[LeapList] Re: [Edu-sig] Now I went and did it!

Mark W. Alexander mwa@gate.net
Wed, 4 Oct 2000 18:40:41 -0400 (EDT)

On Wed, 4 Oct 2000, Steve Litt wrote:
> Subject: [LeapList] Re: [Edu-sig] Now I went and did it!
> >- What ages?
> 5-10

You know, you might just want to back-track a bit and look into
research regarding just how effective it is to have kids at this
age working with computers. (No, the answer is NOT obvious.)
Personally, at this age, I'd only have my kids play games,
just so they wouldn't feel intimidated by it later. Maybe
by 10, I'd help them type a report.

Computers are a tool for the mind. They do not belong in the
hands of those who are still learning how to apply their minds. 
You don't drive race cars before you learn to walk.

Of course, in our current school systems, pushing for real education
instead of waving quick-fix techno-behavioural on-size-fits-all
solutions is like trying to stop a train by putting your foot
on the rail.

> >- What was shown already? [specifically]
> MS Encarta, with various types of lookup, video, etc, MS Office and Windows
> ME (but I missed those -- left early to see the presidential debates)

I would really drive home three alternatives to these 3:

Encarta: Like encyclopedias, but smaller and more rapidly obsolete
         (due to the rate if information churn). Forget it, and
         teach using the internet as a research tool. It also has
         various types of lookup, video, etc...

Office:  For 5-10 year-olds? When mine were little and needed to
         type reports, Wordpad did everything they need. There
         are plenty of Open Source word processors that format
         nice and handle the occasional embedded image (d/l'ed
         from the internet, of course) that are a lot simpler
         for a kid to use. Don't even consider spreadsheets,
         presentation packages or databases. These kids should
         be adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. They
         should be learning to make their cases orally and in
         writing by developing structured thought and communication
         skills. The should be learning how to take notes and

WinME:   Kids don't car what OS they are using. Explain to the
         teachers and administrators that a closed OS is like
         a closed school. If you really want kids to learn, you
         have to let them inside. They will argue that everyone
         else is using MS operating systems. Explain to them
         (politely) that their goal should not be to grow a
         new generation of secretaries and managers, but 
         scientists and engineers. We are seriously behind in
         technological education, because we teach kids how
         everyone else does things instead of teaching them
         how to figure things out for themselves. Windows
         might be on everyones' desk, but Linux was on the
         space shuttle.

In other words, your target audience is NOT the children, (nor
should it be). Kids should not be making the decisions about
how they get educated and what they learn. Remember, when 
they show up for the first day of school, they probably don't
know what Windows is any more than they know what Linux is,
and what's more, they don't care! Even by 10, they MAY have
a computer, and they MAY know it runs Windows but the still
probably don't know what Windows is, what it does, and what
alternatives exist.  Nor should they.

Teachers and administrators are another thing. They SHOULD
know what goes on in the real world, but they don't. The
use of computers in K-12 for administrative work is fairly
non-relevant to a teacher's day in class. We need to make them
understand that these are just tools. Kids should be made
familiar with all different types of tools. (Yes, you CAN
read that as "Windows, too!") We also need to make them
understand that Windows is (basically) an OS for office
workers. Unix and Linux is used by scientists, engineers,
computer professionals, architects, graphic designers,
and of course, REAL internet applications. So the
question becomes, "What would you like your students
to grow up to be?"

> >- How long do you have?
> I'd guess between 15 minutes and 1 hour
> >- Will it be people gathered around one machine or is there a projector?
> Projector. The kids all sit on the floor in front, while the parents sit in
> chairs behind them. I'd imagine there are about 70 kids and 100 parents.

This presentation should hold off untill the educator's have bought 
in and Linux is being deployed. It's a pointless excercise to do
an OS presentation for kids this age. Parents are only likely to
be interested if this is really something their kids will be doing.

So step back, and do some research on education in general (which will
get you a LOT of respect from educators). Then talk to the teachers
and administrators about ways you can help them use inexpensive 
technology to improve their communications, work-flow, record
keeping and, Oh by the way, this stuff works great for students, too.

I think that was at least $.20...