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Looking Back From the 1980s At Computers In Education

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the gee-whiz dept.

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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another blast from the past! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192292)

first post!

We are using it very effectively in education (4, Funny)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192326)

to spy on kids and their families, anyway.

Re:We are using it very effectively in education (2, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192708)

Really?! Can you be any more paranoid?

They did WHAT in Pennsylvania?!!

Re:We are using it very effectively in education (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192722)

Re:We are using it very effectively in education (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192726)

*shakes tiny fist*

Excellent! (1)

daeley (126313) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192336)

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! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31193210)

At first I read that as "xenotolerant" and had visions of you holding potlucks with aliens

Re:Excellent! (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193636)

At first I read that as "xenotolerant" and had visions of you holding potlucks with aliens

Yeah, me too. And I hate those filthy Canadians. They took our jerbs!!

Re:Excellent! (4, Interesting)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#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? (4, Insightful)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192340)

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

Re:Effectively? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192388)

The closest we've come in that regard is teaching kids how to use MS Word...

Re:Effectively? (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193496)

And most of the time what they use it for could be done with wordpad just as easily. Its pathetic how almost nobody actually uses most of the functions in Word, yet they have to buy it.

Re:Effectively? (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192400)

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:Effectively? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192542)

They tried the paperless office, its not efficient. []

Re:Effectively? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192786)

Yeah, I completely trust one perspective. It couldn't possibly be refined, and no technology will ever improve. Whatever. I've worked in plenty of places that are de facto paperless at a departmental level and they seemed pretty efficient to me.

Re:Effectively? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193042)

You've read the book then as well. Yes it does look at the subject from a couple perspectives, the book is mostly from a psychology angle.

Re:Effectively? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31193174)

An author (or in this case authors), can only be so objective. I don't need to read the book to know that. I also know that no book is the final word on any subject, unless you're religious. Psychology is a subjective science, fractured into many different schools of thought, and like all sciences, constantly refined. Rewind psychology a few decades and homosexuality is still a problem to be solved.

My point is only that one book does not usually invalidate a concept.

Re:Effectively? (2, Interesting)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192534)

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.

Re:Effectively? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192574)

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? (3, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192586)

>>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.

Re:Effectively? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193046)

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.

Re:Effectively? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193628)

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? (4, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Effectively? (2, Insightful)

phormalitize (1748504) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192628)

If anything, technology has made classroom education suffer, in my opinion.

Re:Effectively? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192808)

Would it be too burdensome for you to expand on 'how'?

Re:Effectively? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31193178)

Well, he was raised on it (look at his UID, infer his age to be low, etc.), and he's incapable of writing a cogent argument. I know that's just anecdotal evidence but I'm sure there're many more like him.

Re:Effectively? (3, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192662)

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.

Re:Effectively? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192742)

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.

no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192892)

It's used very effectively in university - languages - computational linguistics; speech recognition & analysis.
Maths - Matlab, Mathematica etc. and on .. for the few

It's available for some elementary and high schoolers too but not enough.
It's not the tech that's the problem - it's society.

Also, don't forget that many educational breakthroughs have come from computers - the ability to crunch stats
and have programs analyse and collect data. Statisticians compiling the data and great new revelations coming
The problem is money as ever..

The ipad will bring forth new educational possibilities that will be exploited for the few.

Re:Effectively? (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193136)

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 to (>6) and the private one (6).

Both schools had 4th grader 'poems' hung outside the room. Difference was the public school just made the kids type in the exact same poem and decorate it how ever they wanted. (teaching... Typing / Desktop Publishing?). In private school each student had to write their own poem.

On the surface both schools look like they did something with computers, but I can say that one school missed the boat with actually teaching anything.

In college we didn't have a 'non calculator' portion on tests. We had a "Computer" and "Calculator" portion and used Maple on the computer part. The problems we solved were closer to what I've seen in the real world, but would have never been able to be solved by hand.

Re:Effectively? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31193320)

The only computers we had were apple IIGSs networked with AppleTalk to a Mac Classic that we had until i was a junior in high school, in 1998.

