[Edu-sig] Fwd: [EuroPython] Children first and a hole-in-the-wall

Ian Bicking ianb at colorstudy.com
Tue Oct 3 18:46:37 CEST 2006

kirby urner wrote:
> interesting to:
>> http://www.greenstar.org/butterflies/Hole-in-the-Wall.htm
> An experiment worth doing once I suppose.  Proves kids have natural
> ability that we mostly waste and squander.
> They deserve real opportunities though, not holes in the wall.  Just
> like a Physicist to coldly treat them like guinea pigs.  Continuing
> this experiment is a waste of time, and cruel.
> There are plenty of adults who could provide real guidance, lots of
> technological capability.

As he said in the article: the learning was very fast, but shallow and 
they weren't able to get past a certain barriers without guidance.  I 
thought the outcomes described were unsurprising but also interpreted 
well -- he neither dismissed the children's accomplishments, nor did he 
interpret them as more than what they were.  The myth that all children 
are naturally "computer geniuses" is based on the naive onlooker who 
doesn't understand the full depth of computers, and so misinterprets as 
mastery what is just fearless experimentation and active attempts to 
build mental models of the system.  But there's a great deal more to be 
learned and understood that does not come naturally, even if children 
can learn particular aspects of the system without intervention.

There's still something important to learn from this: there's a great 
deal that children can teach themselves or each other.  And I might add: 
complete understanding is not necessary to be functional.

> We have no excuse to be doing "experiments" on these children.  They
> should be given real opportunities.

This argument should not be used, ever.  It's a pathetic defeatist 
argument that because injustice -- economic, education, or otherwise -- 
exists *somewhere* that doing a little something, incomplete though it 
may be, is wrong or distracting or detracts from the "real" solution. 
That this basic pattern of critique is so common is what frustrates me 
so much about it.

In this case a guy set up computers, with no expectation of any return 
or attempt to manipulate, and let these children use those computers. 
That's the experiment, and that experiment was in no way condescending 
or coercive.  The children got whatever they wanted out of it.  So why 
the negativity?

Ian Bicking | ianb at colorstudy.com | http://blog.ianbicking.org

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