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Looking Back From the 1980s At Computers In Education 269

xzvf writes "As someone who went to high school in the '80s, this newsletter from 1980 (PDF) is a blast from the past. An interview with Microsoft talks up its BASIC language product and predicts voice control of computers in five years. Advertisements for Compute magazine, which was about to go monthly, and an article about a computer 'network' in Minnesota that connects some fax machine-looking terminal to a central computer over telephone lines. Lots of Atari, TI and RadioShack news too. It's a reminder from 30 years ago that we are still not using technology effectively in education."
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Looking Back From the 1980s At Computers In Education

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  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:38PM (#31192326)

    to spy on kids and their families, anyway.

  • Now I can angrily wave a holographic display of this PDF while yelling at the soccer-robot-playing kids to get off my xerotolerant "lawn" area.

    Speaking as a child of the 80s, I love the future. :)

    • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RDW ( 41497 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:56PM (#31193300)

      Of course it were all fields around here back then...

      Back in the early 80s when Clive Sinclair's little 8-bit 'micros' were all the rage in the UK, when data storage was on cassette and portable TVs stood in for monitors, 'Sinclair User' magazine used to run a column called 'Sinclairvoyance' (geddit?), which predicted how the White Heat of cheap British computer technology would revolutionise all our lives: []

      Their predictions about educations were rather wide of the mark (at least so far): []

      'Once the home [computer] schooling idea was accepted, however, the costs of providing education would fall dramatically. Almost the whole of the present system would no longer be needed, with consequent savings in wages and building and maintenance costs. Teachers would be replaced by a handful of people responsible for setting and updating the cassettes and marking the examination cassettes. None of the thousands of ancillary staff - caretakers, cleaners and cooks - would be needed. School transport would become a thing of the past and crossing patrols would no longer halt traffic at the busy times of the day. Additionally, vast areas of land would become available for development.'

      To be fair, they recognised some of the problems with this idea:

      'Schools are much more than places for learning the subjects which appear in the curriculum. They are a major stage in learning social skills. All children make friends in their neighbourhood but most friends are made at school. They also gain by having contact with others from different backgrounds. There are sufficient problems in the world caused by a lack of understanding between groups of people without increasing the divisions by removing an effective way of bringing people together.'

      Some of their other predictions seem rather more prescient, if you replace 'Prestel' with 'Web' and 'Sinclair' with 'PC'. From 1982: []

      'The Typical-Sinclair-Users select a group of holidays in which they are interested and request more details. Those arrive on the screen immediately and are printed out...They make their booking, paying the deposit by debiting their bank account directly by Prestel...As the time for the holiday approaches the TSU family, between playing the latest game of aliens and keeping their household accounts in order, check the weather conditions at their chosen resort and the strength of the peseta against the pound - all available through Prestel...As the TSUs hate shopping, having to push their way through the crowds, they decide to buy all their holiday clothes and equipment by mail order, again using Prestel...The luggage consists of the usual suitcases but also includes a large black briefcase. When they arrive at the airport, they find many other families have the same black briefcases. All are treated with great care, are taken inside the aircraft as hand luggage and stored carefully under the seats...On reaching their hotel everyone immediately rushes to their rooms, where the secret of the black box is revealed. Inside there is a complete Sinclair computer system...The following day the TSU family goes to the beach and, in common with many others, they take their briefcase and spend half the day enjoying the sun, sea and sand and the other half playing with the Sinclair...The case also contains a device which allows the Typical-Sinclair-Users to contact their neighbours via the telephone service or collect any recorded messages on their telephone answering service...If this sounds a little far-fetched, as though the Sinclairvoyance crystal ball is even less clear than usual, consider that most of the items are already in existence and are available either for the Sinclair machines or can be adapted from hardware available with other computers.'

  • Effectively? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WiiVault ( 1039946 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:39PM (#31192340)
    Does anybody actually believe that we have progressed significantly in our use of tech to educate? I sure don't.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zappepcs ( 820751 )

      to educate, you say?

