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Running On Resentment

Scott McLeod on people who say, “We didn’t have computers when I was in school and I turned out okay.”

Is it wrong of me to wish that people who espouse this view be prohibited from holding political office or serving on school boards?

Stephen Downes pivots off McLeod and offers his own response to those people:

You didn’t have Segways in schools when you were a kid and look how the world turned out. We don’t get to make those mistakes a second time. We need to get it right, now. That’s why we need Segways in schools.

He actually cites computers, not Segways, but it’s the same logical error. Likewise, McLeod admitted he couldn’t think of any elected officials who actually thought that way. It’s the same old harangue, only now they’re making up villains. They’re fabricating cretins and idiots and then criticizing them for their idiocy and cretinism.

2011 Nov 7. Scott McLeod notes that just because he couldn’t give me a link to those comments doesn’t mean he hasn’t heard them. Which is absolutely correct and qualifies my comments here. Here is my response.

37 Responses to “Running On Resentment”

  1. on 06 Nov 2011 at 1:23 pmpepsmccrea

    Are you suggesting that these guys are cretins and idiots?

    Circular reference error?

  2. on 06 Nov 2011 at 2:36 pmlouise

    You mean I can’t ask “Define okay. Because, really, gosh, if you think that way, obviously you’re not.” Lack of tact strikes again. Hangs head in shame.

  3. on 06 Nov 2011 at 5:44 pmMr. K

    We have tons of computers in our schools.

    What we really need are effective ways of using them. There’s precious little of that out there. (Hint – it will take a lot to convince me that your students learn something better by using Facebook than they would without.)

  4. on 06 Nov 2011 at 6:47 pmScott McLeod

    Dan, I interact with parents and board members all the time who espouse the very view you think I’m making up (for some unknown reason). Most don’t have a URL to which I can point you (which is what you asked me, if you recall) but the sentiment is very real. If I had a dollar for every parent or community member who said to me that they got along fine in school without laptops so kids don’t really need ‘em, I’d have a fair chunk of change. Judging by many of the comments I’ve gotten on my post, others are interacting with these types of folks too. So I’m not alone…

    I’m not fabricating cretins and idiots (nor did I call them ‘cretins and idiots;’ that’s your language, not mine). I’m speaking from regular experience interacting with real people. And, as an ed tech advocate, I can wish those people don’t get into policy-making positions.

    Since you asked, here are a couple to get you started:

    http://goo.gl/3l92A
    http://goo.gl/Xx01I (see comments)

    They’re real, they’re out there, and they’re obstructing needed progress.

  5. on 06 Nov 2011 at 7:02 pmSue King

    I hear the same from many parents and community members. The bigger issue to me – regarless of the supposed lack of valid correlation – is that claiming things in education should not change because 30 years ago (or even 10) they were this way and “you” turned out fine would be based on the assumption that nothing else has or will change. That is absurd and illogical, and very detrimental to students’ futures. I am not sure what it will take for people to see the world is different. I know far too many unemployed or under-employed college graduates who came from schools controlled by people with that kind of thinking. I find it selfish and short-sighted!

  6. on 06 Nov 2011 at 11:26 pmPete

    I can’t think of one parent, governor, or community member at my school who thinks we need fewer computers. In fact, we get quite the opposite. Our Maths department doesn’t have a dedicated computer lab (though there are many throughout the school that we can book at any time) and many parents look down their noses at us as if we’re living in the Stone Age. But then, I do work in the UK!

    I don’t have enough good ICT activities to justify a computer lab in the Maths department yet, but I do use one when the time is right.

  7. on 06 Nov 2011 at 11:54 pmNeil Winton

    Hi Dan,
    I get the point about the logic of the argument and agree that ‘logically’ it is a flawed point… But…

    Is it not the case that the reason we are not pushing for more use of Segways in schools is simply because they are not very useful/popular out if school. Computer use, in the other hand, is endemic and therefore a more accurate comparator may be ‘pen and paper’?

    What I think you have highlighted is that it is easy to argue for or against anything new in education… and this simply means we maintain the status quo. A much smarter man than I once said as much when he made the point that in tunes of reaction it is easier to rely on the bureaucracy than in the truth (I’m paraphrasing!)

