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What Tech Should Be In a Fifth-Grade Classroom? 325

theodp writes "While going about my day,' writes Slate's Linda Perlstein, 'I sometimes engage in a mental exercise I call the Laura Ingalls Test. What would Laura Ingalls, prairie girl, make of this freeway interchange? This Target? This cell phone? Some modern institutions would probably be unrecognizable at first glance to a visitor from the 19th century: a hospital, an Apple store, a yoga studio. But take Laura Ingalls to the nearest fifth-grade classroom, and she wouldn't hesitate to say, "Oh! A school!"' Very little about the American classroom has changed since Laura Ingalls sat in one more than a century ago, laments Perlstein, echoing a similar rant against old-school schooling by SAS CEO Jim Goodnight. Slate has launched a crowdsourcing project on the 21st-century classroom, asking readers to design a fifth-grade classroom that takes advantage of all that we have learned since Laura Ingalls' day about teaching, learning, and technology."
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What Tech Should Be In a Fifth-Grade Classroom?

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  • Supercomputers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Potor ( 658520 )
      I'd prefer super-balls. Then they could learn some real physics.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by nacturation ( 646836 ) *

        I'd prefer super-balls. Then they could learn some real physics.

        There's definitely some interesting physics behind the humble tea bag.

    • Exactly. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:55PM (#33847750)

      What's the goal? To improve the education process or to make sure that Laura Ingalls cannot recognize it as a school?

      What would she recognize? The blackboard? The alphabet and numbers in a row at the top of the front wall? A lot of child-sized desks and one or two adult-sized desks?

      Until we develop direct neural input technology and start pumping information straight into the brains of the students, the classroom will always look like a classroom.

      So stop worrying about how it LOOKS. Form follows function.

      If you want to improve it, look at the various experimental schools that have higher graduation rates and where the students score higher than the average.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by buravirgil ( 137856 )

        Supercomputers should have been +1 funny.
        But since you've answered in a serious tone, I'll suggest planetariums for every class.

        • I'll suggest planetariums for every class.

            + a good teacher... Seconded.

            I grew up in a little farm town, but still had three good science teachers in my primary schools. I owe much to them.

            Thank you, Terry Dorsett, Brody, and Rick Sala.


        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Vulcan learning pits!
      • "Another reason is that no one has yet proved that better spaces mean better education. No matter how enthusiastically Cheryl Hines touts the test scores after her upcoming NBC show, School Pride, made over a Compton, Calif., elementary school, no solid research proves that student achievement is affected by physical surroundings. Many of our nation’s top-performing schools are getting the job done in rectangles filled with desks."

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Miseph ( 979059 )

          I think this is one of the things where people get really worked up and overdo it, but there's a certain amount of truth to it. There are some really run-down schools out there, and while I don't think a school benefits from gold-plated toilet seats or wall hangings, there's certainly a baseline we should be shooting for. Making sure that it is properly ventilated, the exterior walls have appropriate insulation, the heat/AC system is adequate to keep the building at a reasonable temperature (not below 55ish

          • by FiloEleven ( 602040 ) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @03:41AM (#33850488)


            The most important part of education is having good teachers. There is no substitute for a good teacher, and they can't really be found by looking at who uses the shiniest tech or whose students perform the best on standardized tests, which are often little more than rote memorization. New is not always better, and it is not a failing of the school system that a student from the 19th century would recognize a contemporary classroom.

            That's not to say that contemporary technology is useless, or that there is no benefit in having teachers who know how to use it. Education has been around for a long time, and many things that we call "problems" are in actuality difficulties that must be continually overcome.

            In other words, there is no "silver bullet" for education. The effect that a good teacher has on good students (for not all students are created equal) may not become apparent for years or even decades. It often takes a good teacher to recognize a good teacher, and while a building conducive to concentration is important, it is the staff (and the pedagogy) that separates a good school from a bad one.

      • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <speter&tedata,net,eg> on Saturday October 09, 2010 @07:50PM (#33848496) Journal

        I've been a school teacher now for seven years, going on my eighth. Not only am I a math teacher, but I'm also the technology coordinator at our small rural school. And as I'm reading through the posts, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one here who believes that technology is no savior to the classroom.

        I was about to respond with my own post, but I'd rather reply to the idea started with the parent comment:

        What's the goal? To improve the education process or to make sure that Laura Ingalls cannot recognize it as a school?