      We've not really come very far in business with technology if you consider the paperless office as case in point. Watch any small group of people with smart phones, say something that needs to be written down and watch what happens... gadgets yes, advancement... not so much

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by moteyalpha ( 1228680 )
      I wish we had this from MIT when I was in school. [] Strang, Lewin and others are really good teachers UCLA and Stanford also have on line courses.
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      The internet is a great example. You can find out anything and learn about anything you want.
      You have a huge amount of data, resources, and programs at your fingertips.

      Where computers don't help much is at the elementary level.

    • Re:Effectively? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:59PM (#31192586) Homepage Journal

      >>Does anybody actually believe that we have progressed significantly in our use of tech to educate? I sure don't.

      I work in the field of education and technology, and I think most research efforts have shown, by and large, adding computers to something doesn't help. In fact, a lot of the time it hurts education.

      Mainly this is because educators throw kids in front of a computer and tell them to "research their paper" or something like that, and 3.02 seconds later the kids are all on or IMing each other.

      Computers should be used in education when there is a real reason to do so. Want to show kids what life was like in San Francisco before and after the Great Fire a bit over 100 years ago? Textbooks can't do that nearly as well as the primary source video footage taken in 1905 and 1906.

      But the way most teachers use it, it's just counterproductive.

      • Most of that is because of A) The fact that we have a bunch of students who shouldn't be in education in education and B) Deadlines are nearly unlimited.
        • And qualified educators can in most instances do a much better job than relying upon computers anyways. Computers have their place, but by and large education is still best done by real people, not those phony ones that live in the box and make strange grinding sounds.
      • Re:Effectively? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @08:40PM (#31193758)

        I can only agree. when i was in high school we moved to a shiny new school building with a shiny new computer network and lots of computer labs.

        It could have been fantastic.
        They could have taught students how to program.
        They could have used them as a real teaching aid.

        What happened was that the company contracted to run the computer system had it locked down so tight you couldn't do anything worthwhile.
        Most of the teachers were terrified of the computers.
        One teacher tried to teach the ECDL while 2 lessons ahead of the students.
        There was no way to use the computers to program.
        They utterly wasted all the money they spent on the computers.

        The problem wasn't the computers.
        the problem was the administration and the teachers.

        • Early '90s (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kenshin ( 43036 )

          My first year in high school was in a shiny new building with nice computer labs full of 386s with Windows 3.1. (Although, I tended to gravitate to the one room with the few Macs when I could.)

          Back then you couldn't lock everything down on the desktop, so we managed to explore every nook and cranny of Windows. The real challenge to us was the network, since it was locked down pretty well. I got on some sort of blacklist at one point for hanging around with kids who'd managed to hack the network. Eventually

      • Textbooks can't do that nearly as well as the primary source video footage taken in 1905 and 1906.

        They had video cameras in 1905 and 1906? Wow, education must be getting pretty bad.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      If anything, technology has made classroom education suffer, in my opinion.
    • Re:Effectively? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:07PM (#31192662) Journal
      My nieces and nephews of school age definitely make use of tech for schoolwork a lot. And IMO very effectively.

      My oldest nephew recently had a unit on biomes. It was a six-seek unit based on self-study using multi-media presentations and materials on computers at the school. Quick students mastered the basic stuff in the first two weeks -- then they were able to dig deeper and study more in-depth over the last month. Slower students may have taken almost the full time to complete the basic materials, but the nice thing is that they didn't hold back the quick students. The unit culminated in presentations the students gave utilizing the media they worked with in class, and outside media that was approved by the teacher. Presentations were live, but the kids used projectors in their presentations... it was awesome.

      When I saw my nephew's presentation in December, I recalled when I studied the same stuff in grade school, and there was no comparison. His experience was richer and deeper than mine -- he learned more, and he enjoyed it more. And the whole unit was dependent on use of technology.

      Yes, it's anecdotal, and I'm aware that many (most?) schools don't provide that kind of experience. But it's amazing to me how far we've come where we're doing it right.
    • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      Forget hardware. Just with internet we have a big tool for, well... at least a kind of education, maybe not very utopic, but in several ways far better than we had in the 80s.