    If we resist the push to improve what we do in the classroom, if we deliberately avoid making changes because they may upset the applecart, then we will be doing our young people a great disservice.

    Much to think about! Thanks. ;)

  8. on 07 Nov 2011 at 7:09 amClimeguy

    This reminds of of Greg Easterbook’s very interesting book “The progress paradox”

    http://www.amazon.com/Progress-Paradox-Better-While-People/product-reviews/0812973038/ref=cm_cr_dp_hist_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addOneStar

    It didn’t surprise me there are 13 negative reviews (some worth reading.) “Those people” are out there as Scott points out; I meet them as well though they are (I hope) slowly dwindling as technology influences us more and more. The one I hear most often from my age group math educators is “in my day (the 1950s) we had wonderful schools in New York City. Rather than share the ugly reality of most NYC schools at that time I just jokingly say “the only good thing about the 1950s (if you were there) that was better was that you were younger.”

  9. on 07 Nov 2011 at 11:26 amDavid D.

    I’m a second year math teacher at a very affluent high school and the issue of technology in the classroom is a growing problem for this school and I think many other schools are going to have to face the issue as well.

    I’m a huge advocate of using technology in the class much like you Dan but my school acts hostile towards it. We have class sets of graphing calculators we don’t use because “students cheat” with them. I’ve been in some pretty heated discussions with the Math Dept Chair over this and I’ve been trying to show how if we just change the questions and our assessments, the students can use technology without cheating. Additionally, the technology will allow us to cover material that would otherwise be skipped or “dumbed down.” Using technology also allows us to replace all the time used for tedious, laborious calculations and actually have fun with the math.

    But I guess since we got to the Moon with slide rulers, we don’t need calculator or computers today…

  10. on 07 Nov 2011 at 12:24 pmAndy

    Some do argue that we don’t need computers in the schools. But others argue that the computers provide a false sense of progress.

    A bunch of colleges and universities started using the “electronic clicker” to allow a lecturer to ask questions and get feedback on what students thought during the lecture. Progress? MIT (yes, MIT) had students hold up some cardboard numbers that provided a less expensive way to provide the same feedback. Are clickers progress or gimmick?

    Complaints of “fact regurgitation” run rampant and computers are brought in with the notion that they’ll lead to more critical thinking. Yet, most schools have dumped Euclid and proof for textbook geometric theorems and computations. We don’t read Plato (totally relevant) or Adam Smith (eminently readable) but we ask kids to read dull-as-can-be textbooks on history or economics.

    Whether someone reads Euclid or Plato on the iPad or paper isn’t the issue. But to assert that computers are the key to improving schools is not based on fact. Blog postings, Facebook and Twitter aren’t evil, but they do tend to perpetuate the notion that careful, detailed and in-depth reading and writing isn’t important. Wikipedia is great, but knowing some things without having to turn the power on is still important for many, many reasons.

  11. on 07 Nov 2011 at 12:46 pmMatt E

    Ditto everything Andy said, times ten. Heck, eleven.

  12. on 07 Nov 2011 at 2:00 pmDan Meyer

    @Scott, I appreciate the distinction you make between “things people have said” and “things people have said that I can link to.” I’ve noted that above. But if these elected office holders have only mentioned this particular comment to you (“We didn’t have computers in school when I was a kid,” etc.) in passing, with low voices, if they haven’t made that argument at a board meeting, in a position paper, on a campaign website, at a news conference, or anywhere on record, what are we talking about here, really? You’re speaking truth to the powerless, not to power.

    And there’s another troubling aspect. You send along two links as if they speak to this post. But none of those writers and none of the people quoted in their articles say anything like “We didn’t have computers when I was in school and I turned out okay.” Some of the interviewees have legitimate concerns, in fact, like the allocation of finite financial resources. But it doesn’t seem as though you differentiate criticism of educational technology. The answers are simple to you. You’ve been writing for years now about solutions you think are simple and obvious but which a lot of people continue to find complicated and multi-faceted. I can see how that would frustrate you and, ultimately, generate the undercurrent of resentment I’ve seen in your writing going on years now. I don’t think that resentment is warranted but it’s making more sense to me now.

  13. on 07 Nov 2011 at 2:27 pmDon

    I think you’re all wrong.