        This should be the ultimate goal of teachers everywhere, to improve the education process. And if computers do exactly that, then let's put them in the hands of every student. But do computers really do that? If so, where's the proof? I've seen computers in the classroom now for fifteen years, and I was there with them in the classroom for four of them. If they were so fantastic, wouldn't we be seeing positive gains by now?

        Sadly, there is little proof. Technology has changed so rapidly, there has been little opportunity to draw a positive or negative conclusion about a particular technology before society labels it old-school. (In fact, few thorough studies have actually been done on educational technology. There is a really good article here [aft.org] that discusses this further.)

        So, to anyone who says that classrooms haven't changed in 100 years, I say to them this: has the human brain changed in the last 100 years? What's different about the way the brain learns now as opposed to 100 years ago? As a third grade teacher at my school once said, "It's amazing how much a child can learn when you hand them a popsicle stick dipped in molasses." I say stick to the field trips, the classroom projects, the crayons, and the Elmer's glue. Let a child experience our world, rather than just view it through a monitor.

        • First, we got better nutrition. This helps brains. Yay!

          Then, we changed the evolutionary selection pressure in a HUGE way. 100 years might not be all that long, but we're facing selection pressure like we've never had before: the sudden emergence of effective birth control. If your brain leads you to have "success" with birth control, you are STRONGLY selected against. If your brain leads you to "fail" at birth control, then your descendents will populate the world. There are a few other selection factors a

        • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @11:29PM (#33849658) Homepage Journal
          "has the human brain changed in the last 100 years?" I've asked almost the same question, from a different perspective. I took my EMT training in 1980. I've never held a paying job as an EMT, nor have I ever recertified. It was a one-time thing, in an effort to learn how to help people who needed help in an emergency. The "real" EMT's have changed a lot since then. First priority has always been, self preservation and self protection - you can't help anyone else if you allow yourself to get hurt in the middle of a bad traffic accident. But, the focus has changed - you can't do your job anymore, unless you're all decked out in costume - gloves, safety glasses, etc, and a cop is there to direct traffic, and more. I found myself wondering if my training was still pertinent. Until, of course, your question ran through my mind. The human body hasn't changed. My training - and yours - are just as pertinent today, as it was all those decades ago. And, Laura Ingalls could teach the subject matter with which she is familiar just as effectively today as she could have 100 years ago. Of course, she couldn't teach second year chemistry or biology - assuming she could get by with the first year courses. Science has changed. But, readin' ritin' and 'rithmetic haven't changed at all for elementary school, and not much for the slow track people in high school. All right, Laura isn't ready to teach the kids on the fast track to college - but that is probably true of a lot of teachers who are teaching TODAY!
  • by Potor ( 658520 ) <farker1@gmai l . c om> on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:38PM (#33847640) Journal

    Computers, iPads, iPhones, cell phones, iPods, you name it. Anything that gets in the way of learning stuff.

    We want to make this the most distracted, empty-headed generation ever, don't we?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iksbob ( 947407 )

      Personally, I think the drive to remove all distractions is is a symptom of poor teaching methods. Students are looking for distractions because they're bored. The material and method presented in the classroom should be interesting and engaging enough to hold the students' attention. In my mind that means something interactive. Listening to the teacher lecture or filling out a worksheet is not interactive. Nearly all of the high-tech educational material I've come into contact with has been a digitized ver

  • And technology? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ironsides ( 739422 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:40PM (#33847652) Homepage Journal
    First thing, ban calculators. They aren't necessary before needing to deal with sines and cosines.
    • Re:And technology? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <shadow.wrought@g ... om minus painter> on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:49PM (#33847718) Homepage Journal
      Exactly. What we need is less technology in Elementary School. Not more. Science and Technology are not the same thing. Being able to play Farmville on your iPhone doesn't mean you understand physics. (Or farming.) Kids need to learn how to do math without calculators, as you say, read books, and do as much as they can mentally, on their own, without turning the task over to an electronic device.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "and do as much as they can mentally, on their own"

        Funny, I was thinking the exact same thing. Only, instead of doing that in a school which forces you to take a variety of useless subjects that have nothing to do with your desired profession, do it while homeschooling. That way you'll waste less time on idiotic policies, have no chance of failing an entire year simply because you failed a single useless class that has nothing to do with your desired profession, have more choice, and be able to solve proble

        • That way you'll waste less time on idiotic policies, have no chance of failing an entire year simply because you failed a single useless class that has nothing to do with your desired profession, have more choice, and be able to solve problems mostly on your own.