      About hardware, still can't tell. I live in Uruguay when most school childrens have XOs, but as it was for most just since last year, can't tell for sure if it will cause a big improvement or not for all yet. But for some it seems to be.
    • Yes. In high school (2001) we had an Apple II with some very custom hardware and software that used lasers for timing a ball dropping down a ramp. I don't know if I would have had it driven home how gravity works if we just used a stopwatch. We saw that no matter the height or the weight, gravity was pretty consistent.

      My TI-89 (which was probably more powerful) had some awesome sonic rangefinder software that I used to test F=Ma and other stuff.

      I recently went back and visited both the public school I went

    • The problem is often that the use of technology in education is technology led rather than pedagogy led. Education needs to be led by thinking about how we can best teach our children and help them to learn (whatever your philosophy on what this entails), and use whatever technologies are appropriate. In too many cases it's tempting to start from a technology perspective of trying to force education to fit round a technology just because it's available and people think it's cool. Technologies offer afforda

  • A super calculator (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RobertinXinyang ( 1001181 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:43PM (#31192392)

    When I was in High School, back in the 80's, students were not allowed to use a computer unless they had completed Algebra 2 and were enrolled in Trig or calculus. Th reasoning was that computers were super calculators and, as such, the only students that needed them were advanced math students.

    I was allowed in the computer lab, all Apple IIs', as long as I was there with an authorized student; however, I was not allowed to actually touch a computer. This created a procedure where I, and other interested students, would write out our programs on paper and then hand them to another, authorized, student, to type in to the computer.

    Fortunately, an accountant I knew got an Apple II to run Visacalc on. I was then able to us a computer all I wanted so long as I was able to use the spreadsheet when he needed something set up on it.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      Hmm, I had a very different experience, I was in elementary school and we had CBT's (mavis beacon teaches typing and such) and plenty of infotainment games like where in the world is carmen sandiego and Oregon trail. In 5th grade I went over to the junior high to learn programming in Logo.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We've tried just about everything over the years. We haven't found anything really amazing. Computers are not the royal road to learning.

    Computers are good at learning management: Blackboard, Angel, Moodle, Desire2Learn etc.

    Computers are good at drill type activities.

    Computers are not much better than any other type of distance education. Most people prefer conventional classroom/lab education to computerized delivery. We've spent beaucoup bucks on experiments and most of those have not delivered on the

  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:44PM (#31192412) Homepage

    ...but my oxen died.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:45PM (#31192424)

    Back in the 1980s, we had such a bright outlook for the future of computing.

    It sure hasn't turned out like we expected. Just take our software platforms today, for instance. On one hand, our most popular mobile devices (namely the iPhone and soon the iPad) are extremely locked up and restricted, with the vendor telling you EXACTLY which applications you're allowed to run.

    Otherwise, we end up targeting the web. Sure, the web is good for some things, but back in the '80s we would have laughed at anyone who said that 25 years down the road, we'd be writing serious, million-line applications hosted in a SGML document, with logic written in a scripting language that's worse than Perl.

    Hell, even Mac OS X hasn't evolved much past what NeXTSTEP was in the late 1980s. Windows is only slightly better than it was then. UNIX-like systems are mostly the same. We're even using the same windows system we used back then, and it really hasn't evolved all that much, either.

    Of course, then there's all the DRM shit we have floating around.

    I think we peaked somewhere in the 1970s, when Smalltalk and UNIX became somewhat mature. Then we fucked up, basically disregarded those much better technologies, and ended up in the pig trough that we're in today.

    • Ya wanna little whine with that, buddy?

      There's revolution, and evolution. Yeah, there's a lot of hype. The rest of your claims seem a bit specious. The good old days are today.

    • But dude, DUDE, how would we accommodate backwards compatibility?! You and your attempts to move us forward will invalidate all that expensive, proprietary stuff we bought into which we locked all our data!
    • by Kenshin ( 43036 ) <> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:50PM (#31194966) Homepage

      On one hand, our most popular mobile devices (namely the iPhone and soon the iPad) are extremely locked up and restricted, with the vendor telling you EXACTLY which applications you're allowed to run.

      I don't remember being able to run whatever I wanted to on my NES. Nintendo dictated that. (Yes, I'm comparing the iPad and iPhone to a game console, not a general purpose computer.)

