[Edu-sig] ACM Urges Obama to Include CS as Core ComponentofScience, Math Education

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sat Jan 3 01:38:59 CET 2009

On Thu, Jan 1, 2009 at 11:18 AM, gerry_lowry (alliston ontario canada)
<gerry.lowry at abilitybusinesscomputerservices.com> wrote:
> Actually, I was not talking about prodigies of any age.
> The idea was not about "hitting a pre-teen with ... J", rather it's about using J as a workbench
> with which educators can rapidly mentor your average student to experiment and grow with J
> and with the J IDE.  In the following example, I recall a book called "Confessions of a Sneaky Organic Cook
> (Or, How to Make Your Family Healthy When They're Not Looking!)".

To say "your average student" subtracts info from my "pre-teen" as at
least I was giving an age bracket.

Given my premise that the XO, because of design and appearance, is
really designed for pre secondary school aged kids (more for
elementary), I am seeing the proposal to have J on the XO as a
commitment to writing curriculum for the J language for pre-teens
("curriculum writing" doesn't necessarily imply paper books, though it
still might in some circles).

The pipeline I've derived (from a process of many meetings) is more
"controlling an avatar" (puppets) starting early (continuing onward --
fine to use not-computerized puppets of course, rear projection as in
Indonesia is cool), then immersion in various environments designed to
facilitate learning of this and that (ala Sims, Spore, Second Life,
Active Worlds, and that Smalltalky one -- forgetting the name at the

The final phase is starting to dig behind the scenes to study the
implementations of these things, getting into math and source code in
a deeper way (I call this "tunnels under Disney World" -- realizing
most might not call it that).

Myself, I'm a big believer in hybrid environments meaning we don't
standardize on any one language or environment, aren't in any way
trying to get everyone on the same page.  No "national curriculum"
(blech), no lock-stepping with ETS, a strategy that has destroyed a
generation already, so no need to keep repeating that same mistake
over and over.

I believe in competing models, different states (nations,
corporations) trying different approaches.  For marketing purposes, we
intimate that if your high school doesn't teach you any SQL, you
should be concerned, very concerned, but that's not the same thing as
calling for a nationalized curriculum with some top-down "advisory
board" (guffaw).

Here's a link to some of my "tourism literature" FYI:

(mentions Iverson, XO etc.)

Note I have no objection whatsoever to anyone's efforts to put J on
the XO.  I just hope I also have access to it when I'm working with my
target demographic, the students I'm more trained to work with (too
old for the XO, more AK-47 age (could be on Wii)).

> Perhaps, with appropriate prepartion, an educator might mentor a number of students
> with a technique that might be called "Confessions of a Sneaky Educator (or How to get
> average students to learn above average computer and mathematics skills)".

I'm all for that.  Subversion of this kind is what education is all
about no?  So many messages have a discouraging spin, keep students
feeling it's beyond their ken.  Great of they might grow up less
intimidated by such as J, used unscrupulously in some circles to
conceal Ponzi schemes etc. (same as Python, same as any language where
obfuscation is a possibility -- English especially good at this).

> If we only focus on prodigies, we short change society.  There are many potential students
> who are highly capable even though they are not prodigies.

Yes.  On the other hand, prodigies fall through the cracks way too
often, something I'm very aware of given my place of employment (a
school that attracts prodigies).

> Further, providing and mentoring a variety of tools via OLPC XO-1 may even help the educators
> to discover the next Srinivasa Ramanujan before she/he is washed out to sea by a tsunami
> or blown to bits by a roadside IED.
> Regards,
> Gerry

Great song about that guy, plus stuff in my blogs:



> P.S.:  Best wishes to all and especially to the underprivileged in 2009 and beyond.

Yes, anyone not being taught any SQL in high school would count as a
member of an oppressed group I think.  Automated record keeping is
core to civilization itself.  This is not about "computer science" so
much as about government, administration, the practive of medicine,
human resources (matching the right folks to the right positions).

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