          That's good if you view school as a vocational training site.

          Homeschooling is good. But mostly in the sense of getting parents involved in their children's school work. Most of the parents turn the job over to the teachers.

          In my view, school teaches

          • "That's good if you view school as a vocational training site."

            No, I view a school as a place that is supposed to grant you the resources (as well as a helpful mentor) needed to receive an education that will relate to your desired profession. At first they could teach you the basics, but later, they should do as I just said. They aren't doing this now.

            "In my view, school teaches you the basics"

            So can homeschooling. In fact, the basics are likely the easiest to teach due to them being so well known.

            • No, I view a school as a place that is supposed to grant you the resources (as well as a helpful mentor) needed to receive an education that will relate to your desired profession.

              So how is that different from vocational training?

              So can homeschooling. In fact, the basics are likely the easiest to teach due to them being so well known.

              You might want to reconsider that in light of how badly the average person does on basic science knowledge. For example, evolution.

              • "So how is that different from vocational training?"

                Right, somehow I misread what you posted above.

                "You might want to reconsider that in light of how badly the average person does on basic science knowledge"

                That's not really a problem with the concept of homeschooling, or schooling in general. Just people who don't listen or have no desire to learn.

                • Right, somehow I misread what you posted above.

                  I don't understand that reply.

                  That's not really a problem with the concept of homeschooling, or schooling in general. Just people who don't listen or have no desire to learn.

                  And who then pass that limitation onto their children. Which is why we need public schools. So that the children at least have access to the information that their parents did not learn or rejected.

                  PARTICULARLY if those subjects are considered "useless" by the parents.

                  Which is where school

                  • "And who then pass that limitation onto their children"

                    Where are you getting this information? I've seen people from public schools who don't even understand the concept of evolution and insist that it doesn't exist. Information can and will be blocked out by people who don't wish to learn it. This isn't a problem with homeschooling, but of people. The child can still access information even without the help of their parents. If not, they will quickly find that if they did not learn the necessary informatio

        • We're talking fifth grade classrooms here. I doubt many fifth graders know what their desired profession is. At that age they're still learning the basics.

          But I agree with most of what you said.
        • Re:And technology? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Reaperducer ( 871695 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @06:52PM (#33848112)

          Only, instead of doing that in a school which forces you to take a variety of useless subjects that have nothing to do with your desired profession, do it while homeschooling

          Your notion only works if you want to have a world filled with firemen, ballerinas, and astronauts. What kids want to be in fifth grade has zero relation to what they will eventually become. No fifth grader ever said, "I want to be a middle manager," but we need plenty of those.

          And if we prep kids for their careers when they're in grade school, then new professions will never be invented. Fifth graders in the 1940's didn't dream of becoming COBOL programmers in the 1960's.

          • "Your notion only works if you want to have a world filled with firemen, ballerinas, and astronauts"

            I was mainly talking about teaching them the basics (basic math, the native language(s) of their country, etc) early on and later teaching them the skills required to meet the needs of their desired profession.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              So what you are basically saying is that professional scientists can't homeschool?

              No fifth grader ever said, "I want to be a middle manager," but we need plenty of those.

              No, we need less of them; and better ones.


          • by colinrichardday ( 768814 ) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Saturday October 09, 2010 @09:10PM (#33849000)

            Fifth graders in the 1940's didn't dream of becoming COBOL programmers in the 1960's.

            Of course not, they had nightmares about it.

          • Re:And technology? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Chowderbags ( 847952 ) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @12:06AM (#33849844)
            If we encouraged more 5th graders to get the skill set of an astronaut we might be better off. You'll probably never meet an astronaut who thinks that the world is 6000 years old, or that homeopathy is effective treatment for anything, or that stars in the Zodiac control their entire life.
      • Especially basic mathematics. I've been running into more and more high school grads and college students who can't even make change without a calculator or register to tell them how to do so.

        That's just shameful. Perhaps I had a better education than most, but I started doing paper routes when I was 10 years old - in the 1970s! - and I already knew how to do basic arithmetic, I learned it in school.

        Now there are plenty of other things that are important to know, spelling/grammar

        • Paper routes aren't an option for kids these days. It has nothing to do with whether they want to or not. Worse it's not a matter of whether or not they're willing to do so. All the routes around here have been taken over by adults. And that's assuming that there's still a paper left to deliver in the first place.
          • safety and bigger routes + the lack of late papers kill kids doing it.