    Downes is the most easy to dismiss. This “yeah, DO look at how the world turned out without computers” response implies that these results would have been different with computers in the schools. Please. Magic bullets are for fairy tales.

    McLeod is clearly annoyed but I concur with you that there’s a current of resentment there. Is “I turned out okay” perhaps a juvenile way to phrase resistance to change? Sure, and if you want to take a swing on that basis, by all means.

    It’s clear that’s not the problem for McLeod, however, since he’s not identifying accurately what these people are actually saying. They’re not engaging in nostalgia and saying “oh, how I wish we were still all using fountain pens!” At best they’re asserting that the old ways were just fine and adequate and there’s no reason to do anything different. That’s not nostalgia, that’s conservative thinking.

    And that’s where you’re wrong, Dan. McLeod isn’t making up idiots and cretins. He’s just (willfully?) failing to understand that what they’re really saying to him is “prove it.”

    Prove your new way is better than the one we all already know. Prove that, if this costs a lot more, that it justifies the expenditures. Prove that it’s not going to just replace one group of have-nots with another. Prove that we should be listening to you.

    That’s not the same as making up villains, except to the extent that it’s a rallying cry for other people who think change doesn’t need justification. They may be on your side but a lot of us believe that worthwhile change isn’t afraid to prove its worth.

    Anyone who wants change needs to be prepared to justify it. If they can’t do it without bitterness then that says something.

  14. on 07 Nov 2011 at 4:14 pmScott McLeod

    NOW this conversation’s getting interesting! ;)

    When I work with folks – and when I write on my blog – I don’t think I ever feel resentful or annoyed or bitter or frustrated. I think that if you asked educators or parents with whom I’ve worked, they’d tell you that I’m actually pretty upbeat and cheery.

    I DO push, however. I DO feel a sense of urgency that some others obviously do not. I DO feel – since it’s a digital world out there – that most schools should be moving that direction faster and better than they are currently.

    Don, did electric lights have to ‘prove’ themselves before we deigned to adopt them? Did automobiles and written text and indoor plumbing have to ‘prove’ themselves too? Well, sure, in the sense that some folks were quicker adopters of those tools than others. But at some point all you had to do was look around and see that this was the way the world was going. You could deny it but it was happening whether you wanted it to or not.

    Personal computers now have been around for 3 decades. The Internet has been available to the general public for at least a dozen years in most developed countries. Both are spreading incredibly fast in our personal lives and in many (most?) societal sectors outside of school. I think it’s obvious that they’re here to stay. We’re also increasingly understanding the tremendous learning power that these tools can have. Accordingly, how much lag time do we give school systems before we start pushing harder for them to catch up? The differentials between how adults do knowledge work and how kids do knowledge work outside of school are large compared to how kids do knowledge work in school. In my mind, it’s time to push schools a bit harder. [NOTE: that doesn’t necessarily mean pushing teachers harder (although sometimes I do); it definitely means pushing leaders and policymakers harder]

    The truth is that I’m not making stuff up about resistance to change or nostalgia for older ways of doing things or some folks’ inability to see the benefits of what already is and will continue to be. The comments at my blog and yours show that my sentiments are resonating with others (if not you, perhaps). Here are a couple of other confirmations as well:

    http://goo.gl/rzRZJ
    http://goo.gl/wrbJ1

    Your essential assertion here was that I was fabricating things. I’m comfortable standing by my assertion that I’m not.

    The impacts of digital technologies on us as individuals, citizens, learners, school systems, and societies IS complex. But it’s also fairly clear: the world is getting more digital every day. Most knowledge workers use digital technologies most of the time to do their knowledge work. Schools are supposed to be about knowledge work, no? As such, it seems to me that we thus need to quit putting technology at the margins of what we do and instead better integrate it into core day-to-day practices. And at most schools, that’s not happening right now.

    So I’m unapologetic for wishing that folks not serve in leadership and policymaking roles if they don’t see the value of digital technologies in student learning environments. And for those that happen to be in those positions, I’ll also try and persuade them that we need to move in certain, what I believe to be inevitable, directions.

