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Education Hardware News

Is Early Childhood Education Technology Moving Backwards? 290

Posted by timothy
from the but-moore-didn't-say-anything-about-this dept.
theodp writes "Four decades ago, the NSF-sponsored PLATO Elementary Reading Curriculum Project (pdf) provided Illinois schoolchildren with reading lessons and e-versions of beloved children's books that exploited networked, touch-sensitive 8.5"x8.5" bit-mapped plasma screens, color images, and audio. Last week, the Today Show promoted the TeacherMate — a $100 gadget that's teaching Illinois schoolchildren to read and do math using its 2.5" screen and old-school U-D-L-R cursor keys — as a revolution in education. Has early childhood education managed to defy Moore's Law?"
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Is Early Childhood Education Technology Moving Backwards?

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  • by loose electron (699583) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @04:46PM (#30634486) Homepage

    The latest and greatest techno-glitter is often not what's needed. The simple rugged device shown can get the interactive teaching job done, and probably endure getting dropped, kicked, and getting dumped in Cheerios.

    Would you give an iPhone to a kid who is constantly throwing things around and having temper tantrums?

    Often, simpler is better.

    • by DingerX (847589)
      Obviously your childhood didn't include a PLATO system. Those suckers were bulletproof.
      • LMAO! I pre-date computers in the classroom. High school class of 1974

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:31PM (#30634904) Homepage Journal

          High school class of 1974

          Me too. Those of us born in '56 could only read about computers in sci-fi and Popular Science, and then it was Univac. I don't think IBM built the first EDPM system until the mid-50's.

          When I'm in a quiet place and think about the changes brought about by technology in my lifetime, my head spins. Shit, when I was watching Avatar last week, I briefly recalled that when I was born not all movies were even shot in color, yet.

          I think I got my first "personal" computer about the same time my now-21 year-old daughter was born. I suppose it's a good thing I didn't have a personal computer before I met my wife and my daughter was born. There's a good chance that neither of those things would have happened, otherwise.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:37PM (#30634960) Homepage Journal

            I think I got my first "personal" computer about the same time my now-21 year-old daughter was born

            Upon further review, I realize that I did in fact get my first Commodore 64 some years before I was married. Apparently, those early machines were not yet powerful enough to suck the will out of me as effectively as the eight-core media powerhouse to which I am currently in thrall.

            Thus, I was still able to reproduce before it was too late.

          • High school class of 1974

            Me too.

            Same here ('74 drinks more!). I got my first "PC" as a hand-me-down from my ubergeek dad (when I was 26ish)...a VIC-20 (which I still have and it still works).

            My kids (and obviously grandkids) have never lived in a house without a PC/gaming thing of some sort.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hedronist (233240) *

        Those suckers were bulletproof.

        Amen, Brother. A-fucking-men.

        Back in 1973-74 I worked part-time teaching the TUTOR language to profs at U of I Chicago, and part-time driving around Chicago working on these things at places like Malcom X. Jr. College. These terminals were built like tanks and weighed about the same. The most vulnerable part was the random access audio device, which was a phenomenal kludge that was sort of a turntable that you could put a big, floppy piece of recording material on and it

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:18PM (#30634790) Homepage Journal

      The latest and greatest techno-glitter is often not what's needed

      You're right of course, and although it might be a minority opinion among fans of high-tech, the best "early-childhood education technology" is still interaction with parents, in a secure environment.

      But with mommy and daddy having to work thirty percent more just to provide the same standard of living and real income as a single-breadwinner family in 1962, interaction with parents is increasingly in short supply.

      Gotta feed Moloch, you know.

      [Note: "Standard of living does NOT mean "the number of big screen TVs you have charged to your credit cards". It means "a home, food on the table, education and health care".]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Worse than that, parents believe it is the Government's job to teach their kids, and the Government reinforces this as much as possible.

        The truth is, the public school system is probably the single worst thing that ever happened to education in the US. If you want proof, look at how many home-schooled kids outperform public school kids in schoolastic competitions and the like. Often the parents teaching these kids don't have beyond a highschool education themselves, yet they consistantly do better than th

        • by bschorr (1316501) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @06:49PM (#30635620) Homepage
          I think you're misinterpreting the data a bit - the key difference is not public school vs. homeschool. The key difference is the dedicated parents who value education. It's the same reason why most private schools out-perform most public schools. Because homeschooled kids and private school kids have dedicated parents who care about education.