          •   Although I think it's another facet of the "think of the children" thing (my routes weren't exactly "safe", either, although the worst problems I usually faced were weather and hostile dogs) I fail to see what your comments have to do with the necessity of learning basic math.

              Your last sentence, that I entirely agree with... and not because some of the publishers are going under.


      • What we need is less technology in Elementary School. Not more.

        No, we need better, more sensible use of technology. This does not necessarily mean less but it does require teachers who both understand technology AND how to use it properly to enhance teaching. For example, several years ago, I was in doing a demo of an orrery to show my kid's primary school class about the solar system, phases of the moon and seasons and finished off with showing them Google Earth. The teacher and kids were amazed and I quickly had them doing trips to anywhere in the world, seeing the

        • "but it does require teachers who both understand technology AND how to use it properly to enhance teaching"

          I can't help but be reminded of a teacher in a computer science class (where he was 'teaching' us how to program in Visual Basic) who didn't know what a function was. Sure, he was only a math teacher, but I had already learned more about Visual Basic in the first few weeks of taking the class (I went home and studied it) than he did in three years of teaching the class.

      • Not entirely, we need to be more strategic about things. Having a few hours a week playing with computers when I was a kid, was great. Admittedly that was essentially a whole life ago, as the computers in the lab were all some variant of the venerable Apple ][, but one of the big mistakes that they made was failing to whet the appetite.

        That being said, technology should add to the lecture, not replace it. Every bit of technology that gets included should have a purpose.
      • If brevity is the soul of wit, then how does one explain Twitter?

          From one shadow citizen to another, I find that an excellent observation.


      • What we need is less technology in Elementary School.

        As a mathematician, I would unquestionably back this assertion and would indeed extend it into the later years of Secondary school. My points mostly apply to mathematics, but I suspect they extend beyond it.

        The most important piece of technology for a mathematics educator is a blackboard. The most importance piece of high-tech equipment is a sliding blackboard. For students, their most important tools are paper, pencils, and a ruler and compass. This is all the equipment that should ever be used in mathematics education.

        Now, technology can be useful, but in elementary instruction it is more of a hindrance than a help. Remember, your ultimate objective is to teach students completely new methods and concepts. This is hard enough as it is without having to introduce them to an entire suite of new technology on top of everything else--often obsolete, inefficient, or unhelpful examples of technology at that.

        The first piece of high tech equipment students should be introduced to is a digital calculator for the calculation of trignometric functions and the rest of the elementary functions. These should most certainly NOT be allowed in the primary school cycle, and when introduced should be confined only to the evaluation of such non rational results. In essence, they should only be used as a more modern replacement for the old slide rules and log tables. Nothing more.

        A second level mathematics student should preferably never even see a single computer in the classroom before they enter third level education. The only exception to this is for second level computer programming courses, and these should never be made a part of any mathematics curriculum whatsoever. However, once in third level education, computers and computer programming must be introduced as a fundamental tool of modern mathematics; I quote the mathematician Gian-Carlo Rota's who said that "The future belongs to the computer-literate-squared." [tamu.edu] But the best time to introduce most students to the fundamentals of computers is in third level, after the more fundamental skills in other areas have been mastered.

        Make no mistake, we have modern technology suitable for the classroom. We have bigger, cheaper black and white boards. We have better, cheaper pens and copy books for students. Books are numerous and cheaper, or at least they should be. These are the important advancements we have made and which we should allow to impact our schools. Trying to go beyond these basic tools has been a recipe for disaster wherever it has been tried--excepting the handsome profits reaped by the companies who supplied these technologies.

        Computers and other high tech equipment should be banned outright from all primary schools. Their presence in secondary schools should be limited to select, computer centric subjects like programming and typewriting. Tech should only be introduced in the senior cycle of second level education and even then should never be used in most subjects. Once in University, technology can be presented--as it always has been--but before that I want students to be able to add fractions, solve quadratic equations, be familiar with trigonometry, and to know what a graph is. If western mathematics educations keeps going the way its going, that type of student is going to disappear from third level institutions, and no amount of computers is going to be able to fix the problem.

    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )

      "They aren't necessary before needing to deal with sines and cosines."

      And they are even more useless _after_ that. Trigonometrical problems should be solved symbolically, not numerically. The final answer should look like: l=2*cos(p/2)*tan(p), and not "0.1239876184".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DarkVader ( 121278 )

      Actually, first thing REQUIRE calculators starting early in elementary school.

