[Edu-sig] CP4E

Kirby Urner urnerk at qwest.net
Sun Apr 10 20:24:42 CEST 2005

> "Files" aren't real, they don't exist, it is a paradigm stolen from the
> business office and has nothing to do with 5th graders, and by the time
> they are in 11th grade the paradigm, most likely, will have changed
> dramatically.

"Files aren't real" sounds like a philosophical statement.  You could say
it's a metaphor.  In Linux, even devices get to be files.

I seriously doubt this paradigm will have changed in six years.  "The future
will be different so let's not worry about teaching it now" is a standard
cop out.  I'm surprised you'd fall back on it so easily.

> The paradigm you are accepting, and teaching uncritically, is the
> interface fiction as something approaching a reality.

Don't confuse "files" with their representation as screen icons in a GUI.
I'm thinking more in terms of bash (ls, cp, rm), Python's shutils and like
that.  Before we start using a computer in earnest, we need the concepts of
"place" i.e. where things are, and what "things" are (i.e. files).  The GUI
isn't the only place to look.

> If business offices put their papers in smoogies, we would be accessing
> smoogies from our hard drives.  When of course we are doing neither of
> accessing files, nor smoogies.
> Art

The metaphor isn't perfect, when mapping to the old business office idea of
files.  For one thing, businesses didn't go to such depth with the folders,
i.e. a file cabinet is basically a set of drawers with folders, and that's
it:  no deeper (but you can nest in the other direction i.e. the
city/building/block/room containing the file cabinet is part of the "path").

The idea of soft links is poorly implemented in the pre-computer business
world (little post-its?), and, most important, the idea of a file being an
*executable* is not really there.  I mean, you'll get a memo directing you
to do something, meaning employees are being treated as agents of the
company, but in the computer world, you get to be the boss, and the computer
is your dedicated slave.  I want students to experience *administering* as
early as possible.

This is very much about empowerment (to use a buzz word).  The computer,
especially connected to the internet, is the paradigm power tool of our age.
The sin would be to bring up a generation of passive consumers who complain
and whine because "it won't do what I want."  The mark of a successful
civilization is it gives its people power over its most powerful tools, and
not vice versa.  At least, I see that as a democratic ideal myself and plan
to walk my talk in this regard.


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