          Public schools have to accept hordes of kids whose indifferent parents dump them there for free daycare. And those kids drag down the whole system.
      • by Alien Being (18488) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:40PM (#30634984)

        That's a great reason to support all local business as much as possible. The more local it is, the better.

        Just look at all the middlemen involved when you buy from national and international sources. Most of those middlemen are people working far from their homes in order to take jobs from people who are trying to work close to home.

    • by icebike (68054) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:45PM (#30635028)

      The latest and greatest techno-glitter is often not what's needed.

      You were headed in the right direction, but some how missed the destination.

      What proof is there that any technological solution is productive or effective? Why bemoan a shrinking screen size when shrinking goals explains shrinking results.

      Pencil and Paper generally don't distract the student from the task at hand. And the budget for those can be managed with pocket change.

    • by lionchild (581331)

      More than just simple, rugged and durable is better, with public education, cost is always a strong consideration. With it comes down to the cost between a workstation(s), and being able t afford a good, qualified teacher...having the extra teacher or the para will win every time. As economic times get tougher, that's more and more true.

    • by kdart (574)

      You are quite right. Taken further, the simplest tools are paper and pencil. Also blocks, builders of some sort (like Legos), and "manipulatives". But nothing beats basic human interaction, one on one. For young children this all that is needed.

      I believe too much technology exposure at a young age is actually detrimental to learning. I'm not the only one. See:

      http://news.cnet.com/8301-13507_3-9757396-18.html [cnet.com]

      In my experience, the best teacher IS experience. Kids just need to get outside more and play.

  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @04:46PM (#30634490)

    Now we plug them into X Interactivodular superintermodular digital box and have them staring at a generic "FUN!!1" learning program that teaches them to rotely memorize whatever miniscule number of factoids it can hold in it's tiny memory. Then we pick them up and shuttle them around all day on a million and one "Structured play-time" events before taking them home and expecting them to go to sleep on command after a hard day of sitting and doing what grownups tell them to.

    We used to give them a stack of comic books, a box of legos, and enough kool-aid for them and whatever other kids in the neighborhood weren't grounded at the moment and tell them to figure it out for themselves.

    Homework isn't (by default) fun, and "Structured play-time" is not good for kids. Learning is what you do so they're able to have options as an adult, and fun is anything they do voluntarily after they do the things they need to do but don't want to.

    Let the little shiats skin their knees, scream their heads off, run around with their pants on their head, dig in the mud, and punch someone in their new best friend in the nose now and then. They'll thank you for it later.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      +5.

      The summary reads:

      Is Early Childhood Education Technology Moving Backwards?

      when it should read:

      Is Early Childhood Education Moving Backwards with Technology?

      Also, in Soviet America, newfangled toys play with you.

    • Exactly. Things like this show exactly whats wrong with education: there is no thinking involved. If we want to use education to help people become more than just physical laborers, they need to really learn. They need to learn reading using books they -want- to read. When I was in early elementary school, my parents tell me that I wouldn't ever read any fiction books because I thought they were stupid. Looking today at most early fiction books, I can see that my younger me was exactly right. Now thats not
      • Huge problem (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cdrguru (88047) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:34PM (#30634932) Homepage

        You mention "help people become more than physical laborers". The problem with society today is there are easily two groups of people that can easily be recognized: those that can manipulate abstract symbols and those that cannot. This is purely a mental capability - education has no role in it. If a person doesn't have the ability, you might be able to train them sufficiently to put on a pretty good show and fake it but they aren't going to be successful or happy about it.

        Today we are quickly reaching the point where working on an assembly line is no longer an option in the Western world. If someone can be a computer programmer, great - but what about all of those people that would have been happy and productive being an assembly line worker ca. 1950? There are few jobs remaining for these people. The educational system doesn't seem to understand this division either - you simply aren't going to be able to manage a classroom of 10 children that can do abstract symbol manipulation and anther 10 that cannot. The result of trying is often the Lowest Common Denominator or some kind of group effort where half the children are helping (or trying to help) the other half. End result is a lot of frustrated kids because they are either being held back or pushed to do things they can't do.

        We need to recognize this and deal with it on a societal level, and pretty soon. Building the world so that only people that can do higher math, program computers and other things that involve abstract symbols will fit in is a disaster in the works.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hedwards (940851)
          I think what this tells us is you don't actually know what working on the line was like. I have to admit I don't either, but I'm willing to bet that it's not something people did because they liked it. Imagine spending 20 or 30 years screwing in the same fastener over and over. And I get testy after having answered the same question 50 or 60 times a day for a few months.