    On other fronts…

    Dan, I don’t know if I’m speaking to the powerful or the powerless when I blog. Probably some of both. I know that mix is true when I get a chance to speak to folks face-to-face. Also, thanks for reminding me of what is arguably my stupidest post ever (or at least the one for which I got the most pushback). Good stuff, that one! :)

    Thanks for the conversation. I always enjoy learning from you.

  15. on 07 Nov 2011 at 7:13 pmDan Meyer
    Scott: Don, did electric lights have to ‘prove’ themselves before we deigned to adopt them?

    The issue is just that simple, isn’t it? From wherever you’re perched, Scott, computers in classrooms are as obviously useful and uncomplicated as lightbulbs in households, AutoCAD to architects, Bloomberg terminals to analysts, and cash registers to checkers. To the extent that any differences exist, they’re incidental, a matter of degree, not kind.

  16. on 07 Nov 2011 at 7:21 pmScott McLeod

    They are quite useful, Dan. That’s why so many people use them! And I didn’t say they were uncomplicated. What I said was that they were inevitable and ubiquitous and that schools should start acting like it.

    You disagree with me that schools should be better integrating tech into what they do? You’re satisfied with what they’re doing now when it comes to computers? You think that primarily-analog schools are fine in a digital world?

  17. on 07 Nov 2011 at 10:35 pmGilbert Bernstein

    Dan, It’s interesting that you bring up AutoCAD as an example. Computer drafting has been the subject of multiple studies examining the positivist rhetoric of “hi-tech” and the gap between the rhetoric and practice.

    (pardon the nasty long links)

    http://books.google.com/books?id=B5CHHsCerD4C&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=%22on+line+and+on+paper%22+ethnography&source=bl&ots=6WFLwIGuFk&sig=TNiRMPlXMre0r7DuGUGnwPwlm-U&hl=en&ei=A8m4Tsv3FaiZiQLd4Z3SBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    http://books.google.com/books?id=wZ2YBv_pcNsC&dq=The+machine+in+me:+an+anthropologist+sits+among+computer+engineers&hl=en&ei=U8q4TrnqC7HWiALpvJDQBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA

    Engineering firms tended to adopt the technology irrespective of whether it saved them time or made their jobs easier. It was more important that they believed in the promise of the technology.

    3d drafting packages, and their successors used to create 3d games and movies tend to have severe usability issues that plague them to this day. This is very likely a result of the neglect to how these technologies integrate with pre-existing practices. It would be all too easy for ed-tech to repeat many of the same mistakes.

  18. on 08 Nov 2011 at 6:17 amDan Meyer
    Scott: You disagree with me that schools should be better integrating tech into what they do? You’re satisfied with what they’re doing now when it comes to computers? You think that primarily-analog schools are fine in a digital world?

    No, but just because I think there’s an obvious problem doesn’t mean I think the solutions are simple or that the people who don’t accept those solutions are simple-minded.

  19. on 08 Nov 2011 at 6:21 amScott McLeod

    Then we’re in agreement on that front. The solutions definitely aren’t simple, particularly as they run into legacy mindsets and structures.

    I see a difference between people who don’t accept particular approaches to getting tech into schools (we can agree on the goal but disagree on the ways to get there, right?) and people who don’t accept the need in the first place. It’s the latter folks that I was writing about…

  20. on 08 Nov 2011 at 9:36 amDon

    Don, did electric lights have to ‘prove’ themselves before we deigned to adopt them? Did automobiles and written text and indoor plumbing have to ‘prove’ themselves too?

    Holy cow, I ABSOLUTELY believe they had to do that! You really don’t?

    As Dan points out, you’re picking this really low hanging fruit here. But even in doing so you’re either continuing to refuse to address the underlying issue or are completely missing the point here.

    There is not a second of doubt in my mind that someone once had a conversation about the costs involved in bringing power to a school and using electric lights rather than oil lamps. There was a period of time when electricity didn’t have a deployed infrastructure, safety was a larger concern, costs were higher, and maintenance concerns greater.

    The more I type this the more I am convinced this is a FANTASTIC parallel to technology use in the classroom.

    You made an assertion that saying something like the following in that time should have been prohibited from public office.