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:46PM (#31192440) Homepage

    i have a friend who, when his kids asked him "can we av a computer daaad", went up into the loft, got out the TRS80 and a stack of byte magazines. the kids looked at him in this funny way, but they managed to get the machine working, chewed their way through the programs, and actually had fun with it.

    he then promised them that their next computer (and this was only three years ago) would be a Pentium II.

    my first application i ever saw was a 5 line PET Commodore 3032 BASIC program: for i = 1 to 40 print tab(i), i next i 50 goto 10. it scrolled numbers across the screen; i understood it instantly, and have never looked back. i was eight years old, and i was writing my own games within a year, moving @ and * symbols around the screen and firing "." symbols - three kids smashing down keys and jamming the other kids because the keyboard matrix on the Commodore PET wasn't smart enough to detect all the keys we were holding down, simultaneously, trying to blast each other to bits with fullstops.

    with only an 8mhz CPU, 32k of memory, a 40x25 screen and BASIC to play with, there were no "expectations" of fanciness, fonts or even graphics to get in the way. the learning curve was quick and dirty, and there were no frills to overwhelm you.

    but, most importantly, there wasn't a ton of software ready-made to "spoon-feed" you.

    computer education is no longer education. at a British Computing Institute talk i attended, someone there made this brilliant analogy. he said that to parents, he asks them a simple question:

    "computing is no longer taught in schools (parents look quizzical), they are simply 'trained' (parents look like they vaguely get it). if this was sex instead of computing that was taught in schools, would you prefer that your kids have sex _education_ or sex _training_? (parents finally get it)".

    putting kids in front of microsoft products does them absolutely no service at all. it's why the OLPC project was created, to emphasise the goal of _educating_ kids about computers, rather than _training_ them to merely _use_ computers.

    • This is completely true. As soon as my daughter can read (she's 2), I'm giving her an old computer, probably running FreeDOS or ubuntu (depending on how old).

      I will teach her the ways of the command line and seal her fate as a future nerd.
      • That's training only using Linux instead of Windows. I'd rather put my kid in front of a MS-DOS install with nothing but QBasic and a few simple programs (and me being around to help). That would help a lot more. Of course, I have no kids and I'm still in college but that's what I'd do :P

        And no, you can't teach a kid how to program directly in linux because it simply sucks at first. You want him to see code that does something for each line instead of needing to include headers, initialize variables, han
        • I did mention FreeDOS, which has various BASIC interpreters. However, my own experience with BASIC ruined my future as a serious developer, so I'm not going to push too hard on that. What I'm talking about is the real operation of a computer, navigating via CLI, editing system files, customizing beyond 'browse' and 'apply'. (I used to take a solid week to get a system the way I wanted it. Back in the DOS days that included lots of ANSI.SYS-related escape sequences.)
        • by captjc ( 453680 )

          As someone who taught myself very early (~8 y/o) how to program on BASIC, first on a kiddie V-Tech laptop (back when they had a BASIC interpreter) and later QBASIC, a retro-computer is a great thing to occasionally pull out and play with, sort of like how my parents pulled out some of their old toys to share how they spent their childhood. However, that is probably not the best way to teach kids about computers.

          I would say a refurbished hand-me-down computer running Linux with IDLE and a beginners book on p

        • That's a good point, people shouldn't get to skip the phase where typing "del ." doesn't completely wipe the partition. It makes them better appreciate when an OS does some degree of sanity checking on obvious syntax errors.
      • by schon ( 31600 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:49PM (#31194384)

        Funny thing..

        The computers in my house all run Slackware. When my daughter was 6 months, my wife tried to get her interested in using the computer - flash animations, music, sound, etc. My daughter had zero interest.

        Then when as my wife was shutting down, the computer switched to text mode, and my daughter went nuts giggling and cooing at the screen. She loved watching the console text scrolling, and was disappointed when it stopped. So my wife started it up again, and as soon as the console came up, my daughter again switched to "fascination" mode until X started up.

