[Edu-sig] Reminder: Early Bird Registration for PyCon Ending Soon

Arthur ajsiegel at optonline.net
Sat Jan 13 21:14:18 CET 2007

Arthur wrote:
> How does OLPC avoid communicating that it is OK to *not* understand - in 
> any meaningful sense - the tools one uses, to children who can't be 
> expected to understand the working of these tools in any meaningful sense?
> ..is an attempt to express in a sentence where my concern lies. 

I know that intention had been quite the opposite.

Reading, again the "Smalltalk and Children" section of Alan Kay's

The Early History of Smalltalk


one sees Kay and Adele Goldberg (PyCon 2007) in the demystifition 

By my reading it is a story of the most honest kind of effort, with some 
successes but more re-alignment of expectations and disappointment.

But them comes the essential disconnect.

The reason, therefore, that many of us want children to understand 
computing deeply and fluently is that like literature, matematics, 
science, music, and art, it carries special ways of thinking about 
situations that in contra=st with other knowledge and other wasy of 
thinking critically boost our ability to understand our world.

Yes, but we don't always get what we want...ala the preceding 12 paragraphs.

No doubt it is possible to build an interface a child can handle, so 
that they make things happen on the machine - within severe limits, 
things they intend to make happen. Which is something.

But where is the the same intellectual honesty that this piece exhibits 
in assessing whether what is occurring cognitively with such an 
interface is qualitatively related, in a meaningful sense, to what the 
initial intentions of the undertaking had been - understanding computing 
"deeply and fluently".

And what is the tragedy in backing off the effort to do it for real, and 
with feeling, and with some hope of success - to 16 or 17, rather than 
insisting on 11 or 12.  In the end, that simple adjustment covers a 
large swatch of my own particular problem.

The problem with the alternative - in my view - is the harm to the climate.

Most importantly, we are letting the 16 and 17 year olds off the hook.

We have redefined "deeply and fluently" in a very unfortunate way, and 
then have to live with it.


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