          That's not to say that there haven't been serious consequences from phasing out those jobs and shipping them overseas, just that it's no
          • The trouble is while rote assembly line work often did suck(not to mention the bits that were quite dangerous), there was also a time when it paid pretty decently.

            The low end of the "service economy" is at least as unpleasant(though possibly a bit safer); but your chances of running a single, or even dual, income household in something less than squalor are not encouraging.
        • The problem with society today is there are easily two groups of people that can easily be recognized: those that can manipulate abstract symbols and those that cannot. This is purely a mental capability - education has no role in it. If a person doesn't have the ability, you might be able to train them sufficiently to put on a pretty good show and fake it but they aren't going to be successful or happy about it.

          While it is a mental ability, education can help bring it to the attention of the masses. Look at the abundance of writers now compared to writers in the 16th century. While there always have been writers ever since the invention of writing, in the last 200 years writing has exploded in growth, partially due to the increase of education allowing more people to read and write.

          Think about it this way, if you lived on a farm in the 1600s and were very good at abstract thinking, where did that get you? No

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by godrik (1287354)

          The problem with society today is there are easily two groups of people that can easily be recognized: those that can manipulate abstract symbols and those that cannot. This is purely a mental capability - education has no role in it. If a person doesn't have the ability, you might be able to train them sufficiently to put on a pretty good show and fake it but they aren't going to be successful or happy about it.

          I am sorry, but [citation needed].

          In my experience, every person that does not understand abstract symbols will understand them once you explain the logic in detail. Sure some people are better at it than other people, but everybody I met was able to understand it.

      • by omb (759389)
        My kids were staunch fans of Ronald Dahl, none of it designed for children. There are very few Childrens' books, only the Hobbit comes to mind.
  • Going backwards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HockeyPuck (141947) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @04:48PM (#30634506)

    IAAKT (I Am A Kindergarten Teacher) and I would not say that I'm going backwards by having my students use crayons, pencils, markers instead of plasma, touch sensitive displays. Nor am I going backwards by using chalk and a blackboard instead of powerpoint and multimedia displays to teach your children how to read and write.

    Sometimes I often wonder if people push technology on children for the sake of making themselves look good ("Look, I introduced a bunch of 6yr olds to powerpoint and the web!").

    Btw: Chalk/pencils/paper never run out of batteries, never get badly damaged when dropped. Never need an "IT Guy" on staff to fix/train/repair/upgrade. Also, I spend quite a bit of my own money on school supplies for the students. It's much easier to go to walmart and buy a box of pencils than it is to go to the school board and ask them to appropriate more funding so we can have more ebook readers so that every child gets one.

    • I am a "computer guy" for a fairly affleunt K-12 district, and for years I have been saying that for K, 1 & 2 there shouldn't even be computers or other "gadgets". As Clifford Stoll asked in his book "Silicon Snake Oil", "Where are the sand tables?" and other hands-on, tactile, open ended learning stations. Most teachers, even Principals I bring it up to more or less agree... but... everyone says the parents won't stand for it.
      • A computer is about the most open ended learning station you can get. Give a reasonably intelligent first or second grader a computer and so long as he has no fear of "breaking" it using software, chances are he will be able to use the computer fairly well, perhaps even better than an adult with low computer skills.
        • by thoughtspace (1444717) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @06:02PM (#30635194)

          Computers are not open ended. Maybe it seems so to programmers (and programmers are limited by hardware, who are limited by applied physics/chemistry etc etc).

          In may ways, paper is just as open ended.

          The openness is also distorted by the commercial aspects of the company making the device. They effectively limit the openness by wanting to hit time-to-market dates and limit the complexity of design.

          I doubt that the computer skills will be relevant - the technology moves on. No school predicted the requirement computers skills; and they will not predict the next skill needed by preschoolers.

          The common skill you need is thinking and initiative.

          • Sure, but basic computer skills will still get you a job paying $30K per year even with very little thinking skills.
    • Educational software/hardware has long been a bit of a scam. As much fun as it was to shoot Injuns in Oregon Trail or sell lemonade with Lemonade Stand, I'm not exactly sure what it accomplished. I think computers have their place, but this idea that they could do for education what they did for business has never really come to fruition.

      • by Zerth (26112)

        Oregon Trail taught me cost analysis, supply chain management, and opportunity costs:)

        Don't buy expensive supplies when you can buy cheap bullets, shoot food, and then trade for supplies.
        Don't shoot fast small animals when you can shoot large slow animals.

