[Edu-sig] music:piano :: math:laptop ?

Bert Freudenberg bert at freudenbergs.de
Tue Dec 16 10:35:20 CET 2008

Not only math, but a computer can even be seen as an instrument whose  
music is ideas (*).

On 16.12.2008, at 08:16, kirby urner wrote:

> Edward Cherlin's insistent pointing to the XO is helping turn some
> wheels on my end...
> Way cool that Gibson Guitar was a sponsor of OSCON that time, shows
> how geeks are being seen from a Nashville angle:  have laptop will
> travel, the solo musician model, except we also form bands.  Really,
> so many analogies, between musicians and coders.
> What calculators, slide rules before 'em, have gotten us used to, is
> this idea that mathematics comes with devices, gizmos, more than just
> chalk or pencil.  We need machinery! (a slide rule has moving parts,
> c'mon).
> What's interesting is how reluctant the marketing groups have been, to
> link their brands to something so Buck Rogers and futuristic as the
> XO, or even to the basic idea of giving kids laptops.
> It has all the elements:  breakthrough technologies, hero developers
> (many genders and ethnicities), adorable children, cool interface...
> you'd think the cereal companies would be all over it, giving kids
> something to marvel at while crunching on wholesome grains.
> How about we start a campaign among tweens and teens called "Where's
> My Laptop?"
> Let's encourage that sense of entitlement we get listening to R0ml,
> who says gnu math, CP4E, computer literacy (lots of words for it) is
> what in the old days would be called "basic rhetoric".
> To participate in civic life, you needed to know how to structure an
> argument, defend a position.  Well, you still need those skills, but
> you also need that laptop.  How else do you expect to patch in,
> participate in the life of democracy.
> What do we want?  Laptop!  When do we want it?  Now!

While I certainly agree, getting laptops to kids is only half the  
picture, and both the easier and worse half at that. We need to  
remember, and continue to point out, that the music is not in the  
piano (*).

This is preaching to the choir on this list of course, but the folks  
seeing a major distraction in computers as typically used by kids have  
a major point, too. And that distraction is much more seductive than  
the distraction a lonesome piano provides.

So I'd like to see such a campaign explicitly point out what  
distinguishes the XO from any other laptop, by making a computer  
specifically for learning rather than for profit, by having it run  
tinkerable software (yay to Python for that), etc. It's not just the  
ingenious industrial design, but the ideas it embodies.

(*) http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=5

- Bert -

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