India rejects One Laptop Per Child (Register)
Posted Jul 27, 2006 16:42 UTC (Thu) by jhardin
In reply to: India rejects One Laptop Per Child (Register)
Parent article: India rejects One Laptop Per Child (Register)
> One thing that amazes me every time I talk to a school teacher is how they
> insist on basic skills like being able to do arithmetic with paper and
> pencil, when you can get a simple calculator almost for free now.
I sincerely hope you are being sarcastic.
The purpose of basic education is to teach the student *principles* and *techniques*, not which button to push to achieve the desired result.
If you throw a cheap calculator at a student rather than teaching them the basic principles of arithmetic and the methods and techniques for solving math problems with no tools beyond paper and pencil, how the hell will they ever *learn* and *understand* mathematics? And what will form the basis for further learning?
To put it in IT terms, wouldn't you rather people learned the principles behind how computers operate, instead of just which checkboxes in a MS application dialog box to check? The former empowers them and enables them to build incrementally on their existing knowledge without limit, and maybe lets them solve their own problems - especially when those problems go beyond the limits imposed by the tool they are presently using. The latter keeps them from learning and just reinforces the view of things (computers, calculators) as magical black boxes beyond the powers of mere mortals to understand, and keeps them from ever growing beyond being anything but stupid lusers.
Don't sell students short by giving them scooters before they've even learned how to walk.
> What needs to change is what is taught to children, making them aware
> and able to use what radical innovations like the Internet have to offer.
All machines are force multipliers.
The Internet is a force-multiplier for the mind, as a repository for searchable knowledge and a mechanism for rapid communications between people.
If you don't first have the ability to *use* your mind - to ask meaningful questions, to find and understand the answers, to integrate those answers into what is already known, and to detect and resolve errors - then the Internet is useless. The force it will multiply is that of serving as a source of entertaining and distracting pablum.
Once they know *how* to ask questions, once they know *what* questions to ask and *what to do* with the answers, *then* they can be taught how to use the Internet to search and explore a much broader base of knowledge much more quickly.
> The machines alone won't make a difference, people have to change
> to make machines useful.
I agree that machines alone won't make a difference. I disagree that that machines are a *substitute* for basic skills and understanding, which seems to be the position you are arguing.
> But if the machines aren't available, nothing will happen...
Shakespeare composed all of his works without a word processor.
Newton figured out and codified most of the rules of large-scale physics without a calculator.
The pyramids were designed and built to very high degrees of precision without calculators or anything beyond the simplest construction machinery.
Students must be educated with basic problem solving skills and a basic set of facts. Machines can be used to improve the efficiency of this process, but they cannot be a substitute for this process - *this* is the point the Indians are making. Giving students laptops is not going to magically improve their education. They may be important force multipliers for the learning process, but there must be something provided *beyond* them, there must be a learning process in place for them to enhance. Otherwise they may be worse than useless.
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