        She's 4 now, and isn't quite as fascinated by the text mode as she was, but she still loves watching the MythTV box boot when she turns it on to watch SuperWhy or Dragon Tales.

    • That is the awesomest idea ever. I am going to do it for my kids.
    • by kzieli ( 1355557 )
      I spent ages a while back looking for an 8bit computer kit. Something I could get and assemble myself and mess about with a little. Regretably no such thing exists in this day and age. It would have been a little fun.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tool462 ( 677306 )

      I remember my formal education with computers in the 80s being the "training" you describe. When we went to computer lab it was to practice touch-typing and 10-key. The educators I had in the 80s could only imagine the computer as a replacement for the typewriter or adding machine. We were only taught how to enter data fast and accurately. A useful skill, sure, but teaches you no more about computers than teaching penmanship improves your writing.

      My real computer education didn't begin until my dad brou

    • Give this guy another mod point! Brilliant analogy.

      My story on Australia's education with computers. (learning them, not using them)
      I did my high school education in the first half of the last decade and computers were barely used for anything more than a typewriter with delete keys and browsing a locked down internet for any flash/java game sites that weren't blocked. We were running IE 5.5 on NT4 (until around 2005/6 when we got XP) that was locked down to the point of uselessness, they even disabled the

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:47PM (#31192454)

    It's a reminder from 30 years ago that we are still not using technology effectively in education.

    Yes we are. White boards are slightly more effective than chalk boards; they're a technological improvement.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by eflester ( 715184 )
      Amen. I am a strong advocate (to whom no one listens) for whiteboard use where I work. Our users are completely familiar with how they work, require no support in running them, and are generally able to invent new ways to use them. These devices are energy-efficient, especially if placed near a window where they will require very little artificial light.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:50PM (#31193238)

      White boards are slightly more effective than chalk boards; they're a technological improvement.

            Yes they are. Chalk dust would give you allergies, while marker fumes will get you high. Vast improvement.

      • by clintp ( 5169 )

        White boards are slightly more effective than chalk boards; they're a technological improvement.

              Yes they are. Chalk dust would give you allergies, while marker fumes will get you high. Vast improvement.

        Only if you buy the ones that give off fumes in any quantity. Odorless whiteboard markers are available these days.

  • what reminder ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eth1csGrad1ent ( 1175557 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:47PM (#31192460)

    we're not using technology effectively in transport either, or business or effectively using transport to move us around efficiently. or effectively using alternative energy sources even though methods have been around for decades now. or effectively handling energy consumption, waste management, environmental management, protecting children from predators, dealing with alcohol and drug abuse...

    My point ? No matter what you look at from 30 years ago - we haven't made the progress that we always believed we should have by now...

    • by tool462 ( 677306 )

      The empty flying-car stall in my garage would agree with you.

  • Retro Computer News (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:52PM (#31192512) Journal

    If you like this, check out the Computer Chronicles [] the archive is hosting. It's always neat to see people reacting to old technology like it's new. Funny to hear the predictions that pan out, and even funnier to see the ones that don't. Check out the UNIX episode, a lot of what they say about UNIX applies to Linux today.

    You can also find scans of some classic computer magazines at Atari Magazines [] and Old Computer Mags [].

    • I just watched the piracy episode from 1985, and it's amazing how much of it still relates to today. My favorite was the Activision representative who had the gall to say that making backup copies of your floppies was "stealing"... even back then, that brand name had assholes working for it :)

  • 1968 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by careysb ( 566113 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:55PM (#31192540)
    I was lucky enough to attend one of the only high schools in the country with access to computers in 1968. We had a teletype style terminal connected by acoustic modem to a mainframe; Fourtran 44. The teachers were pretty clueless about the technology but give a bunch of hungry kids manuals and access and stand back.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lord Grey ( 463613 ) *

      ... give a bunch of hungry kids manuals and access and stand back.

      That is, some of the time, how you teach most effectively.

  • by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @06:58PM (#31192572)

    I can find accurate information much, much, much faster than I could in 1980.

    So in terms of acquiring information, which is a precursor to acquiring knowledge, we are light-years ahead of where we were in 1980.

    Now in terms of using technology to CONVEY information, I agree, we have lagged.