    “Look, this electric light thing is nice but it’s expensive. We have an existing setup with a combination of oil and gas lamps that are getting the job done. The teachers and students are familiar with them, we’ve got people in place who bring in the oil and service the lamps. The gas lines are already built-into the building and everything is set up around this system. Your electricity solution means we need to contract with either Edison or Tesla and pick a standard, spend a bunch of money on wiring up the building and keeping it maintained. There’s concern about the safety of this stuff too! Why mess with this when we have stuff now what works?”

    Now, what they might have really said was “No, electrical lights are expensive and a big commitment. We’d rather buy books.”

    I don’t think it’s inappropriate for the person advocating for the electrical lights to have been called upon to say “We’ll reduce our risk of fire, the light is better and the rooms will be less smoky.” Nor do I think it’s inappropriate for them to have had to address what was going to have to change in building layout or present some thoughts on how they were going to address the issues as power matured and the AC vs DC war shook out.

    Sometimes that answer is a simple “look, there’s always going to be costs” but condemning the question is unreasonable and makes you look like some combination of a zealot who thinks their position is beyond questioning or a huckster who dodges providing justification because you don’t have one.

    And for what it’s worth, this is coming to you from a software engineer who has been involved in instructional technology since working in an IBM ITTC in 1992. I’m no luddite who is opposed to technology in instruction, I just want to see it used intelligently.

  21. on 08 Nov 2011 at 10:00 amAndy

    Gilbert gets at an important point here. In some ways, putting computers in classrooms is the _thoughtless_ thing to do. It seems to be more a matter of keeping of with the Joneses than anything else. We put air conditioning in schools even in northern climes because we can, despite the fact that the number of really hot days is very small. We put in lights and eliminate windows in schools because…I’m not sure why we do that. We drive cars to the store and then take an exercise class so that we don’t get fat because we place stores too far away from people’s homes for them to walk. It’s all progress, man.

    But Scott’s position, if I don’t misunderstand, is that because “everyone is doing it”, then using computers must be good and beneficial. Progress, whatever that is, is by definition good. No real consideration is given to assessing the value provided by going digital. No real consideration is given to the loss incurred by the displacement of alternatives. For the thoughtful, the real crime is that we haven’t given sufficient consideration to our actions. The thoughtful want to have the philosophical discussion at least acknowledging that there is good and bad in almost all change.

    If Scott is really correct that computers in the classrooms are truly important, then this benefit should be obvious, but I doubt it will be. For those who succumb to the momentum, computers represent progress — they will stand incredulous at those who can live a life without. Witness those who say that they can’t imagine life without their iPhone. Those who don’t make the leap will simply see the world differently. They may feel perfectly happy and fulfilled in their lives without technology, and if they don’t, they won’t necessarily perceive “progress” as the route to that fulfillment.

    Really, who am I (or who is Scott) to judge who has the better life? But to limit alternatives lessens my ability to discover for myself. It’s not about the computers, it’s about thinking about what we are doing.

    P.S. – Indoor plumbing was thought to be totally gross when it first came out. Not having to trek outdoors in the winter won out over grossness in your house, though.

    P.P.S. – I don’t live in a cave. Like Don, I write software for a living. I don’t own an iPhone, though I could afford one if I wanted one. Computers are great for some things.

  22. on 08 Nov 2011 at 10:24 amMichael Paul Goldenberg

    Folks, here’s a rather timely piece: http://bit.ly/umO2GU

    Of course, technology can fail and become a pain in the butt if you don’t prepare for the possibility of resources you counted on (electronic or otherwise) being “down.” I asked the question of several candidates for a teaching fellowship I interviewed in Muncie, IN on Saturday: What do you do when you’ve planned a computer/’Net-based lesson and there’s no way to get to the resources you expected. The guy who was most clearly prepared to deal with the question (though all did decently with it) was the guy with the 4.0 in computer science from Purdue and six+ years experience working in the c.s. industry.

    No one said, however, “Let’s not use technology.”

    I have to agree with Ms. Eldon that there are a lot of promises made by the sales and marketing people in ed tech that don’t hold water or which are clearly highly exaggerated under even modest scrutiny. But there’s nothing unique about the ed software/tech industry in that regard. If you’re simple-minded enough to assume that any resource is going to be a miracle-cure, you’re going to be disappointed and feel ripped-off time and time again. If you believe the promises of salespeople without getting a binding guarantee of no questions asked return and refund policies (with a track-record to support the guarantee), you are asking to become repeatedly embittered. The “jilted lover” metaphor Ms. Eldon uses works, but it cuts both ways.