        Why couldn't I have a bigger wagon and some drying racks so I could take the whole damn buffalo?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:24PM (#30634844)

      I wonder if part of the problem is this: When you buy pencils for your classroom, you have to pay for them out of pocket because the school is too cheap to do so. But if you ask for shiny new technology, the school board might decide to pay for it with the funds that could have bought a decade's supply of pencils for every classroom in the school.
      Sigh.

    • by swb (14022) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:29PM (#30634888)

      Assume the average age of the Apollo program engineers was 40 in 1969.

      That means they were in elementary school in the late 30s and early 40s -- what kind of "technology" were they taught with? Chalk, pencils and books -- maybe even slide rules and a compass. And those guys figured out how to put men on the moon!

      I do work with schools occasionally and am appalled at the money pissed away on worthless shit like smartboards and computers & software that go obsolete faster than the districts can implement them. And after that I hear the ridiculous appeals from administrators who claim they don't have enough money to fix broken windows, paint the walls or other basic maintenance, because they pissed it all away on technology that is useless in 4 years and literally junk in 8. I want to cry when they say they need to raise my taxes for it.

      Technology probably has more of a place in junior and senior high schools, but even then at a fraction of the level they try to implement it at.

    • by godrik (1287354)

      I used to teach at university and I found that student listen more on chalk/blackboard lesson than on powerpoint ones. So I used to use chalk/blackboard on important stuff and powerpoint (well beamer) on I-want-you-to-have-heard-about-it lessons.

  • Moore's law? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @04:49PM (#30634514)

    I wasn't aware there was a corollary dealing with childhood education. Or are you claiming, looking inside the old and new products, the transistor or storage density hasn't increased?

  • Does it let you cheat with Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A?
  • by fermion (181285) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @04:57PM (#30634592) Homepage Journal
    Touch screens are ok for older students, but tactile reinforcement of buttons is good for younger kids. What is also good is that kids are forced to abstract the button to understand that it will do somewhat different things at different times, i.e. act like a variable. Otherwise all they are doing is moving pictures around and not developing interconnects in their brains.

    The biggest mistake I see in education is trying to provide the coolest and latest tech, instead of thinking what is best for concept development. Especially at lower levels teaching specific tech is not so useful. The tech will change in 10 years. When I left school was the time when we moved from command line to GUI. Fortunately I knew concepts,so it mattered little.

    The $100 price point is also a major benefit. Like calculators, all classroms could have a class set. Quite a change from the time when we had a single PLATO terminal.

    • by dosius (230542)

      Old Apple ][ educational software FTW. I'm still trying to find more of it. Mainly TLC and MECC. DLM had some good stuff too. Better by far than a lot of recent Windoze junk.

      (inb4 Asimov: I know the site, I raid it frequently.)

      -uso.

    • Touch screens are ok for older students, but tactile reinforcement of buttons is good for younger kids.

      Both my 3 year old daughter and my 5 year old son have used my iPhone for about 18 months now. They fly through the thing. I never even had to teach my son how to use it - he knew how to unlock it from the first time he saw me do it.

      Touch screens are just natural to use.
  • Apples and Oranges (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grond (15515) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:00PM (#30634628) Homepage

    In 1972 the PLATO IV terminals (the kind described in the summary) cost $12,000 [wikipedia.org]. Adjusting for inflation, that would be over $60,000 today. Moore's Law has worked some miracles, but as the OLPC project showed, creating a child-oriented, large screen portable computer for $100 is still out of reach.

    The better question is whether throwing technology at the problem is going to actually help children learn. Of course, the experiment has to be done, but I wouldn't be surprised if, once again, teacher quality and home life quality are by far the dominant factors in student success.

    • as the OLPC project showed, creating a child-oriented, large screen portable computer for $100 is still out of reach.

      Actually, CherryPal has managed to do that (not exactly child-oriented but so long as they aren't careless with it, it should last for a bit), but it would be a nightmare for support (http://www.cherrypal.com/openstore/product_info.php?products_id=5) because basically its duct-taped together with spare parts and could be ARM/x86

    • Indeed. Not to mention that each terminal took up a few square feet of dedicated desk space, and consumed prodigious amounts of electricity (by contemporary standards).