    For example, in my view the presentation of Calculus has not changed much since its inception some 400 years ago. One of the biggest problems with the presentation is that we fail to bridge the gap between understanding of the abstract mathematical formulas and the concrete visualization of what they describe.

    I firmly believe that computer graphics could help fill this gap but my professors still slog through crude chalk-board sketches trying to convey the concepts of area, volume, curvature, surfaces, rates of change, etc.

    Every time I'm presented with a formula I'm doing mental tricks plugging in values for X & Y trying to visualize it. Computers could help here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lkcl ( 517947 )

      Every time I'm presented with a formula I'm doing mental tricks plugging in values for X & Y trying to visualize it. Computers could help here.

      then you want the KDE EDU packages, which include about 2 or 3 x/y mathematical graphing applications.

      i just put some kids in front of the kde edu packages when they and their mum came to visit. couldn't get the daughter off my computer: she played with KStars, we looked for constellations; she played with KTurtle, blopping big red lines over the screen; she guessed the capital cities and flags of some nations for about 2 minutes, but her eyes lit up when she saw the chemistry program, because she had been

    • I can find accurate information much, much, much faster than I could in 1980.

      You can also find inaccurate information much, much faster than you could in 1980. (e.g. blogs, pseudoscientific articles, etc.)

      BTW, I say this as someone who is a huge fan of wikipedia and use it most days (and have corrected things there though mostly minor edits).

  • Ahh voice control (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dadelbunts ( 1727498 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:04PM (#31192648)
    Voice control reminds me of the promise of flying cars. We will have both in about 5-10 years. And Duke Nukem Forever.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      We have voice control now. It's just annoying, and practically speaking, I don't think current generations want to talk to their computers.
      • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:57PM (#31193304)

        I see your username is ElectricTurtle. Let me just look that up.

        We have voice control now. It's just annoying, and practically speaking, I don't think current generations want to talk to their computers.

        I'm sorry. I didn't quite get that.

        If you want to post a comment, say "Comment". If you want to troll, say "Troll". If you're aiming for plus funny, just say "Funny". You can also say things like "Tech Support", or "I Don't Know".

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dangitman ( 862676 )

        We have voice control now. It's just annoying, and practically speaking,

        It's true, Practically Speaking is one of the more overrated voice recognition applications by Dragon.

    • I thought Duke Nukem Forever was supposed to be released for Linux this year... I and I hate talking to my banks computer...
  • "It's a reminder from 30 years ago that we are still not using technology effectively in education."

    Right, because we still have high-school graduates believing that voice-controlled computers will somehow be useful if we can just get more horsepower for speech recognition. Watch those Star Trek re-runs more closely, kids. There's a reason why only one person on the bridge has a computer that he can talk to: it'd be cacophonic chaos if everyone were talking at once.

    • Watch those Star Trek re-runs more closely, kids. There's a reason why only one person on the bridge has a computer that he can talk to: it'd be cacophonic chaos if everyone were talking at once.

      Can you imagine trying to write software that not only accurately recognizes speech, but tries to intelligently follow conversations and wait until you're talking to it, specifically? So, the computer has to (1) only listen to authorized persons, (2) determine if what they're saying is a command. Sometimes in science-fiction, you get commands like "COMPUTER! [Do stuff]." But "computer" is a common noun that comes up in conversation, so it isn't always supposed to initiate commands. And considering the sensi

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by schon ( 31600 )

        commands like "COMPUTER! [Do stuff]." But "computer" is a common noun that comes up in conversation, so it isn't always supposed to initiate commands

        Person A: Hey, check out the size of this new computer!

        Person B: COMPUTER?!?! Fuck Me!

  • Perhaps we should concern ourselves not with whether we're using technology effectively in education, but whether we are educating effectively PERIOD. There seems to be this weird trend toward technological methods simply because they use technology, not because they work better than other methods. Whether technology is used in an educational scheme is incidental -- what matters is whether the scheme is effective.

