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What Tech Should Be In a Fifth-Grade Classroom?

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the nothing-pointy-mind dept.

Education 325

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

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Supercomputers (1)

Voulnet (1630793) | about 4 years ago | (#33847610)

Supercomputers.

Re:Supercomputers (2, Insightful)

Potor (658520) | about 4 years ago | (#33847654)

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

Re:Supercomputers (2, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | about 4 years ago | (#33847886)

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

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

Welcome to Ubuntu! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847896)

Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system consisting of Free and Open Source software for laptops, desktops, and servers. Ubuntu has a clear focus on the user and usability - it should "Just Work", even if the user has only the thinking capacities of a sponge. The OS ships with the latest Gnomrilla release as well as a selection of server and desktop software that makes for a comfortable desktop experience off a single installation CD. It also features the packaging manager apeghetto, and the challenging Linux manual pages have been reformatted into the new 'monkey' format, so for example the manual for the shutdown command can be accessed just by typing: 'monkey shut-up -h now mothafukka' instead of 'man shutdown'.

Absolutely Free of Charge

Ubuntu is Free Software, and available to you free of charge, as in free beer or free stuffs you can get from looting. It's also Free in the sense of giving you rights of Software Freedom. The freedom to run, copy, steal, distribute, share, change the software for any purpose, without paying licensing fees.

Free software as in free beer!

Ubuntu is an ancient Nigger word, meaning "humanity to monkeys". Ubuntu also means "I am what I am because of how apes behave". The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world. The dictator Bokassa described Ubuntu in the following way:

"A subhuman with Ubuntu is open and available to others (like a white bitch you're ready to fsck), affirming of others, does not feel threatened by the fact that others species are more intelligent than we are, for it has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that it belongs to the great monkey specie."

We chose the name Ubuntu for this distribution because we think it captures perfectly the spirit of sharing and looting that is at the heart of the open source movement.

Ubuntu - Linux for Subhuman Beings

Exactly. (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 4 years ago | (#33847750)

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

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

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

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

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

Re:Exactly. (2, Funny)

buravirgil (137856) | about 4 years ago | (#33847864)

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

Re:Supercomputers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847940)

A world map, As shes likely to be the child of an imigrant she'd know it better than todays students.

Linux (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 4 years ago | (#33847612)

Or at least something useful.

None (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847622)

It'll probably only be a distraction.

Re:None (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33847684)

From their exceedingly horrible teaching methods, yes.

all kinds of distractions (4, Insightful)

Potor (658520) | about 4 years ago | (#33847640)

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

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

Re:all kinds of distractions (0)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 4 years ago | (#33847880)

Ban pens and paper too, damn students distracted by writing notes to each other.

But seriously no technology (well short of the "I know Kung fu" knowledge uploader in the Matrix) is going be a silver bullet to learning.

My fix is simple, doesn't use technology, but will never be implemented given the special interests involved.

1. Pay teachers more.
2. Make teachers pay and pay rises and promotions performance based (and yes it's perfectly possible, and in fact not difficult at all, to adjust for the students - you are judging "how did these students do relative to what we would expect them to do given their performance history".
3. Reduce the summer break to a more reasonable length of time - increase the length of the other breaks if you don't want to increase the number of hours spent in school.
4. Disruptive kids get booted to schools/classes that will be full of other disruptive kids. Where hopefully the teachers are better able to control them and the teaching is better suited to them. With a mechanism for them to return if they start behaving.
5. Reward students based on results, both raw and for improvements. Whether that is just prestige or actually stuff/cash depends on the detailed results of that "paying kids to learn" study that was in Time and here a while ago and hopefully some longer terms studies.

There is one item in that list that every involved group hates. So it'll never happen.

Re:all kinds of distractions (1)

Potor (658520) | about 4 years ago | (#33847924)

So true: I saw "The Social Network" last night, and one of my favourite scenes was when a paper note was passed through the class to Zuckerberg ...