      The missing piece of the cheap child-oriented computer is an inexpensive durable display. OLED may get there -- it is inherently capable of being more robust than LCD, but the materials are still too expensive. If the resolution and monochrome display of the PLATO IV is acceptable, OLED displays are feasible today. I suspect that it is ent

    • To put things in perspective, a circa-1972 Xerox Alto workstation [stanford.edu] would be about $388,000 in 2009 dollars, but I can't imagine anyone preferring one to today's $399 laptops (about $77 in 1972 dollars)! :-)

    • Stupid (Score:3, Informative)

      by rickb928 (945187)

      My PLATO terminal cost me $200:

      Used Lenovo X41 Tablet off Criagslist: $120
      Restore CDs from Lenovo (pure vanity): $66
      Open Source Pterm: $0

      Total Cost: $186.

      And it does other stuff also.

      Any of the current crop of netbooks would run Pterm. You could mash up a decent distro to run the Linux version and make it reasonably simple for kids, and even give an out button to the older one so they could run a browser and all that.

      Of course, building a real PLATo terminal would be pointless, but I suspect it could be do

  • Only on slashdot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phizi0n (1237812) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:04PM (#30634666)
    Only on slashdot will you find a comparison where a 1970's terminal is declared superior to a modern gameboy-like product. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLATO_(computer_system) [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Garble Snarky (715674)
      Seriously, is this summary a joke? I think someone saw "8.5 x 8.5" and "2.5" and decided those were the only numbers that could possibly be relevant, therefore we're going backwards.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Indeed, no matter that the 1970's product cost $12,000, which in todays dollars is $60,000 - or 600 times more expensive than this little $100 thing.

        Moore's law indeed.

  • by coaxial (28297) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:09PM (#30634704) Homepage

    Computers don't emit "smartness radiation."

    Computers in the class room have been around at least 25 years. There was an Apple ][ in every classroom when I was a kid. We used it to die of dysentery on the Oregon Trail. Did we learn anything about history? No. We learned to that all that settlers needed was a 99 rounds of ammunition.

    Computers in the classroom are just the latest incarnation of the whiz-bang technology that would magically make improve education and test scores, without requiring any more work on the child's, parent's, or teacher's part. Just like television, movies, and filmstrips were hailed as an educator's silver bullet generations before. (Stoll wrote about this [amazon.com] 14 years ago, and it stills holds true.)

    Anyone that has attended class in any "e-learning" classroom, can attest that of the regular occurrences of projectors that don't work. Video and audio links that fail. Overly sensitive microphones and the like. The amount of time wasted trying to just set things up before instruction can begin is non-trivial, and easily can accumulate to entire missed days of instruction. No thank you.

    Watching passively, and just clicking "next" is not education. The reason why it's used for occupational training, is that because no one wants to acutally teach, nor learn. It's indemnification.

    If you really want to improve education, how about removing the distractions, and actually teaching out of the book?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      No. We learned to that all that settlers needed was a 99 rounds of ammunition.

      Or that a rich banker will always win the game no matter his/her skill level :(

    • Computers in the class room have been around at least 25 years. There was an Apple ][ in every classroom when I was a kid. We used it to die of dysentery on the Oregon Trail. Did we learn anything about history? No. We learned to that all that settlers needed was a 99 rounds of ammunition.

      But did you learn something about computers? Chances you did learn something if you are now on Slashdot. The role of computers should be to provide a shiny toy for students to want to figure out how it works. To learn reading to play an RPG, to learn history to learn the backstory behind war games, etc.

      Computers in the classroom are just the latest incarnation of the whiz-bang technology that would magically make improve education and test scores, without requiring any more work on the child's, parent's, or teacher's part. Just like television, movies, and filmstrips were hailed as an educator's silver bullet generations before. (Stoll wrote about this 14 years ago, and it stills holds true.)

      ...And how many kids who are have graduated still remember watching The Magic School Bus and Bill Nye the Science Guy? My guess is a lot of them.

      Anyone that has attended class in any "e-learning" classroom, can attest that of the regular occurrences of projectors that don't work. Video and audio links that fail. Overly sensitive microphones and the like. The amount of time wasted trying to just set things up before instruction can begin is non-trivial, and easily can accumulate to entire missed days of instruction. No thank you.

      ...Mostly because teachers and professors are absolutely cl

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "But did you learn something about computers? Chances you did learn something if you are now on Slashdot. The role of computers should be to provide a shiny toy for students to want to figure out how it works. To learn reading to play an RPG, to learn history to learn the backstory behind war games, etc."

        Well, I learned about computers from Commodore and later Atari computers I had at home. The Apple 2 in school was a locked down box that you could do nothing on but play crappy edutainment (Am I the only o

    • There was an Apple ][ in every classroom when I was a kid. We used it to die of dysentery on the Oregon Trail. Did we learn anything about history? No.