    The implication here is that our education could be better if only we could figure out how to h

  • I assume that this was submitted by somebody directly related to where the PDF is hosted (and whose server is being roasted by every /.er downloading a 32 page PDF at the same time... ), and they have an agenda to push 'solutions' on the education industry. In their minds 'effective' means people are buying whatever products their sponsors are hawking. Pfff. *cough*slashvertisement*cough*

    The fact is technology has completely changed society, and education has not adapted. The internet has
  • Whitehead (Score:5, Interesting)

    by quotes ( 1738456 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:17PM (#31192774)
    "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them. " Alfred North Whitehead
  • Vignettes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Merc248 ( 1026032 )

    1. In my previous position, I worked at a high school which had a lot of fancy technology in place for teachers to use. One of the pieces of technology is a "smart board" that is basically a huge tablet with an image projected onto it from a normal projector. Unfortunately, when the "smart board" stops working, it becomes a huge useless slab that sits in the middle third of a regular whiteboard. It's always nice to be able to take a PowerPoint, convert it over to another easily editable presentation form

  • I used the Minnesota Education Computing Consortium timeshare system you speak of (the fax-like terminals). It had a 300-baud acoustic coupled modem and a large typewriter interfaced as a printer/input device. I remember accessing chat rooms even back then (I graduated in 1984, so this would have been 1982-4). That system was kinda clunky, even then. The computers we used in class were all Apple II+ at that point. (Yes, the MECC is the same one that produced Oregon Trail...)
  • the end of a road before a small brick building.
  • seriously... Math, English, History, Science... none of those require "technology", they require Teachers who are willing to teach. Administrators that are willing to discipline, and Parents who are willing to care. All this "technology" and hence all this spending hasnt raised up smarter children.

  • by John Whitley ( 6067 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @08:10PM (#31193442) Homepage

    Computers are not fairy dust. One does not sprinkle "computers" on a problem to make the problem go away. They are simply tools that can be applied to solve a wide variety of problems -- but only work well when a real-world problem domain is understood by those attempting a solution. So much of "computers in education" have been ill-informed stabs in the dark by those who either don't understand the problem (and therefore relevant solutions) and/or who simply want to make money by selling solutions without regard to problems.

    That said, computers are already transforming education because we're finally at the point where we can change the affordances of education. Consider the experience of having both good vs bad instructor/professors. As online video and remote classroom technologies improve, we're increasingly able to simply put all of the students in "the good prof's class" -- even though he or she is on the other side of the continent. You could be in the Big Lecture Hall with the bad prof, or have a world-class "+5 Insightful" instructor available via your computer. For live classes, this comes with the same Q&A opportunities as a standard classroom (more tech well-applied). For previously recorded classes, students get the benefit of review opportunities that never existed in a traditional class. Or in many cases, students can attend a live lecture with complete "recall" of the lecture material provided by increasingly good online presentation of the lecture video and notes.

  • An essay I wrote connected to a free software project on educational technology:
    "Why Educational Technology Has Failed Schools" []
    (The title has a double meaning. :-)

    The essential part is extracted here by Bill Kerr: []
    Ultimately, educational technology's greatest value is in supporting "learning on demand" based on interest or need which is at the opposite

  • by dmorin ( 25609 ) <> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @11:37PM (#31195352) Homepage Journal
    I was in college from 1987-1991, and my "major qualifying project" (Worcester Polytech) was a workshop where I brought together local high school teachers from math, computer science and social studies for the day. I pitched the idea of a whole new type of computer classroom, state of the art, where everything was networked not just with their local counterparts but with similar schools all around the world. I talked to them about massive scale datasets, public information records, voting data, etc etc etc etc... the ability to run your own queries, to question what you're being handed in the newspaper every day. In other words, a whole bunch of stuff we take for granted these days - but a good number of years before the Web took off.

    The computer science and math teachers heard "new computers" and said, "Great, we'll take it."

    Then I dropped the surprise on them, and said that this new lab was for the social studies teachers. That this was about exploring all areas of study with computers - art, literature, politics, you name it. "Nonono," said the CS people, "You've been misinformed. *We* get the computers."