      We don't make a carpenter learn to put in a nail using a rock before we hand him a nail gun, and we shouldn't be teaching children with the assumption that they have to do things without the appropriate tools either. We should be teaching how the tool works, but once very basic addition and subtraction have been covered to explain the process, a student should NEVER be without a calculator.

      Ban teaching multiplication tables. Tha

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:41PM (#33847668)

    Schools are currently employed primarily to create football teams and consumers. Policy is the problem and technology will mostly likely be used to further that policy.

  • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:44PM (#33847694) Homepage

    Nothing has managed to replace the blackboard (and its more modern equivalent the whiteboard). I have some first hand observations from junior changing 3 schools in 3 years. The lower the tech in the classroom - the better the teaching.

    To put it in other terms - if the kids need an interactive soundtrack for slideware that can be bought from amazon for a fraction of the cost of a teacher.

    Further on this from the perspective of teaching older students and explaining to adults.

    I have met only a handful of people who can have a laptop open on their desk in front of them and at the same time pay full attention to something complex happening on the whiteboard. I have met hundreds of people who have no problem dividing their attention between handwritten notes and explanation on the board. I would not be surprised if it is something related to motor control and short term memory similar to the well known phenomenon of "death by powerpoint".

    • by bieber ( 998013 )

      I would not be surprised if it is something related to motor control and short term memory similar to the well known phenomenon of "death by powerpoint".

      I believe the phenomenon you're describing is called "The Internet," or increasingly just "Facebook."

      Joking aside, though, you're right. I've basically never used a computer productively in class, aside from occasionally implementing an algorithm while the teacher is explaining it. If I need to pay attention in a class, I'll have a sheet of paper and a pencil out working through what the teacher is doing on the board. If I could ace the class in my sleep and I'm only showing up on the offchance that t

    • Ah, yes, the classic whiteboard.

      In my early school days, we called that a pad of paper, and a pencil or pen. One could even "share" one's work, by showing it to someone else, and they could copy it, using the same technology. /sarcasm not directed at the parent poster

      More seriously, until computer technology has settled somewhat, there's not likely to be any easily ubiquitous interface that can replace the blackboard and the notebook.

      I would not be surprised if it is something relate

    • New tech can and does enhance the modern classroom. The problem is implementing successfully. Designing lessons that utilize the tech is difficult sometimes.

      Using the whiteboard as an example, the new tech is called a smart board. http://smarttech.com/ [smarttech.com]

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:47PM (#33847708) Journal

    The reason schools haven't changed is because reading texts and listening to teachers is still the best methods of teaching (see college). You don't need supercomputers to read - a book will do. And a teacher is still human. Both exercise the brain to train it to form connections.

    I think we've wasted a lot of money buying computers that, frankly, did little good. In my school the computers were mostly just an electronic version of a book (sit in front of the machine and read text). They could have saved several million and just used books.

    Of course computers are useful tools for writing papers & accessing google but that's all they are - just supplementary tools, not the center of the classroom.

    • Gotta agree. We didn't have word processors when I went to school. The best I had was a manual typewriter.

      Having a word processor would have resulted in me getting my papers done sooner ... but not better.

      Now, finishing them faster would have been a better thing for me personally. But it would not have improved my education at all. What helped my education was my desire to read everything I could find.

      Which is why I still prefer books today. A book can survive a lot more than a laptop or Kindle can.

      • I don't understand your conclusion that it wouldn't have helped your education to be able to finish faster, especially since you had the desire to read everything you could find. If you used the saved time reading, it would have helped your education to have had a word processor.

        As for dead tree v. pixels, I'm a big fan of pixels. A backlit screen is much easier on my eyes than paper. (Yes, I HATE Kindles, they're just as hard on my eyes as books.)

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      Reading texts and listening to the teacher are valuable, yes, but that has never been the whole of the equation. Practice is the only way to make perfect, and for that you need simple - not advanced - technology that allows the children to perform experiments, make predictions, compare what is discovered with what is expected, and draw conclusions. In the end, the only facts that a school should actually teach are those which are either fundamental (you don't want to be looking them up every time) or essent

    • The trouble with computers is they are not very good for making the notes which are needed in a class setting and positively hinder the learning process. Useful for presenting information and holding preprepared information.

