[Edu-sig] Beyond CP4E

Kirby Urner urnerk at qwest.net
Fri Apr 15 08:05:54 CEST 2005

> And when presented, and only when presented, with specific, substantial
> and verifiable evidence to the effect there are fundamental learning goals
> that can be achieved by the interaction of children and data-processing
> machines that cannot be achieved by the interaction of children and human 
> teachers, we begin to way costs, and consider options.

Seems there's an assumption built in to the above paragraph that phasing in
computers is about phasing out human teachers -- the old bugaboo of
technology displacing skilled workers.  But I don't see it that way.  The
synergy is computers *and* human teachers, providing more relevant and
deeper educations for students, not computers *or* teachers.

We also need to distinguish the many roles a computer might play.  Consider
the art history or literature teacher who simply uses a computer hooked to a
projector and the internet to call up images, maybe using the google images
search function (more likely she's found the relevant images in advance).  

The lesson is on Roman architecture and the difference between Doric, Ionic
and Corinthian columns, or maybe it's a lesson on French Impressionism.  The
only role the computer plays is to find and project images.  In a music
class, it might be employed to sample CDs and project playable scores (a
music appreciation course).

On this list, our focus tends to be programming, with Python in particular.
But here again, that does *not* entail a CS or even pre-CS context.  Why
shouldn't we teach regular expressions as an adjunct to grammar?  I have a
DVD with some gigabytes of literature in the public domain, courtesy of
Scott and the Gutenberg Project.  Maybe and English teacher wants students
to search Shakespeare's work for any occurrence of the word 'rose' and uses
a little Python to do the job.  How the lesson goes from there might have
nothing to do with Python.

My thought is Python is a general purpose tool that might be useful in any
number of disciplines, as might programming skills in general.  I don't
think we have a good sense of all the possible uses because each of us is
limited in our imagination, and has limited personal experience growing up
from childhood forward with a powerful programming language at our elbow,
ready to do our bidding.  

So my expectation is that younger people will be a prime source of examples
of what might be done.  I'll do my best to inspire and suggest directions,
but my expectation is that I'll be learning, more than teaching, vis-à-vis
many Python coders half my age, or even a third.  Heck, it's already that
way -- and that's how it should be.


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