      I was class of 1990, so I'm thinking that we are probably the same age. When I was in 5th grade, I was exposed for the first time to a Commodore Vic-20 in the classroom which caused my parents to buy me a Commodore 64 when I was 10. I got my first modem (Mitey Mo 300 baud) when I was 13. Started my own bulletin board when I was 14. Started a computer c
  • Article is a troll (Score:4, Insightful)

    by steveha (103154) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:14PM (#30634754) Homepage

    The article submitter must be trolling. Decades ago there existed a one-off prototype, which was never widely deployed, that was hugely expensive. Now there exists an inexpensive learning gadget that might actually be in the hands of actual kids, and this is "moving backwards"?

    Next up: is the phone industry moving backwards? At a world's fair, AT&T demonstrated a working two-way color video phone, yet I don't have a video phone in my house yet. Of course, millions of people have full-color Internet on their phones, and can do things like view a photo of their home taken from orbit. And millions of people have practical teleconferencing via WebEx et al. But never mind that. The phone company doesn't have video phones in every house; we're moving backwards!

    steveha

    • Not really the same thing... I think the idea was that Product X is touted as revolutionary, then later Product Y, which for being four decades later is curiously less advanced. Though once you look at the relative prices, it makes sense.

      Your example would work if AT&T had demonstrated a hologram phone 40 years ago.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      A lot of cell phones can do video calls. The thing is that people generally don't want to do video calls.

  • Inflation adjusted (Score:3, Informative)

    by Baldrson (78598) * on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:23PM (#30634838) Homepage Journal

    IIRC, the plasma display PLATO terminals (with slide projector and audio disk player for "color images, and audio") were upwards of $10,000 in 1974. That is close to $50,000 in 2009 dollars. If we compare $100 to $50,000 I think we can safely say Moore's Law is in operation even considering the smaller screen.

    The real problem isn't regression in Moore's Law -- its regression in areas like software resulting from a loosening of the discipline allowed by exponentiating hardware capability. This is one reason the Russians are so damn hot as programmers: They had to make their software work correctly on ridiculous hardware developed by the commies.

  • Culture, not money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:23PM (#30634842) Homepage

    If you bring children up in an environment where adults do not value education, don't be surprised when the children don't value it either. And when they do not value it, they aren't going to learn much.

    I am not familiar with an effective rating scale, but I think one adult saying "Eeew, looks like Brain Work to me. No thanks!" within earshot of a child is probably -100 units whereas reading one children's book to the child is +1 unit. Similarly, suggesting that by learning the child is trying to "put on airs" is probably -500.

    Today most of the people you meet on the street are suffering with a lifetime score of -50,000. If you are especially lucky the people you work with have only -1000 and somehow, dispite major obstacles managed to learn something.

    In most schools getting good grades is utterly unacceptable to the peer social group. So the child can be an outcast with no friends or not - easy to choose, isn't it? This is the culture in the US today. A good part of it comes from the inner city "majorities" that have pretty much taken over there. Because of "white flight" to the suburbs where their children aren't exposed to an anti-education culture.

    I recently saw a television program concerning a black educator trying to stir up some interest in children being educated and going on to college. Gasp, they might be successful! Biggest problem seemed to be that they had to pick and choose the children because so many were already infected by a culture that told them being educated was socially unacceptable.

    If this problem isn't solved, no matter what technology is put into the classroom the situation is just going to get worse and worse. Cheap Chinese-made toys aren't going to fix anything. Expensive PLATO terminals aren't going to fix anything. Changing the culture is the only way.

    • I don't agree that kids in the suburbs aren't exposed to an "anti-education" culture. It might not be a pervasive there (not to mention as pervasive in the adults there; inner city parents have a horrible anti-education attitude), but they are exposed to it through their peers. It's a society-wide problem in the U.S. It's easy to see when you compare it to Japan. If you read some translated Manga, you can see that the girls actually are interested in boys with good grades there, not just the big dumb jo

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dosius (230542)

        When I lived out in the boonies, my family expected I'd go through the motions, then drop out at 16 to help out on the farm, and really didn't see the point in academic pursuits. But I'd venture the idea that education isn't of importance to the real world basically holds sway everywhere but the suburbs.

        -uso.

        • by dkf (304284)

          When I lived out in the boonies, my family expected I'd go through the motions, then drop out at 16 to help out on the farm, and really didn't see the point in academic pursuits. But I'd venture the idea that education isn't of importance to the real world basically holds sway everywhere but the suburbs.