      What can be good is some form of video camera with audio. The problem with learning new things is it tends to come in a big wave with you the student trying to pick out the important details. Your highly unlikely to remember all the details in a single pass.

      I tried this and found it effe

  • by pedantic bore ( 740196 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:48PM (#33847710)

    Classrooms today that are equipped with computers, smartboards, and whatnot don't seem to be doing much better in terms of basic literacy and reasoning than schools equipped with little more than slates and chalk a hundred years ago.

    I'm not saying that there isn't something positive that we could do with more tech in the classroom, but the current tech doesn't seem to be helping all that much. Tech for the sake of tech is just another expense.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      If technology teaches kids how to decode words, or add, or write their lettes in cursive, is not the point. There are skills that kids need to know in addition to those of the 1950. Like typing 50 words a minutes. Or having file management skills. Or having practice logging into accounts. Right now many of the skills a kid knows has to do with playing games on the computer. It would be useful to have the kid also see the computer as a formal learning tool.

      This of course would require schools to inco

    • by sdnoob ( 917382 )

      Agreed. Today's students are just plain DUMB compared to a generation ago. The added technology isn't doing a damn thing to improve education levels, especially in grade school.

      If schools went "retro", the public school systems in the USA wouldn't be hurting for operating funds, taxes would be lower, students would be BETTER OFF.... blackboard, chalk, pencil, paper, ruler, compass, protractor, crayons, textbooks, and a teacher that knows how to TEACH, not just load and run some babysitter/educational game

      • It's not the technology. The technology is being used as a scape goat for the real problem. That problem is too much material and not enough time to do it. Worse we're treating children like adults and failing to provide enough physical education and recess time.

        Really, we'd get much better results, scaling back the curriculum to something they can handle, just make sure that it's taught well, and giving them some time to be kids that isn't in class.

        On top of that, it's a lot easier to demand high sta
      • "Today's students are just plain DUMB compared to a generation ago"

        Really? Each generation seems to have their idiots (and the idiots seem to make up a majority of the population). Brainwashed tools that believe something simply because other people also believe it, or because it's tradition.

        "and a teacher that knows how to TEACH"

        Something else that seems to be lacking. How about a decent curriculum, less pointlessly tedious work for people who understand the material, and no mandatory useless classes that

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spinkham ( 56603 )

          Today's college students probably are dumb compared to a generation ago. That's because college is pretty much the new high school and attendance might as well be required. In lower education this is definitely more debatable.

  • arduino (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:50PM (#33847726) Homepage

    Wire up some inputs and outputs, and let the kids program (with adult help) an arduino robot. Think "so what should it do when it sees motion? Sound an alrm? Blink a light?"

  • None! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ogrizzo ( 23524 ) <Ottavio...Rizzo@@@unimi...it> on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:53PM (#33847738)
    Or at least, nothing fancier than a microscope or an electronic keyboard. Definitively no computing equipment.
  • What's wrong with tech in education isn't so much the problem with distractions is with teaching.

    Tech based distractions are nothing with a good, engaging teacher at the front of the class, even when the subject matter is boring.

  • by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:58PM (#33847766) Homepage Journal

      Teach them how to think for themselves first.


    • Indeed, it is far less satisfying for drugs and pornography to strip away your core cognitive functions when you never really had them.
    • We can't have that. That would mean that they would possibly criticize our capitalistic ways and generally put into question the actions of our leaders! Then our society might actually improve and the big corporations which currently rule it could make less money! That is just unacceptable!

  • Laura Ingalls would also recognize a wheel. That doesn't mean that wheels should be "more modern" to make them harder to recognize.
  • by jd ( 1658 )

    Well, there are a few things that really should be on the list. As demonstrated by Bletchley Park's teaching centre, tech that lets you get into the low-level details is best. On this basis, I suggest the following:

    • A "Great Egg Race"-style eggmobile (a machine that can carry an egg through an obstacle course, powered by just an elastic band) - teaches the fundamentals of power efficiency and mechanics
    • A Micromouse (a self-contained, self-steering robot that can navigate a maze - schools used to build these f
    • In addition to tech, I'd advise teaching 2-3 languages, or anything else that is high volume, low density (ie: builds up lots of neurons but doesn't require a hell of a lot of connections between them), as the ages 11-18 especially is when the brain's growth is at a maximum.