Re:all kinds of distractions (1)

I(rispee_I(reme (310391) | about 4 years ago | (#33847988)

I would say that making school attendance optional would be the best way to improve things.

At present, there is a miniscule minority of students who are interested in learning anything at all. This fraction grows smaller as the majority ridicules them for their interest.

It is impossible to teach an unwilling student, and they only serve to disrupt those who are interested in receiving knowledge. If school attendance were optional, the kids who don't want to be in school could go somewhere else and leave those who do to their studies.

In a complementary fashion, once it became apparent to kids who "opt-out" that jobs are hard to come by for illiterate miscreants, they might enjoy a renewed interest in education.

As a side effect, class sizes could only go down.

Of course, this ignores that the real purpose served by public schools in the U.S. is to babysit kids who would otherwise be unattended while their parents are at work. Seen in that light, making attendance optional would defeat the purpose of having schools in the first place.

don't use a test to rank teachers / tech the test (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33848164)

don't use a test to rank teachers / tech the test as that will just lead to cheating.

Re:all kinds of distractions (2, Interesting)

iksbob (947407) | about 4 years ago | (#33847978)

Personally, I think the drive to remove all distractions is is a symptom of poor teaching methods. Students are looking for distractions because they're bored. The material and method presented in the classroom should be interesting and engaging enough to hold the students' attention. In my mind that means something interactive. Listening to the teacher lecture or filling out a worksheet is not interactive. Nearly all of the high-tech educational material I've come into contact with has been a digitized version of that same non-interactive material.
High-tech classrooms could be useful, but not without a fundamental change in teaching styles. I would say that the change in teaching style is far more important than the equipment. In fact, many classrooms are already equipped to support such changes. How many times have you looked around a science classroom and wondered what the various equipment was for, and if you'll ever get to use it? Did you?
I think the good teachers may be afraid to adopt such teaching methods due to the school system's obsession with quantitative assessment. I think the bad teachers would be afraid because it would require them to deviate from their scripted norm and actually engage their students, which might expose their incompetence.

And technology? (5, Insightful)

Ironsides (739422) | about 4 years ago | (#33847652)

First thing, ban calculators. They aren't necessary before needing to deal with sines and cosines.

Re:And technology? (4, Insightful)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | about 4 years ago | (#33847718)

Exactly. What we need is less technology in Elementary School. Not more. Science and Technology are not the same thing. Being able to play Farmville on your iPhone doesn't mean you understand physics. (Or farming.) Kids need to learn how to do math without calculators, as you say, read books, and do as much as they can mentally, on their own, without turning the task over to an electronic device.

Re:And technology? (2, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33847756)

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

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

Oh, and I don't see a problem with allowing calculators. If the student is so idiotic that they forget how to do math without one, that is their own problem. Perhaps disallow them the first few times, but generally they solve problems far quicker than a human can. Actually, I think they'd benefit more from getting rid of the 5,000 assignments that you are forced to do when you already understand the material.

Homeschooling. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 4 years ago | (#33847810)

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

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

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

In my view, school teaches you the basics. Your parents help with that teaching (and include their own moral / religious views on it) and THEN you work on vocational training.

And the basics include the ability to do basic math. Even if you need a pencil and paper to do it. Calculators give answers. They don't tell you if you've phrased the problem correctly.

Re:Homeschooling. (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33847856)

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

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

"In my view, school teaches you the basics"

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

How is that different? (1)

khasim (1285) | about 4 years ago | (#33847862)

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

So how is that different from vocational training?

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

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

Re:How is that different? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33847908)

"So how is that different from vocational training?"

Right, somehow I misread what you posted above.

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

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

Which is why we need public schools. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 4 years ago | (#33848090)

Right, somehow I misread what you posted above.

I don't understand that reply.

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

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

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

Which is where school differs from vocational training.

Re:Which is why we need public schools. (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33848218)

"And who then pass that limitation onto their children"

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

"So that the children at least have access to the information that their parents did not learn or rejected."

Indoctrination is not only present in homeschooling, but society in general. Different forms of it, yes. But it's everywhere, and unsurprisingly, so are the mindless drones that are often called the general public.

"Which is where school differs from vocational training."

Still, only subjects which the student needs should be taught in later grades.

Re:And technology? (1)

reboot246 (623534) | about 4 years ago | (#33847848)

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

But I agree with most of what you said.

Re:And technology? (3, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33848030)

Sure they do, which is why right now I'm a cowboy astronaut married to the worlds prettiest doctor, duh.

Re:And technology? (4, Interesting)

Reaperducer (871695) | about 4 years ago | (#33848112)

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

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

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

Re:And technology? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33848168)

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

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

Re:And technology? (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | about 4 years ago | (#33847818)

  Especially basic mathematics. I've been running into more and more high school grads and college students who can't even make change without a calculator or register to tell them how to do so.

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

  Now there are plenty of other things that are important to know, spelling/grammar being the next I'd rate (although the way the language is changing with the advent of the internet makes reading comprehension possibly more important than spelling or grammar) but the ability to do basic addition/subtraction without the aid of an electronic device trumps all other things, in my eyes. It's especially important in view of our increasingly greedy consumer culture.

SB

Re:And technology? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33848038)

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

safety and bigger routes + the lack of late papers (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33848190)

safety and bigger routes + the lack of late papers kill kids doing it.

Re:And technology? (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | about 4 years ago | (#33848242)

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

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

SB

Re:And technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847828)

Mental arithmetic is exactly the kind of thing you don't have to be able to do fast anymore, BECAUSE of technology. Understanding why (and what, more basically) about math is far more important in this era of handheld supercomputers. People for whom it would be useful to be able to do quick arithmetic will naturally develop it.

Someone who knows math isn't going to evaluate 3*27 using 3*2*10 + 7*3 (this involved no insight, just a naieve brute attack), they are going to use 3^(3+1), or estimate it as ~3*30. Drilling arithmetic is no longer very important when computers do it so much better.

Re:And technology? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | about 4 years ago | (#33847898)

Given that I blinked and came up with the correct answer of 81, I'd argue that technology doesn't make everything faster. It might for complex problems, but simple ones such as 3*27 should be doable in the head without needing to reach for any aids.

Re:And technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847964)

The case when you would need to do math fast is when you are doing a lot of calculations. Then you should be programming a computer. If you only need to do 10 or 20 operations at a time, there is no reason to spend days of precious time drilling arithmetic when other more important topics can be taught (like algebra, or mathematical thinking, or how to program a computer to do it for you much faster and more reliably). The fact of the matter is that, in real world situations, 3*27 is close enough to 90 for most purposes, or it can wait for 15 or 20 seconds to be calculated.

Re:And technology? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | about 4 years ago | (#33848156)

Joy. You'd create a generation of idiots who can not do the simplest thing in there head and would be slaves to a machine that they could not even double-check.

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house. ~Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

More than that. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 4 years ago | (#33848042)

How often are you going to see the problem already reduced to 3*27 without the solution being included?

Only in textbooks.

In the real world, you need to have a decent understanding of math in order to understand how to phrase the problem in the correct way.

If you have 4 apples and 3 oranges and you give someone 1 apple, how many apples do you have?
You'd be amazed at how many people would read that and say 6.

Without the ability to handle the "easy" stuff in your head, you cannot move to the more abstract issues found in the real world. You will not be able to recognize extraneous information and remove it from the equation.

That is why you learn to do 3*27 in your head.

Re:More than that. (1)

Ironsides (739422) | about 4 years ago | (#33848134)

What makes you think you need to drill 3*27 to the point of memorization? As for the real world, try needing to estimate the total cost of a purchase. More than once I've caught an error because the Cashier or the Computer screwed up.

Re:More than that. (1)

DarkVader (121278) | about 4 years ago | (#33848182)

So, you've stated the correct issue, and come to completely the wrong conclusion.

You've given the perfect example of why doing 3*27 in your head is irrelevant, and why the focus should be on problem analysis rather than computation.

3*27 is a perfect problem for either a rough estimate or a calculator, and the time wasted on teaching it could be better used for something else.

Arithmetic in your head is a good party trick in 2010, but it's not a useful skill.

Re:And technology? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33848052)

Indeed, for many relatively simple calculations, it's literally faster to do it in ones head than on a calculator. And once you've learned the order of operations and the few basic rules of division and multiplication you can do an awful lot in your head. Especially if you allow yourself to keep track on paper.

Need Teachers who understand Technology (2, Interesting)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 4 years ago | (#33847932)

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

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

Sadly though I more typically see teachers using calculators so early it hampers development of basic arithmetic skills, or playing games which are little more than interactive ads for toys (WebKinz!) "because it teaches them how to use the web"! This is not entirely their fault either when you look at the quality of the technology training they get - although some of it is. I being, temporarily, on the technology subgroup of my daughter's school council the overwhelming feeling I got was that the school knew technology was "good" and so they wanted some but had no clue (or plan) for how they would use it.

Until we can correct this ignorance and get teachers better educated in the use of technology (there are some out there, although these are usually not the ones involved in training others!) it is hard to argue that there should be any technology in a grade 5 classroom because if it is used in ignorance it is far more likely to get in the way of learning rather than enhancing it.

Re:Need Teachers who understand Technology (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33848050)

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

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

Re:And technology? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33848020)

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

That being said, technology should add to the lecture, not replace it. Every bit of technology that gets included should have a purpose.

Re:And technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847808)

We also need to do away with those math textbooks that are nothing more than manuals for the TI-83+ graphing calculators. People who can't afford one, and wind up being lended one (like myself) leave without knowing any of the algebra they just "learned", but a year-long sales pitch for a $100 brand-name calculator. The teachers even openly admit that Texas Instruments gives them gadgets if they can prove a certain quota of calculators were purchased. It's disgusting.

Re:And technology? (1)

I(rispee_I(reme (310391) | about 4 years ago | (#33848076)

Also, many Professors are collecting commissions by requiring students enrolled in online classes to sign up for third party "course websites", which cost additional fees above and beyond registering and enrolling with the school (which usually has it's own course website).

My friend just got pegged for $150 on top of all other fees because the instructor insisted on running the class through ThinkWell, even though the school has its own website for online classes.

I wish I knew of some recourse...

Re:And technology? (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about 4 years ago | (#33848202)

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

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

Re:And technology? (2, Funny)

DarkVader (121278) | about 4 years ago | (#33848232)

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

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

Ban teaching multiplication tables. That will free up quite a bit of time for more advanced math.

uh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847666)

webcams

Re:uh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847730)

Pedobear approves this message.

whats wrong with schools won't be fixed with tech (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847668)

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

Re:whats wrong with schools won't be fixed with te (1)

macsyrinx (1349955) | about 4 years ago | (#33847872)

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

+1 Well said

Fossil-fuel powered infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847670)

There is pavement everywhere. This was not so back then. You stayed pretty much local and long distance travel was dangerous.

Agriculture on a massive scale. How many people grew their food back then? How many today? Yet we still need to eat. Fossil fertilized foods, artificially irrigated and engineered crops, mechanically (fossil fuel powered) harvested, transported by diesel trucking to factories to be processed and frozen and shipped around the world in colorful packages. *This* is the single biggest change. with car-infrastructure in second place.

Computers and entertainment at a fingertip is peanuts compared to the stuff that allows you to *have* that spare time in the first place, and the materials to build them.

Extended youth is pretty important, but seeing how conservative kids are these days it's almost irrelevant. Out of university at 22, married by 23.

Oh, and the whole "bachelor's is the new high school" is also a new thing.

Keep them kids in line (1)

makubesu (1910402) | about 4 years ago | (#33847690)

Nothing is more important with kids than discipline. I say every 5th classroom needs a good paddle, though basically any tech that you can hit students with is high on my list.