          So you were with the rural poor working class instead of the urban poor working class. The anti-education attitude is still bad.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dkleinsc (563838)

            You're missing something very very very important: in working-class professions, education in the sense that college-educated people usually talk about it doesn't actually help much. What really helps, and what actually gets kids who expect to be part of the working class interested in their schooling, is vocational programs.

            Which is of more benefit to a future auto mechanic: The Tempest by William Shakespeare, or a practicum in how to replace an alternator? Similarly, future farmers who are working on the

  • by Ken_g6 (775014) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:26PM (#30634862) Homepage

    I've never seen a "PLATO", so "touch-sensitive 8.5"x8.5" bit-mapped plasma screens" gave me visions of a tablet PC/laptop, maybe even like the Apple tablet that's supposed to come out soon.

    Not even close! [wikipedia.org]

  • by davecrusoe (861547) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:28PM (#30634878) Homepage

    Technologies are only part of the solution - not at all the entirety!

    However, to avoid digressing from the topic of your question, my answers are several:

    First, there is simply not the same incentive to create educational technologies as there is to create faster processors or larger hard drives. The benefit of a faster computer is clear and immediately actionable. The results of improved educational opportunities don't become clear for quite some time - 20 years or more.

    Second, and more importantly, the comparison of Moore's law to education is inherently incorrect. Would your supposition be that the human cognition must double its... processing capability?... every few years, guided by increasingly powerful educational technologies?

    If there is an opportunity, it's the opportunity that we're trying to capitalize upon: that armed with an understanding of how people learn, and coupled with the low costs of producing high-quality educational technologies, we can begin to make a difference.

    The most important thing, in making that difference, is that technologies are used in such a way that they add something valuable to the experience of learning - whether it be visualizations with an explanation beyond what a teacher can reasonably provide; or equity; etc. Otherwise, the time required to set computers up, train teachers to use, develop lessons, etc., simply detracts from the educational potential of schools.

    If anyone here - LAMP volunteers, especially - would like to become involved in making that happen, please let us know [plml.org]! But, in the meantime, please don't use Moore's law as a point of comparison.

    Cheers,
    --Dave

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:28PM (#30634880) Homepage Journal

    During the summer I work around many education majors, and I can tell you that teachers are not being taught anything about technology in teaching programs. Most times they have less technical skills than your average college students. They can't work their ipods or simple digital cameras and they often have trouble using basic web sites to fill in web forms. It's all anecdotal, but I see the same thing year after year and I've seen it even going back to my own teachers in the 1980s.

    Anyway, I am apt to agree with other comments in this thread. I am for tech in the classroom, but it's not going to do any good with the teachers we are putting out in the field. The best and brightest don't go into elementary education, and right now the jobs aren't there. We need tech education for our kids to succeed, but there will have to be some other fundamental fixes made before that curriculum is even possible.

  • ... kids spend the rest of their waking hours texting each other on tiny cellphone screens.
  • by omb (759389) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:48PM (#30635052)
    This is a further example of the obsession with gadgets, which is so prevalent today. What you need are BOOKS for the age of the child, 3-4 lots of pictures, 7-8 less so, 10+ none, the better the books and teacher is the quicker it goes so long as they keep trendy teaching methods.

    Grammar and spelling are important, especially at the beginning before the start recognizing longer words as Gestalt.

    Once they can read feed them all the interesting, to them, books you can. Done right it can be amazingly fast, my 10 year old daughter taught her 2.75 year sister to read English in about 6 months to a reading age of ~ 7. Then she started teaching basic French but by the time she was 5 she could read, and talk simply in French.

    Keep away from computers, the fonts and resolution are poor, and most width is too wide to read quickley, and if you make the lines narrower they are too short.

    Finally they are not intelligently reactive to the student's needs and progress.
  • "Fun" is not the means to an education it is the primary function of it.

    I use my education to do a lot of fun things. I do not use fun to get an education.

  • by serialband (447336) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @06:16PM (#30635342)

    Children do not need electronics to learn. Wasting money on gadgets will not make children learn faster or be smarter. It's an utter waste of educational funds to start k-3 on computers. Even with 4th & 5th graders, the best thing to start them on is typing, which means a cheap, old hand-me-down-computer is sufficient. That's assuming the 4th grader's hands are big enough to start touch typing. We still have far too many adults that can't touch type. Kids will learn all other aspects of computers fast enough on their own.

    The main reason I see for having ocmputers at home, especially for the kids, is mainly for playing games. Education is and has always been a minor part of that equation. Kids have enough toys these days and need to get off their rear and go play outside. We've got more than enough unhealthy fat adults and we're getting too many unhealthy fat children these days.