A super calculator (4, Interesting)

RobertinXinyang (1001181) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:A super calculator (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192518)

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.

Re:A super calculator (1)

EventHorizon_pc (1306663) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193678)

Ahh, Logo in elementary school. That brings back memories.

I remember writing some code to draw and color the U.S. flag. It used nested FOR loops which my teacher had never considered the possibility of (or just didn't think it was supported). Yeah, the code we were given never got very complex.

Once after a class exercise, a group of students made minor changes to the supplied code, and they were quite proud of themselves when I admitted that I hadn't written that specific script before them.

Re:A super calculator (1)

sharkbiter (266775) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193502)

Wow! They must have had limited resources at your school at the time. In 1978, I was the part-time sysop of an IBM S/32 (16K of core memory). The other kids in my Data Processing class would use 8 inch floppy disks with their programs on them (COBOL), as entered by the "typing pool" on IBM 36's and line up for batch processing. Being the sysop, I was able to monopolize the first 3 days of the week with my assignment using the S/32's console and green screen VDU and put out my assignment, extra credit and extra extra credit. I got an A+ (the plus was merely the instructor's tacked on opinion as it didn't count). After Wednesday, the lines would be long (there were about 12 kids in the course), as the rest of the class entered their now "last minute" assignments.

We've tried a lot of stuff (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192398)

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 their promise.

Re:We've tried a lot of stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192622)

"Blackboard" and the concept "good" don't belong within 50 miles of each other, regrettably.

Re:We've tried a lot of stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31193602)

Blackboard is as good or as bad as the school that uses it. Been to several Universities and only one of them actually used blackboard in an effective manner. One school used it in an acceptable way and the last one has things so poorly set up that even the people behind it hate it.

I tried to ford the river... (3, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192412)

...but my oxen died.

Re:I tried to ford the river... (0)

sharkey (16670) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193068)

20 GOTO 10

Sent to line printer, ran for my life....

Re:I tried to ford the river... (2, Funny)

bdlarkin (535818) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193910)

Oooh, it's a sunny day, I think I'll make 6 glasses of lemonade [] today

It's pathetic where we are today. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:It's pathetic where we are today. (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192620)

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.

Re:It's pathetic where we are today. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192630)

No, it's devolution.

Re:It's pathetic where we are today. (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193242)

Q: Are we not men? A: We are DEVO

Re:It's pathetic where we are today. (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192676)

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!

Re:It's pathetic where we are today. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192804)

Ah yes! Another slashtard crying that he doesn't like the way things are today because his vision of what technology should be isn't what the mainstream holds. Go ask you F/OSS friends; what you want exists. Now stop bitching about it not being in the majority and use it.

Or do you need everyone else to do what you do to feel comfortable about it?

older computers are better teaching tools (4, Insightful)

lkcl (517947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192440)

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.

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192614)

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.

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192886)

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, handle events, etc.

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193004)

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.)

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

captjc (453680) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193288)

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 python. They get a modern computer, have the opportunity to explore the power of the command line and an open computer operating system and can cut their teeth in an easy to learn modern interpreted language in an environment not all that different from what QBASIC was in the days of old.

PS: I know you don't have kids so I am not really replying to you so much as I am replying to your post.

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193650)

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.

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192908)

If I could, I would seriously report people like you for child abuse. What's worse, you probably don't even realize it.

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193082)

Oh right, she should be a cheerleader right? Yeah, I totally want to raise a female stereotype. Is that what you want, anonymous twit?

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193410)

I don't think it's gender stereotyping that he's worried about, rather, forcing someone who might not be ready or have the mindset to understand a CLI to use a CLI.

Personally, when she's ready for computers, giving her an Ubuntu box is fine. Load it up with that collection of kids software that I can never remember the name of...ahh found it, gcompris, and tuxpaint and whatever else you can think of. Teach her how to use the GUI but show her how that GUI is just a layer over some underpinnings. Show her how organizing photos is easier in a graphical window, but how renaming them as a group can be done in a terminal. That sort of thing...when she's ready, which won't be when she's 2. 10 perhaps, but not two, but you can teach keyboarding early. It's easier to for a 5 year old to learn to use a keyboard than to write with a pen, the latter requires more finger dexterity.