    That did not surprise me. What surprised me is when the social studies teachers said "Yeah, they get the computers. We don't want them." All they saw was a burden, changes to the curriculum, technology they did not understand, and a new dependency on their coworkers to keep the machines up and running. They were perfectly happy to let the CS teachers teach programming and that would be that. No need for computers in any of the social studies (and, by extension, humanities) classrooms.

    Funny how far we *have* come, honestly. If only we could take what's out there on the net at our fingertips, and integrate it more directly into students' education.

    [ At the time, in my neighborhood, the "state of the art" schools had a Mac hooked up to a laser disc player, and the students would put together multimedia reports on John F Kennedy to present to the class. The more typical schools had text terminals of maybe the 286 variety, and would be taught keyboarding and other office skills. ]

  • by jms ( 11418 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:13AM (#31195870)

    Check out the black Bell and Howell branded Apple II on the cover. Apple was having trouble selling Apple IIs to schools, because the computer needed to have an interlock to power it down when you opened the cover to meet purchasing requirements. B&H manufactured a special Apple II with the required power interlock, a black case, black keyboard, a B&H logo in place of the Apple logo, and a B&H sticker on the bottom covering over the Apple sticker. The disk drives were also black.

    There was an optional back attachment that provided a couple of additional power plugs, three line level audio inputs, and I think a video output. There was also a joystick socket on the right side of the case.

    I got one of these because my dad knew a Bell and Howell distributor and bought it from him. Unfortunately mine is missing the space bar. Try and find a black Apple II space bar. Talk about unobtainium!

  • by Sleepy ( 4551 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:25AM (#31196158) Homepage

    With the rise of Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, Microsoft ceased furthering the development of "free" (gratis) programming languages which came BUNDLED with the computer. Microsoft could have BUNDLED Visual Basic, and therefore empower their users the way that Commodore and Atari and even Apple (via Hypercard) tried to do... but instead Microsoft gambled it all on creating a *dependant* consumer class of users. That's why there was never a community of Windows users loyally subscribing to computer education magazines, and typing in program listings (the best way to learn programming). As soon as Windows became #1, all of these educational methods died.

    Today most computer users do not know anything about computers. They just know rote clicks which is knowledge with a short shelf life... only until the next version of said Windows product (go into any used bookstore and check out the pricing on say a 3 year old used book for UNIX/Linux and one for Windows... the Windows book is usually under $1 because Vb6 knowledge was made worthless... while a book on Python 2.5 or PHP 5.0 still has loads of value). It's no surprise that some of the best programmers started out on these old 8 and 16 bit systems, and they're better not because these platforms were superior to today's.. no they're better because they were exposed to problem solving an an earlier age. That does not happen today.

    I missed the days when PC's came with multiple programming languages for free... then I found Linux, and I realized it wasn't true that these things went away... only that Microsoft wasn't interested in hooking young kids on programming the way Atari, BBC, Apple and Commodore wanted to do (and did so well, for the time they were relevent)

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:13PM (#31200218)
    To garner social and investor support for their new media inventions, inventors almost always tout "educational applications" whether these materialize or not. This is how Thomas Edison promoted his phonograph and motion picture projector. Usually the public is enthralled by the new media and spends excessive money on it. Then the old media condemns the new media as "idle entertainment". On the dark side, porn is often an early adapter of new media, e.g. ecommerce and net streaming. The debate continues into this year, 140 years after the phonograph, as some people condemn the movie Avatar (which may be the "breakthrough 3D movie") as an expensive time-waster.
  • by Slugster ( 635830 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @12:14PM (#31200234)
    ...until textbooks are all available in electronic form.

    Now (at least in the US) most are not, due to textbook publisher's concerns over pirating. They offer supplementary material, and sometimes even material or quizzes that they host and manage on their own servers (but that is password-locked, and only valid for one course's length, so EVERY student MUST buy a new textbook & CD, just to get a valid online password). But the whole contents of the textbook are never available, and it's no mistake.

    Why are kids still hefting around bookbags, when all this shit will fit on a single 16gb SD card?

    I'm not usually a fan of government interference, but this is one place I think really could benefit from it: make a federal laws that says textbook publishers either put out 100% electronic versions, or their books cannot be used at any school that is accredited by the Dept of Education at all.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter