Whilst out and about in sunny downtown Bendigo, I stumbled across this book in an 'op-shop' for $1.50 and I knew I had to buy it. Published in 1983, despite loads of funny-looking pictures, there are some insightful things mentioned. There is a whole chapter devoted to computers in education. For example, this is in a section called "The De-Schooling of Learning".
The point is that we must continue to learn, regardless of our age, if we are to cope with the demands of life today, and that learning must occur someplace other than the classrooms where we spent the fourth grade. Fortunately, the small computer came along at a time when it can be particularly helpful in both the traditional and non-traditional learning environments.
Sounds like the things a number of us are currently banging on about aren't so new after all. I was struck by the book's ability to look beyond the actual technology being used and predict how it is merely a tool to achieve a larger educational goal.
So how are we going in our goal of 'computers for everybody'? From my own experience and observations, the results are somewhat patchy. There are obviously very talented people out there doing quite amazing things with computers in education; but I'm not sure how close we are to moving beyond that group of innovators and early adopters into the mainstream of education.
I think one of the barriers might be that too many get bogged down in the actual machine being used, rather than looking objectively at what the kids can/do do with it. I stumbled across this interesting blog post by Ben Grey
, who essentially states that spending large amounts of money on technology (in this case, iPads) when smaller amounts of money can achieve the same thing, need to be heavily scrutinized. Unfortunately, the interesting discussion has become an iPad/MacBook vs netbook debate, rather than a discussion on what the kids can actually do with these machines. Frankly, if I knew my kids could do what they can do now with Lenovo netbooks at half the price, I'd ditch our current technology in a second. The only loyalty I have is to the learning of my students.
My point is that while those of us who do see and can do what technology will allow us to are sometimes critical of teachers who don't embrace 'computers for everybody', we need to be aware that we have a responsibility to keep the discussion focused on the right thing - learning. Because the average teacher isn't interested in netbooks vs iPads. The average teacher is interested in the learning of their students - and rightly so.