But if she doesn't want to use that CLI, don't force it.

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31194078)

My goodness, what do you think will happen to a child if you "force" them to use a CLI?

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

tomcode (261182) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192904)

Sex instead of computing? On slashdot, isn't it the other way round?

On Slashdot (2, Funny)

jeko (179919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193994)

It's generally sex by way of computing...

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192958)

That is the awesomest idea ever. I am going to do it for my kids.

Re:older computers are better teaching tools (1)

kzieli (1355557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193284)

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.

using technology effectively in education (2, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:using technology effectively in education (2, Funny)

eflester (715184) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192990)

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.

Re:using technology effectively in education (3, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

what reminder ? (3, Insightful)

Eth1csGrad1ent (1175557) | more than 4 years ago | (#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...

Re:what reminder ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192822)

The advent of the all-electric car is a huge step forward for transportation.

for the rich: Tesla Motors []

for the rest of us (end of year 2010): Nissan Leaf []

Re:what reminder ? (1)

Eth1csGrad1ent (1175557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193608)

I'm not saying that we've haven't made huge advances in any number of fields... I'm just making the point that, no matter what advances we've made, they 1) never meet the rate of advancement we predict will occur in the future and 2) are mostly unattainable for the masses in the short term, even if they do exist, or the cost-benefit analysis that people do when adopting pretty much anything, just isn't there and 3) despite the breakthrough, they just aren't as convenient or as life-changing as we thought they'd be (eg. voice controlled computers - they have their niche uses like answering and redirecting call for front-line support etc., but its not an all-pervasive technology - its more subtle than that).

As with your example, the all-electric car will only become truly pervasive if you can convince the guy who just wants to get from point A to point B, efficiently and in relative comfort, who isn't factoring the environment into his decision making, to buy one (OR via government mandated obsolescence of what we already use)

Re:what reminder ? (1)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193752)

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

Retro Computer News (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192512)

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 [] .

MECC featured an early MUD (1)

Kalendraf (830012) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192520)

I grew up in Mankato, and I first used that MECC system discussed in the article around 1977 when I was in 4th grade. We didn't get Apples in our district until around 1978 or 1979, so for most of us, the MECC terminal was our first exposure to a computer. Our MECC sessions would continually print out on a large roll of yellow paper, and eventually it would run out and we'd need to get a teacher to help us reload it. Of course, it shouldn't be too surprising that most of us just used it for playing games. Among the games available on the MECC were Oregon Trail, a subhunt game (Seawolf?), and a dungeon game (Sceptre?). After a certain time of day (8am?), the access to some of the games was turned off, so some kids actually would arrive early just to play those games.

I greatly enjoyed the dungeon game, but never managed to get very far on it. Much later on, I learned about MUDs, and realized that I'd actually been playing one all those years ago. Nowadays, I suppose that many kids don't even know what MUDs are.

Re:MECC featured an early MUD (1)

Teckla (630646) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193780)

Ah, Scepter aka Scepter of Goth aka Milieu. I played far too many hours of that game rather than doing my grade school homework. :-)

I have the Pascal source to the game kicking around. Once in a great while it's fun to take it out and browse through it.

I like listening to "kids these days" talk about how MUDs were invented in the late 80s or early 90s. So naive of history... :-)

1968 (3, Interesting)

careysb (566113) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:1968 (2, Insightful)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192762)

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

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

I was there, it was boring (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192556)

In 1981 my high school had one terminal to the district mini and one trs-80. The only use that I found for it was a source of tape and punch-outs to throw at school events.

In college (first year electrical engineering) I had no interaction with any computer system that was not running a game program.

It was not until years later (after dropping out of college) that I found a use for my old HP-12C. I was running an instrument on a survey crew and I got sick of waiting on crew chiefs to work the angles in their 41-CV's, so I wrote a proram for myself on the 12-C to calculate angles and short chords for setting pins on road construction.