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @06:24PM (#30635404)

    The problem is that school administrations are all run by baby boomers. They're still too technologically naive (/.ers excluded) to consider the problems of abandoning traditional teaching methods for shiny bling. I had the displeasure of going through some computer based education in the 80's (Chelsea Clinton was in the same program just to name drop) and I vastly preferred regular classroom instruction. With regards to reading, there's nothing wrong with a regular book. It's important to teach children how to use those too. There isn't much value in getting kids to cram their faces into a glorified VTech toy.

    Those in the position to make decisions about these things love to feel that they're doing something to help the poor and disadvantaged by sneaking some technological contrivance into the curriculum wherever they can. Books are a pretty advanced technology all their own. They are far more reliable, dependable, and cheaper than any gizmo based solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Even more importantly, it is necessary to instill some degree of self-sufficiency in the kids growing up today. Teaching them that they just need to rely on the machine to do everything for them and rely on it unquestioningly isn't the best way to prepare children for a productive life in our society. The mass deployment of electronic calculators in elementary school classrooms has led to the creation of generations of innumerate people. Certainly children should be encouraged to learn about the use of computers and information technology but that should not be used as an excuse to set them up into accepting computers as magic.

    • Those in the position to make decisions about these things love to feel that they're doing something to help the poor and disadvantaged by sneaking some technological contrivance into the curriculum wherever they can.

      The problem is really that it would look bad to train students to use cash registers. So administrators are easily tempted by the perks of purchasing more expensive devices, and end up wasting kids' time.

  • by b4upoo (166390) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @06:34PM (#30635490)

    The US education system is troubled in such a way that devices may not help at all. Teachers are under serious pressure to aim their teaching at the middle and lower achievers which causes better students to be neglected. It is the only way to meet compulsory testing goals. After all the brighter students will do well on such tests despite being neglected whereas the mediocre middle and down right lousy students will score poorly. These days those scores can cost a teacher their job.
                              Really we need to aim our teaching at the brightest students and get the lesser students into work training programs and out of the way of the better students. Parents are the real problem in this regard. They bombard every official when their kid does poorly. And elected types tend to think in terms of the number of votes a position on an issue will get them.
                              England actually had a form of the draft that sent many young men into the coal mines. Others were directed into the armed forces. These were people not deemed able to succeed at higher callings due to poor school performance. It kept coal cheap and the armed forces populated. Other European nations weeded out lesser students after sixth grade and subjected them to real training as cooks or industrial workers.
                              If school courses are designed to strain the straight A students a bit the quality of school graduates is excellent. Try to redeem the mediocre middle and the schools fall apart.

  • It's about the Education, not the Technology. If technology furthers education, use it. If it doesn't, don't. Carry out studies to determine what is effective and what isn't. Implement what is found. Rinse, repeat. It won't ever be perfect, just keep trying to make it better. I don't care if they're using supercomputers or abacuses, are they learning how to add numbers or aren't they?
  • by snStarter (212765) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @07:09PM (#30635762)

    It's not technology that's needed; quite the contrary: it's intimate human contact. READ to them, tell stories, interact. That's what children need because it's how children learn: listening, interacting, being HUMAN. The technology is a boondoggle in this. Love your kids, play with them, READ to them, be real people. For some slashdot folks that might be challenge enough.

  • by dirkdodgers (1642627) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @07:27PM (#30635904)

    I just showed her this video and she is very interested.

    Let me tell you why. What I hear from her is that the biggest problem is the kids who sit through the lessons and the material just goes in one ear and out the other. It's not necessarily that they're stupid or that they don't care, it's that they aren't engaged. What you need for those students is either massive support from the parent(s), or you need to interact with them on a one-to-one basis. My wife doesn't have the bandwidth as a teacher to provide that one-on-one interactivity while still teaching the material to the rest of the children who are on track and are learning in the traditional model.

    This sort of technology can provide that one-on-one interactivity. What it needs, and what she's looking into, is whether it also provides some way that she as a teacher can monitor progress live while the children are using the devices.

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @09:30PM (#30636778) Homepage Journal

    I gave my old 1g iPhone to my 3 year old daughter. She's been using one for a year now to play games and take photos and listen to music. it no longer has a sim card and is set up with just apps and content for her now.

    I sincerely hope the schools she attends can do better than what I'm hearing or she is gonig to have a tough time adjusting to the low fidelity expectations.

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