  23. on 08 Nov 2011 at 10:31 amScott McLeod

    Hi Don,

    I want to see ed tech used intelligently too. I want to see teachers teach and learners learn intelligently as well. That’s why I enjoy Dan’s blog so much.

    I get what you’re saying and I appreciate the long and thoughtful comment. And if this were 1983, when we weren’t quite sure what these PCs meant to us, it would be one thing. But it’s 2011 and it’s clear to most folks that computers and the Web are inevitable. The question for me, then, is how do we thoughtfully integrate those into the learning and teaching process? But we don’t do that by stating that they don’t belong in the first place (which was my original premise at my blog).

    As I asked Dan (and as perhaps I should ask Andy too), do you disagree with me that schools should be better integrating tech into what they do? You’re satisfied with what they’re doing now when it comes to computers? You think that primarily-analog schools are fine in a digital world? How much lag time are you willing to give schools? It’s been decades…

    I think all I said in my original post was that there are folks who deny that there’s a role for computers in schools and that I wished they weren’t in policymaking positions. I’m still comfy with that assertion. In this digital, global era, aren’t you?

    Am I an ed tech advocate? Absolutely. Am I a zealot?I guess that depends on your view of things. Am I a huckster? I don’t think so…

  24. on 08 Nov 2011 at 10:45 amJL

    I like all of you for giving me something infinitely better to read than celebrity gossip, sports scandal or modern politics.

    <3

  25. on 08 Nov 2011 at 11:01 amAndy

    Scott,

    Don’t you see that you might be asking the wrong question?

    Should schoolsbe better integrating tech into what they do?

    Should globes be better integrated into the classroom? What about foreign language immersion? What about teachers with PhD’s in the subject in which they teach? What about musical instruments? What about iPhones (specifically)? What about social workers? What about cushy chairs? What about standing desks (ala Don Rumsfeld)? What about more teachers? What about decent food from the cafeteria? What about more play time? What about nap time? What about a pool, a better gym or indoor tennis courts?

    There are lots of things that may be good to have in school. But in order to determine how best to use the available resources, you have to:

    1) Be clear on your goals.
    2) Figure out what mix of tools/people/programs will stand the best chance of enabling you to meet your goals.

    They’re trying to do laptops for all the high school students around here. What’s it going to cost? Maybe one teacher for every 150 kids. Is that the best use of resources? I don’t know. I have no idea what the goals of the school are. I don’t think the school does either.

  26. on 08 Nov 2011 at 11:18 amScott McLeod

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said here, Andy. My center and I work with school leaders all the time on exactly the issues you are raising here when it comes to ed tech. But first they (and their communities) have to see a need to have it in the first place. Then we can talk about how to best implement. I’m not sure we’re far apart on this…

  27. on 08 Nov 2011 at 11:20 amZeno

    http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/computers-ok-not-in-silicon-valley-20111106-1n1qc.html

  28. on 09 Nov 2011 at 5:27 pmzette

    I get to hear moms talk about how their three year old kids hold a “real book” and tap the pages expecting them to talk, characters move, and flip to a new picture. Is that education? vs. the increasing trend of a Waldorf education. My son today put a quilt on his shoulders, extended his arms and flew. His friend near by asked “what are we playing?”. The response, “be whatever you want to be”. The friend then sat down in front of a plastic game with defined rules…. As one Google parent said….we are making applications so easy, anyone can use them. More harm will come to my child’s education by letting them use computers before college than not.

    Until computers can give you the sense of what a lily smells like, what it feels like to have a butterfly flutter by… Get the kids outside.

  29. on 09 Nov 2011 at 7:10 pmlouise

    whoa! Autocad? I had Autocad 1.0 in 1984. 15 layers, programming with Basic. I worked in a company with a roomful of traditional drafters. I had it 2 weeks, and then went in and told the 15 drafters they had better learn this new technology or they would be out of a job.
    One year later, the entire room had been replace by one person with Autocad (probably a higher version number)
    And yet, now, almost 30 years later, I see kids in high school who never learn drafting on a computer. They spend 4 years drawing on a table. They might get to use Paint, because it’s free on the computer.
    I understand having the experience of the history of drafting, but to never experience what has been done for now an entire generation seems crazy to me. This is not new stuff, people, it’s standard technology and we haven’t even started to incorporate it. 27 years. How long should we wait, in case it’s a passing fad?

  30. on 09 Nov 2011 at 7:35 pmGilbert Bernstein

    Sorry louise. I didn’t mean to give the impression that engineering students shouldn’t use autocad. They probably should. (I don’t have personal experience with it, so I don’t want to say definitely) They definitely should at least learn it, or an equivalent computer drafting program; they’re definitely going to need to know it in the workplace. On the other hand, I don’t see any reason why high school students need to learn to use specialized engineering software…

    My point in bringing up CAD, was simply that it is a technology which was very disruptive, was not uniformly beneficial (e.g. you did say that 15 people lost their jobs), and still has significant usability issues to this day, many of which resulted from a lack of attention to how CAD programs had to “inter-operate” with existing practices, such as drawing on paper.

    CAD software is not a passive tool. It places demands and conditions on its users that they must meet to make use of it. All software does this to different degrees, including Ed-tech. Simultaneously ignoring what demands ed-tech makes of students and teachers while pushing for adoption is a recipe for trouble.

  31. on 11 Nov 2011 at 11:38 amgasstationwithoutpumps

    AutoCAD used to be too expensive for a school to buy, but there are now free and cheap choices.

    Google Sketchup has a somewhat awkward interface, but is free and is sometimes used by professionals.

    Blender is free, popular for 3D modeling, and is the design system of choice for many 3D printing shops.

    Even AutoCAD (an overpriced system for a very long time) now has free student software at http://students.autodesk.com

  32. on 11 Nov 2011 at 1:49 pmGilbert Bernstein

    But why would you want to teach high school students to use any of that stuff?

  33. on 11 Nov 2011 at 3:15 pmjsb16

    I’ve been known to tell students, “When I was your age, I had to get on my bike and go to the library to do my research papers. Don’t tell me you can’t check Edmodo because your phone’s battery died…”

  34. on 12 Nov 2011 at 11:13 amlouise

    Gilbert, our district has a specialty small school of design and construction, so they are teaching students these specialty skills.
    Just as Geometry was, only a couple of hundred years ago, a university discipline for a few clever people, and has become a requirement for 16-year-olds, now we have subjects that were post-high-school vocational subjects coming down for high school students.
    I think this is one of those cycles coming back. The vocational ed studies (plumbing, electrical, machine shop, carpentry, sewing, cooking) all went away. Now we are bringing back specialties as long as they are office based, white collar work.
    I think this is why I like Dan’s ideas so much – they are accessible to the doers. Students can themselves run up and down steps and elevators, climb up hills and look at rolls of paper. The next time they do those things, the math springs up in their heads. It’s not white collar, confined to the office/school. It’s there all the time, hands on, in their brains. At least that’s what students complain to me about (“help, help, I’m thinking in math!!”)

  35. on 14 Nov 2011 at 10:47 amMr. Vaudrey

    Has anyone mentioned this yet?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general

    I haven’t read each of the pages of responses above, but I’m certain that somebody pointed out that while Technology is a helpful tool, it is merely a tool. A jigsaw in the hand an inexperienced user won’t generate the type of wardrobe or cabinet that a master crafstman (or woman) could create.

    Likewise, a computer in some classes [at my school] is simply an expensive paperweight used to take attendance.

    In summation, technology is helpful, but great education can happen without it.

  36. on 14 Nov 2011 at 10:48 amMr. Vaudrey

    Ah. @Zeno got to it first.

  37. on 20 Nov 2011 at 8:58 pmTom

    Mr. Vaudrey and Zeno-

    I’m not arguing the stated point- that good education can happen with or without technology- but that NYT’s article is full of the same thing Dan is criticizing in the post here. It does little except over simplify a complex issue (using some really weak logic) while attempting to polarize the issue as much as possible.

    Just because people agree with you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be analyzing what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.