That led to the past twenty years of computer programming (cogo to gis and finally database programming). I honestly wish that I had learned the joys of programming years earlier, but the educational system (as presented in highschool and college) did absolutely nothing to spark that fire.

Don't miss the article on MECC! (1)

MisterJones (751585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192558)

Ah, such fond memories of the Oregon Trail... among other things!

Fascinating to read an article about its early days.

Wikipedia has a bit of history as well, if the name MECC takes you on a walk down memory lane... []

Nostalgia and shenanigans... (1)

sixteenbitsamurai (1070810) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193556)

Number Munchers was awesome. Also, when I learned BASIC and such I created a fake command prompt that gave nothing but syntax errors back to the user, as well as not allowing program breaks. Great for frustrating the hell out of the teacher, but I also implemented it as a kind of password system for some of my disks, as people would steal my work a lot. Of course those people weren't smart enough to bypass it by loading another disk with DOS on it and then swapping mine in to access my files, but if they were they would've done the work themselves anyway.

I think I still have an Apple II clone in storage at my parents' house... though since it's in the basement there's a good chance of water damage, unfortunately.

Depends on how you mean "effectively". (4, Insightful)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Depends on how you mean "effectively". (2, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192668)

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 asking her mum for a periodic table chart for ages, to help her with her chemistry lessons.

the tools are there, but they're by no means "complete". they complement existing science and other educational courses in patchy and sporadic areas, and could do with a lot more. but - that's the thing about free software: people don't know it exists, because there's no money spent on advertising it, because it's free, and the people who wrote it don't charge for it, don't make any money, so don't receive any money to pay for advertising...

Re:Depends on how you mean "effectively". (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 4 years ago | (#31194084)

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 (3, Insightful)

dadelbunts (1727498) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Ahh voice control (1, Informative)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192900)

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

Re:Ahh voice control (3, Funny)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#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".

plus ça change... (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192650)

"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.

Computer, Who's on First? (1)

LtGordon (1421725) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193658)

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 sensitive nature of the things that the computer can control, it seems like until you've got the software perfect, you'd have to get confirmations on commands, i.e. "Are you sure that you want to [do stuff]? Cancel or Allow?" Honestly, at that point, you might as well just carry a keyboard and a holographic command line. It's a hell of a lot cheaper.

Technology? No Technology? (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192658)

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 harness technology correctly -- as if the use of technology is now a requirement for good education. This is putting the cart before the horse.

Re:Technology? No Technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31193968)

Way back when, in education, we had good access to mainframes to "compile" our programs. However they stopped all that, as everyone complained they were too hard to carry home, and required a three phase power supply and water cooling S/370/146.
Hand punched 80 col cards. Rock on, Tommy!

Effective? By whose definition? Standards? Goal? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192700)

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 killed the exclusivity of the knowledge-based education paradigm. This isn't to say that people should not still learn facts, but there needs to be a new focus on logic, synthesis, and processes. People need to be taught how to find what they want to know, and not just by hur dur type things in da search box lol but real boolean logic. Then they need to be taught how to use that information in a synthetic, practical way.

Recursive History (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31192704)

BWA HA HA HA LOOK AT HOW OLD EVERYTHING WAS THIRTY YEARS AGO DURR HURR HURRRRRRRRRR that's just so goddamned hilarious the millionth or so article like this we've seen!

I'm glad to see we're permanently locked in the past insofar as what amuses us. I can't wait until another thirty years down the line when we look back on us looking back on the past because we don't have any history of our own to make.

Re:Recursive History (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192946)

You, sir, are a crashing bore. Keep your lack of amusement to yourself, please, others may be enjoying the thread.

Whitehead (5, Interesting)

quotes (1738456) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192774)

"Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them. " Alfred North Whitehead

Vignettes (2, Insightful)

Merc248 (1026032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192876)

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 format, and write on it during a lecture, but I've found that the teachers are now at the mercy of the IT department for even classroom teaching.

There's also a document camera that teachers can use to show their work while sitting at their desk. What happened to simply writing everything in big bold letters on the whiteboard?

2. In my high school, the extent to which the majority of kids learn "computing" is in "Microcomputing Applications"; this is a class that teaches a hodge podge of various skills, like writing a letter in Word, filling in a spreadsheet in Excel, etc. As someone said above, this is not education, but simply training: people learned how to write letters in English class.

3. The best computing education I received was when I wanted to play computer games on locked down computers in a CCNA class. I didn't learn a damn thing about Cisco stuff (I was unmotivated to learn from CBT's in high school), but I did learn how easy it was to get rid of an admin password on Windows with physical access to the computer, and I also learned a bit about networking when setting up Quake 2 servers for other people to play on in class. Best part about it: I was not caught even once.

4. Of course, I learned a lot by deciding to install Linux 10 years ago on a spare box. Nowadays, I'm basically told that I'm living in an ivory tower and that "everyone uses Microsoft products."

Why are computers seen as mystical beasts with no rhyme or reason with the actual world? (1) showed me that computers are not even necessarily used as tools for effective teaching but as something "for technology's sake", (2) showed me that there is no drive to break this cycle in the educational system, (3) showed me that the assumptions taken when setting up the system were quite flawed and might be predicated on the presumption that kids wouldn't necessarily have the drive or knowledge to break the password, and (4) showed me that these years of "education" has culminated in an anti-Linux (and I might even go as far as saying "anti-intellectual") stance against computing.

Old School Computing (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#31192922)

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...)

You are standing... (2, Funny)

zawarski (1381571) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193024) the end of a road before a small brick building.

Re:You are standing... (2, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193054)

Dude when you're done loading that game can I borrow the cassette tape?

And... (1)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193212)

we are using technology effectively in education now? Most of what I've seen is the adaption of old tools and methods with very little new.

cant we just stick with the basics? (1)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193342)

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.

Re:cant we just stick with the basics? (1)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193474)

Exactly. Computers really have little to no place in a classroom unless the subject being taught is computers. And in those cases, most of the students are probably already way ahead of the teachers anyway :-)

Fortunately, at my daughters' school, technology is used pretty appropriately. By that, I mean "hardly at all." They have a couple computers in the classrooms, and they are used for reading comprehension tests for determining lexile level. This is an appropriate use of technology because it speeds up something that used to be done on paper.

For actual learning, they learn reading using books. They learn math using pencil and paper. The teacher teaches. She doesn't rely on technology as a crutch. I don't know if she even knows anything about computers, and frankly, I rather prefer teachers that have little use for computers in their classrooms. When computers start getting used as the teaching medium, they serve as nothing but a distraction. This is true even at the college level.

When I was in university, I had a job as an English tutor both on my campus and at one of the local community colleges. At the community college, there was a remedial reading program that had a computer at every seat. I assisted in this class, and guess what? The main purpose the computers served was to distract the attention of the students so they weren't usually paying attention to the instructor. They couldn't read worth a lick, but they knew how to screw around with computers just fine.

The best thing they could have done with those computers was either just give them to the CS department or sell them and use the proceeds to, I dunno, buy some books or something. Or even just blow the money on a beer bash. Even that would have been a better use of funds than wasting all that desk space an attention by putting computers on desks in a remedial reading program.

Old School (1)

warp_sp (563794) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193416)

The best my high school could do in 1998 is have a lab with 25 Apple IIGS connected over a phoneline type network to a Mac Classic for printing. All they really taught us to do was play some Odell Lake and type a document with Appleworks. Thankfully I had my own PC at home and taught myself how to use a computer. The school finally invested in some PCs in 99 and even got an ISDN line to use the internet. The upside of all of this is that alot of people taught themselves how to use a computer, and ended up being all the better for it.

Computers are not fairy dust (2, Interesting)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193442)

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.

I swear thats me... (1)

bdlarkin (535818) | more than 4 years ago | (#31193954)

I swear that's me in the striped izod with the scowl on my face because the girls are typing something wrong. The kid is the right age too.
Has it really been 30 years? I don't remember being anywhere near Mass. 30 years ago, though...
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