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Slashdot Editorial: Computers and Education

Das folgende Editorial trifft ziemlich gut einen Punkt, den ich
auch schon seit einiger Zeit mit mir rumschleppe. Da es sich um
einen Bericht aus erster Hand handelt, verzichte ich auf einen
eigenen Kommentar (als 30+ler kann ich eh' nicht mehr
glaubwuerdig mitreden...).



Editorial: Computers and Education 

Contributed by CmdrTaco on Thursday May 21, @10:15
from the stuff-to-read dept.

Mike Hughes has written an editorial on Computers and L-12
Education. Mike is a High School Student, and experiencing the
problems first hand. He talks about the restrictions placed on
the computers by his school, the social issues related to
technology and education. It's a difficult issue, and one that I
bet most of us can relate to. Read what he has to say, we won't
solve this, but we sure can't make things worse *grin*.

The following is an editorial by Slashdot Reader Mike Hughes 

Computer Education
The problem with typical K-12 computer education today
by Mike Hughes

Lately, the Clinton Administration has been expressing support
for wiring up every class room (or at least every school) to the
internet. This sounds great at first, but one must look deeper
into what's involved, and how the schools are currently handling
the situations presented.

The internet, as the government paints it, will allow every
student to collaborate online and in realtime with other
students across the country, and even the world. If they need
help with homework, just go online. If they need to do research,
they can find it online! This is the image that the public gets.
This is the wrong image.

As a high school student myself, I have experienced the public
education system first hand, as I'm sure the vast majority of
the general population has. What sets my generation apart from
the previous, though, is the penetration of computer technology
into the classrooms of America. The way that the schools handle
computer technology is very discouraging.

At the school that I attend (and I assume this school can be
representative of the typical american high school in terms of
attitude towards technology and use of it) the main internet
connection is a fractional T1 line, which I suspect is being run
at the rate of 256 kilobits per second. The school will
eventually be wired with ethernet subnets, and a
yet-to-be-determined backbone technology which uses a fiber
optic medium to transmit data. All departments will eventually
have state-of-the-art computers. However, as I said, this is an
average school. Schools out there have everything from full
capacity T1 lines to 14.4 kbps dialup lines to America Online.

There's just one problem at my high school. They discourage all
conversation using their computers. This includes electronic
mail, internet chat, and world-wide-web based mail services such
as hotmail. Furthermore, the internet connection provided is
woefully inadequate. Remember, there's going to be a whole
school doing multimedia-intensive work on the internet,
collaborating with peers and teachers online through the great
internet. A fractional T1 would barely be enough to handle one
computer, let alone dozens. Currently, the whole district (over
a dozen schools) shares a single full capacity T1.

Of course, these are all technological problems. They can be
solved. In fact, I'm sure that most schools of the future will
have at least full-fledged T1 or higher links to the internet.
It's all about funding. You see, providing all this great
technology does no good if it's done in quantity and not in
quality. It does no good for a student to wait 30 minutes to
download some research. He needs it now. He needs it quick. He
could probably go to the library and look up some information in
an encyclopedia faster than it would take to download the pages
and pages of graphical information that would serve him

Another problem is the actual information they're teaching to
kids, and the attitude kids have on technology. This too is
dissapointing. K-12 children spend years and years learning how
to play games and operate word processers. This isn't computer
literacy. There isn't an interest there. Kids just aren't
interested, since the information they learn is either already
in their heads, or is too mundane to bother learning. Any child
can figure out how to use a word processor on their own in a few
minutes. It doesn't require a full semester of instruction.

The attitude the average child has towards technology today is
very grim. Kids with computational interests are discouraged and
frowned upon. "Nerds" and "Geeks". Outcasts. Loners. Why?
Because the schools haven't done a good enough job of making the
technology interesting. It may be fun to call ourselves the
community of nerds, but trust me, It's no laughing matter when a
child is being ridiculed and shunned in school because of this.
The truth is, the only thing kids look forward to in computer
class every day is playing video games. I saw it day after day
in grade school and middle school. Less of it happens in high
school, but it's still there.

One of the problems is that the schools are too busy baby
sitting kids and telling them what they can and cant do in front
of the computer. They're constantly monitored. They're told they
can't chat. Or write email. Or go to this site, or that one.
Internet filters are put up which scan by keyword.
"http://www.hotmail.com" isn't accessible, since it contains the
keyword "hot", which could lead to sexual oriented material.
Signs are posted that warn the kids not to do anything frowned
upon by the faculty.

As you can probably tell, this isn't the environment that kids
learn in. They hate it. There's too many rules. There's no
freedom. Therefore, they slowly drift away from the computer,
putting it off as "boring" or "for nerds and loners". They don't
have the initiative to do what they want.

As a result, most kids today are kept in a bubble that prevents
them from learning more about the technology that drive their

Schools need the funding and the expertise to implement
technologies that will help the kids learn, not limit what they
already know. Of course, nobody likes the idea of more taxes
either, but the future is really in our hands. Write your
congressman or senator and take a stand. They need to know where
the money they raised is going. Children need freedom to do what
they want. That's the most important thing about education.

Kristian Koehntopp, Wassilystrasse 30, 24113 Kiel, +49 431 688897
"Öffentliche Filter sind Kataloge. (kris --pics | lutz)"
	-- Lutz Donnerhacke, auf debate@fitug.de