      But they have to be different language groups. Learning English and German is good ... but not as good as learning English and Japanese. Because English and Japanese are less alike than English and German and, therefore, do not re-use th

  • The teacher's two greatest tools are charisma and attention. Charisma compels attention from the students. Attention TO the students reinforced and rewards it.

    Get students fired up and they will teach themselves and each other.

    Neither charisma nor attention are visible as features of the classroom. They're features of the teacher.

  • The actual list, as voted on by a group of 5th grade boys:
    Volcano (Geology)
    Explosives test range (Chemistry)
    Jet Packs (Physics)
    A Shark tank with walkway and trap door(Marine Biology, Political Science)
    Space Shuttle (Astronomy)
    Remote control full size cars and ramps (Physics)
    5-gigawatt lasers mounted on robot tanks (Recess)

  • Well. The author's careful use of the word prairie indicates that it might be talking about Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie (which I've barely heard of and never read), who died in 1957. Or it might instead be talking about Laura Houghtaling Ingalls, pilot, who died in 1967 (who I hadn't heard of). Either way it's a really sodding useless metaphor. Rule #1 of pop culture: make sure your audience knows what the hell you're talking about...

    • by Kozz ( 7764 )
      Respectfully, your use of "sodding" strongly suggested you're from the other side of the pond, and I see from your blog you've got family in Scotland. Laura Ingalls Wilder is quite famous, and not only did she write books, but a television series ran widely here in the US for many years, and still occasionally may be found on Public Broadcasting stations. Her story (both personal as well as her fiction) is a slice of Americana, you might say. If the author is American, as is the original target audience
  • There's seems to be several good ideas suggested.

    1) Participation is important.

    A classroom can't be structured to encourage students to complete work and for parents to get involved with their childrens' education, but that's the most important part. Similarly, a teacher must also be involved into education. This latter thing we can do something about with a classroom.

    2) Smaller class size is better.

    There was an interesting proposal to put two people into a classroom, a teacher and a helper, whi
  • What should be in a fifth grade classroom. In most places, a computer for the teacher and a decent printer.

    Beyond that, whatever the teacher wants and the school can afford. (Which may be nothing). Teachers run their classrooms pretty much whatever way they please. There are lots of reasons for that -- most of them good.

  • I'm a programmer and database admin by trade. I also think our children should learn about computers in school. But what schools have been doing lately is insane. The only computers in the school should be in the computer lab. Cellphones and PDAs should be banned outright. Kids should be learning with pencils, paper and rulers. All essays should be required to be hand written. Computer Science classes should be mandatory but kept completely separate from other activities. In school we are teaching kids logi
  • crystal radios (Score:3, Insightful)

    by johnrpenner ( 40054 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @11:19PM (#33849618) Homepage

    they should be building their own crystal radio sets - they still need to get the 101 of what they are using with wifi and cell-phones.

  • The reverse test (Score:3, Interesting)

    by adonoman ( 624929 ) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @11:48PM (#33849766)
    First, I think you're giving Mrs. Wilder less credit than she deserves, given that she lived well into the 1950s, I don't think a highway interchange would have phased her much. That being said, I recently applied the reverse of the proposed "Laura Ingalls test" and brought my 5 years old to a replica 1880s town featuring a 1 room prairie school house. We had a very difficult time convincing him that it was a school. In his opinion, a school needs to have books, tables and not desks, whiteboards and not chalkboards, electric lights, and of course, a sand table, lego, toy cars, easals and painting supplies, and computers. He couldn't wrap his head around why you'd need inkwells or slates.
  • by tpstigers ( 1075021 ) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @12:07AM (#33849850)
    I am an archaeologist. As such, I am often struck by the phenomenon that is the humble shovel. Here is a tool that I use every day. It is also a tool that any legionnaire in ancient Rome would recognize and know how to use. Why has this technology not appreciably progressed in 2000 years? Is it because we're stuck in a rut? Or is it because 2000 years ago they just got it right?

    We should not be quick to jump to the conclusion that lack of change equals lack of advancement.

  • The best (Score:3, Insightful)

    by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @03:13AM (#33850438)
    The best learning aide is a pretty young teacher in a mini-skirt.
  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @08:41AM (#33851282) Homepage Journal

    Before jumping into technology, maybe we should teach them the basics first. How to read, write, speak, perform arithmetic, interact with each other in a constructive way, and maybe present this novel new concept of scientific reason and rational thought. Or we could just continue on the path of educational dogma seasoned with bits of poorly planned faux liberalism.

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry