliff Stoll wrote "Silicon Snake Oil", and it was all about the false promise of technology. A major point was computers in the classroom- and how 99% of them spent 99% of their time showing the After Dark fishbowl screensaver.

It's dead true. My hometown spent millions on computers and nobody used them- yet we often didn't have enough books for an English class. This is in one of the richer towns in MA...

Schools became irrelevent a while ago. (3.00 / 3) (#174)
by facekhan on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 05:27:10 PM EST

The American school system is a disaster. It simply does not work. The most basic assumptions that it is based on are patently false. Smart kids are marginalized and made miserable, dumb kids are hidden from view and excluded from standardized testing to make a school seem better than it is. Popularity, obedience, athletics, and conformity earn gold stars. Original thinking is brutally discouraged. Kids learn to please adults, to say exactly what they need to say, to write what they need to write, to think what they need to think to get by. Thanks to local and state-level control we don't even have the standardization that other nations schools have that makes them somewhat more successful at least in terms of quality control. For those who have not noticed, there are millions of high school and college graduates that can barely read, can't write at all, and are incapable of all but the most basic thought processes. They were not born stupid. They were made that way, their minds crushed through 12 years of inescapable repression and boredom. Bored people are easy to control. Why do you think our culture has become so consumerish. It is because people have been conditioned from childhood to equate buying things with pleasure. In a thousand years when some guy is writing, The Rise and Fall of the United States, they will point to our mind-numbing compulsory education system as the cause of our fall.

Or is that how they are supposed to work[n/t] (none / 0) (#209)
by cronian on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 11:01:09 AM EST

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
a lesson from the interent: (none / 1) (#176)
by garote on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 09:56:52 PM EST

I think we ought to examine the efficiency of peer-to-peer networks versus websites, and apply those lessons to education:

If students were at least partially responsible for teaching other students, and graded somehow on the success of their students, they would certainly be more engaged in the subject matter. Nothing stimulates the learning centers of the brain like person-to-person interaction. A live conversation, a cooperative exploration, et cetera.

The obvious problem with this: High-school students hate each other.

Hmm, interesting idea. (none / 1) (#210)
by irrevenant on Sun Oct 03, 2004 at 06:11:50 PM EST

Not only would it reduce load on teachers, but it would improve the learning of the 'mentor' students (in books on memory a recurring theme is 'study it as if you were going to have to teach it to someone' AND it would improve students' communication skills.  (Actually, scratch that one - better throw in some actually teaching TRAINING rather than expecting it to magically materialise without assistance).

Regarding students hating each other, Paul Graham's "Why nerds are unpopular" (http://paulgraham.com/nerds.html) has some interesting things to say about this.  He states (amongst other things) that schools are essentially bubbles isolated from the real world, much like prisons.  And much like in prisons, when you take away external goals, the populace turns all its attentions inward.

Grades pretty much aren't 'real' to a large proportion of the kids.  They don't see any real world benefit to working their butt off for years, other than vague assurances that it'll help them get a job.  They're too busy trying to survive and thrive in school life - that, to them, IS the real world.

If you want High School students to help each other you have to either open the bubble, or find some way to ensure that helping benefits them in their world...

[ Parent ]

best idea i've seen all week (none / 1) (#227)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Sun Oct 17, 2004 at 01:29:37 PM EST

bravo. Actually, to an extent I did learn an awful lot from my peers, but it was mostly in the music feild. Group Success or Failure became later more important than personal success or failure to me. The constant cross-fertilization of ideas and sounds that occurred bootstrapped me even further than I allready was when I started highschool. I think we can apply this elsewhere.
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
What to do with it (none / 1) (#199)
by marcmengel on Thu Sep 30, 2004 at 05:30:21 PM EST

The issue isn't whether to have computers in the classroom (and not just one, either) but what to do with them if they're there.

Lots of people have done lots of good work on this issue. The ACM published an issue devoted to this question about 10 years ago already. Other people are offering classes on how to use computers in the classroom to improve the way they teach. If you look at their materials, and how they reccomend teaching with them, using a computer in the classroom for powerpoint slides is very far from what they recommend.

The problem is that teachers who haven't been taught how to use an individual computer, much less the whole internet, for their classes having the whole lot dumped into their classroom. This would be like adding a library to a school where no one taught teachers how to use a library in concert with their curriculum -- all it would be would be a way for kids to waste time reading comics from the newspaper.

one in every classroom (none / 1) (#215)
by doormat on Mon Oct 04, 2004 at 01:49:45 AM EST

My moms a 3rd grade teacher. The computer in her class (when it works) is more for her to fill out lesson plans, check school-district email, etc. Streamline the bureaucracy inherent in the school system. Its not really for the students frequently. Especially that young. The most my mom has done is put reader rabbit, etc, on it for some of her not-so-smart students to catch up. It did work well, she wishes she had extra copies to send home with her students, it worked with most of them, one is completely caught up now. I saw the software on the internet for $5/each but I doubt they're legit copies.

Computers ought to be an enabling technology (none / 1) (#219)
by Graymalkin on Tue Oct 05, 2004 at 07:11:20 PM EST

Where I've seen so many schools and individual teachers go wrong with technology is using it to replace other more mundane things entirely. Instead of teaching children handwriting and note taking skills (stenography) schools are starting to teach them to type. In lieu of instructing children on how to find books on any subject in a library or find information in an encyoclopedia they're taught how to type terms into a search engine. These are very inappropriate uses for computer and information technology in schools. Good implementations of technology are ones where administrators and teachers use computers and such to increase the effectiveness of existing lesson plans and curriculums.

Say for instance you're teaching ancient history. It is easy to summarize points in your notes, throw those into a PowerPoint presentations and trudge through the material. This however is entirely ineffective and all you're doing is distracting the students and wasting electricity. Way back before classrooms had VGA projectors it was common practice to stick a majority of a lesson's extra media on transparencies or slides and to give the students a little something extra with the lecture.

A better use of PowerPoint or any other presentation app would be to add rich media to your existing lecture. In a presentation instead of sticking up some bullet points with a word or two summarizing what you just said it would be more effective to stick up a diagram or image related to what you're talking about. If you're talking about the Parthenon use your PowerPoint slides to display some images you grabbed off the web. The students can then take notes on what you're saying, instead of dumb bullet points and you can run off prints of the imagery and hand that out after the lecture.

The key point here is the teachers effectively using the technology they have available. This is the part that requires a bit of instruction on the part of the people providing the technologies. Many teachers are liberal arts and communication majors who wanted an easy paycheck and three months a year off from work. They're not necessarily literate themselves let along technologically savvy. If a school intends to spend money on computers it ought to think less about LCD displays and gigabit networks and more about the training of teachers and the enhancement of their lesson plans.

Problem deeper than technology (3.00 / 2) (#220)
by weirdling on Wed Oct 06, 2004 at 02:14:40 PM EST

I am related to a lot of teachers.  Two primary complaints come to mind: working for overworked dullard administrators and having no leeway to innovate.

From a market perspective, you hit the nail on the head when you pointed out that teachers these days are expected to get a four year degree, go through an internship with little or no pay, and then work their way up from starving to barely acceptable before they retire.  In other words, no offense, but you're not getting the cream of the crop, anyway, to start with.  Anyone who has any ambition and is even mildly tech savvy can get a job as a technician for twice the money.

That is problem one.  Then, of course, the promotion board selects from these as administrators and they are never going to understand a thing about technology ever.

That is problem two.  Then, the government, who has implemented standardized testing to discover to their horror that we do more poorly on standardized tests than Europeans and Japanese, begins to tinker with education.  They generate 'mandates' which require schools to comply in order to get government funding.  These mandates increase both the IT and the administrative load of people who are already technology have-nots.  Getting IT consulting is expensive, but really the only way to go for many of the schools.

Government funding doesn't always cover the cost of the mandates, but that decision is made at a state level, often, so a given school cannot opt out.  Of course, the state also adds its mandates.

Now, that is problem three.  Problem four is that there is no real way for an individual to opt out of the system without incurring significant extra cost.  I pay taxes that go to support the local school.  Both my school-aged children go to private school that I pay myself.  I pay double to get out of the system.  What this means is that the single most effective way of forcing change, which is to vote with dollars, is not available to the consumer, the parent.

Now, of course, I'm paying federal taxes to fund schools that my kids don't go to, that are failing, and that teach things I do not agree with.  I consider that theft, much as I consider the fact that I have to pay property taxes to fund a local school that my kids don't go to as theft.

The solution is to get the government out of schools.  Prior to the federalization of schools, the US tested consistently higher than it does now.  The solution to declining test scores is not more federal involvement if the involvement so far has seen test scores decline.  The solution is less federal involvement.

Also, think how much those laptops cost.  Think how useful that money would have been elsewhere.  Because it was a specific grant, the school had to use it for that purpose, even if it was short money elsewhere.  For instance, a given school may desparately need a new building, which would cost a quarter as much and be much more useful to the students, but they're forced to buy laptops.  This is economic inefficiency.  My money, taken at gunpoint by the government, is being used to buy equipment schools do not need and can't use rather than buying equpiment they need at far less cost.

Compared to that, the school my kids attend has very few computers because they aren't of much use teaching kindergarteners and first graders, who need to learn how to think and how to study before they can really be taught anything useful.  The school spends the money on something else.

The teachers at my school answer to their principle, who answers to the parents, as the parents can decide to put their child elsewhere.  If I go in and complain about a teacher, the principle and the board can take action without fear of repercussion.

Also, the principle and the board do not answer to anyone else, so if they decide to expel a student, they can.  This means that there is a strong positive incentive to make sure the kids behave when they go to school because expulsion means having to put them in an inferior, imho, school.

So, anyway, the problem isn't technology, the problem is government.  Politicians enacting stupid ideas into law because they sound good to the voter, not because they have any relevance or are likely to succeed.  Far better for me to contract with an educational professioinal to educate the sprogs than to leave them to the tender mercies of politicians...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.

Outstanding points: (none / 1) (#223)
by Tobywankenobe on Thu Oct 07, 2004 at 08:15:17 PM EST

I would like to add though, that this idea of open competition, i.e. waivers, as you seem to be suggesting obliquely, would not be the panacea that you might think. I think most public schools would welcome the chance to compete openly with private schools, but it has to be on an open playing field. Does the private school require the same hoops for its teachers to jump through in order for them to be "certified"? Does the private school have to accept ALL students? Does the private school have to deal with all the issues of special education? If public schools had the same kind of freedom that private schools do, we would only have to accept students we want, we can require input from parents (money of course is the most binding of inputs), we can kick out students that don't meet our criteria, and we can completely ignore all the absurd rules that come with special education. Then it's a fair fight, and I think most public schools would turn out to be outstanding values.

Till then, the bottom 20% and the top 10% are going to get the focus and the majority of funds at the expense of the middle 70%, and most people are going to simply judge us by what happens to the bottom 20%.

[ Parent ]

Not vouchers (none / 0) (#229)
by weirdling on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 12:15:34 PM EST

I don't want the government to pay at all.  No vouchers, no free school, no required school.  It's up to me to see to my child's education.  That way, if my school doesn't want to put up with all the requirements a public school does, I can pay less for what I consider to be equivalent or superior product.  It would take about three years for most public schools to be materially gone because of how inefficient they are.
I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Oh please (3.00 / 2) (#226)
by digitalmedievalist on Thu Oct 14, 2004 at 04:01:32 AM EST

I'm not sure who is more clueless--you or your fellow teachers. Technology as an educational panacea is hardly new. Plato bitched about writing destroying students' ability to remember anything at the same time others were getting enthused about the new technology of literacy. You wrote:
A nearby school just got a grant to give every one of their students a laptop. Sweet! That'll help them with Geometry. Exactly who are the idiots that come up with this crap? To make it worse, all the laptops are Macs,
Here are a few things that teachers could do. Since you mention Macs, I'll use Mac software for my examples, but despite my personal enthusiasm for Macs, the platform really doesn't matter. Use Excel to show how those x and y points can be extended into three dimensional graphs--and some real world uses for those x and y graphs. Show students how using Excel (or the AppleWorks spreadsheet that's probably on those Mac laptops) to chart the numbers in those word problems in math class can help them solve the problems. Use Safari and free accounts on Blogger or LiveJournal to post drafts of writing assignments, and then assign other students to respond and critique those drafts in peer review. Then revise them and post again. Pick a topic suitable for a debate or "trial" (Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, A Separate Peace, Lincoln/Douglas debates, the upcoming election . . . lots of possibilities) and use Safari and the web to research the pro and cons. This is a great opportunity to explain how to pick resources, how to search appropriately, how to cite sources--there are templates for just this purpose that came with AppleWorks on the Macs, including one for outlining an argument. Borrow a digital still camera or digital video camera and go to a nearby empty lot, pond, statepark, nature reserve, or public park and take pictures of the plants and life forms--including bugs and birds. Then connect the camera to a Mac and using iMovie and /or iPhoto (which are included on all Macs) create an annotated slide show with a voice over identifying the kingdom/phylum/genus/species found. Students can use the library as well as the web to help identify what they've imaged--or recorded. Make a web page--again, you can easiily do this by choosing Export to Web--and put it up where students from another school in another area can see and respond with their local flora and fauna. The potential for Social Studies and Second Language acquisition here are pretty obvious. Create an online "School Paper" in the form of a blog. Have students report/write/edit and HTML the stories. Put it online. I've spent twelve minutes writing this up. Surely you can come up with a lot more ways of teaching with technology? The computer is just another tool. If you've got it, why not use it?

Just came to this article (none / 0) (#228)
by Sgt York on Tue Oct 19, 2004 at 01:19:23 PM EST

I finally got a chance to read down to this, and I have a few comments.

Have I ever had a ppt presentation I sat through and remembered? Yes. About 3 a week for the last 6 years. Well, I don't remember them all perfectly, but that was more due to content than medium. Most presentations of scientific data are given via powerpoint, and it is a highly effective medium for that message. Vast ammounts of data have to be presented, and ppt works very well in this respect. I haven't seen it happen in four years, but I would imagine the reaction would be snickering if anyone tried to do a talk without powerpoint. It was the reaction four years ago. And, if it weren't for the fact that the guy's research was fantastic, he never would have been hired on.

Most lectures are done that way, too. When I was taking classes in grad school, almost every one was via powerpoint, and they were quite effective. Now that I give lectures, every single one is in powerpoint. And of coutrse, my lectures are flawless. They convey complex concepts in an easy to understand manner that--- damn....that lightning hit close!

Anyway, my students would bitch and moan if they weren't.

Now I realize we are talking about two worlds here. You are in elementary education, and I'm talking about grad school and professional life. Two entirely different things. The same argument goes for the website you linked; If the idea is to inform, powerpoint works very well. If the idea is to inspire, you avoid it. I have slides in my lectures that are blank, specifically because I want them to think about what I am saying at that point, rather than simply absorb the information.

OK, off the powerpoint. On to the internet comments. I can't argue with you there. Normally, while I eat my sandwich, I read papers, review protocols, crunch data, etc. I just finished my sandwich today, doing this. It has definately hurt my productivity in that way, but there are other ways I couldn't do without my computer and T1.

OK, lunch is over. Back to work.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.

A Computer In Every Classroom | 230 comments (203 topical, 27 editorial, 1 hidden)
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