Re:Keep them kids in line (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33847794)

Exactly, violence will keep those little tools in check! It'll also make future indoctrination far easier.

Re:Keep them kids in line (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 4 years ago | (#33847812)

don't call it an iPaddle... or Stevie J will sue you!

Call it the "board of education"... applied to the "seat of learning".

Re:Keep them kids in line (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33848060)

Well, then he certainly won't like iPaddle U.

Whiteboard. Classic One. (4, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | about 4 years ago | (#33847694)

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

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

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

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

Re:Whiteboard. Classic One. (1)

bieber (998013) | about 4 years ago | (#33847840)

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

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

Joking aside, though, you're right. I've basically never used a computer productively in class, aside from occasionally implementing an algorithm while the teacher is explaining it. If I need to pay attention in a class, I'll have a sheet of paper and a pencil out working through what the teacher is doing on the board. If I could ace the class in my sleep and I'm only showing up on the offchance that there's a pop quiz, then I'll have a computer out...

Re:Whiteboard. Classic One. (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | about 4 years ago | (#33847900)

  Ah, yes, the classic whiteboard.

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

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

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

  Indeed. The simple act of engaging motor control to actually write things down often seems to result in longer memory retention of the content. I don't have any handy links but I've read more than a few studies over the last ten years in that respect. It makes sense - the more parts of the brain that get engaged in "storing" a memory concept, the more links to that information will be created within the structure of the brain.

SB

Re:Whiteboard. Classic One. (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 4 years ago | (#33848124)

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

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

Reading and listening still the best method (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33847708)

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

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

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

Re:Reading and listening still the best method (0)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about 4 years ago | (#33847772)

Bravo.

The only thing the "Technology in classrooms" crowd accomplishes is addicting kids to technology. They don't think any better. They don't solve problems any better. All they do is become better consumers. Of tech toys. You're seeing the results now in kids who can't read a map, dial a frigging phone or think without a device in their paws that allows them to "friend" somebody. P.S. I've been a IT Director for various organizations for over 20 years - I'm no Luddite but neither am I a shill for the industry.

I'm old. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 4 years ago | (#33847774)

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

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

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

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

Re:Reading and listening still the best method (1)

jd (1658) | about 4 years ago | (#33847996)

Reading texts and listening to the teacher are valuable, yes, but that has never been the whole of the equation. Practice is the only way to make perfect, and for that you need simple - not advanced - technology that allows the children to perform experiments, make predictions, compare what is discovered with what is expected, and draw conclusions. In the end, the only facts that a school should actually teach are those which are either fundamental (you don't want to be looking them up every time) or essential (you can't look anything useful up without knowing them). Everything else should ultimately be skill-based (research skills in science, for example).

A person can always look a fact up, but a person can NEVER look up a skill. That is something that can only ever be learned, not referenced.

There is one exception to the above rule, which I've said elsewhere - there are types of knowledge which have little direct use but which alter the way in which the brain is formed so as to increase the speed and capacity. This knowledge is only useful in this regard within very narrow age-ranges. Outside of those ranges, it has some benefit but nowhere near as much. This kind of accelerator knowledge can be forgotten after leaving school, it probably doesn't even merit testing beyond classroom exercises, but it does empower a person. The better the brain works, the more that can be learned later on so the less important that every last bit of useful knowledge is crammed in early.

I would make one additional point in this regard. Because of the way the brain forms, school should be mandatory up to 18 and there should be little-to-no provision for rural off-days. If my great uncle could computerize his farm to require almost no extra hands 30 years ago, with the cost and complexity (and innovation) involved back then, it should be trivial for any rural farm to do today with virtually everything off-the-shelf for practically nothing. Kids should not be "required" by a farm. Plain and simple. They would benefit the farm (if that is even where they want to go) far better by understanding the fundamental principles correctly rather than mimicking practices that are apparently so defective as to require all this extra manpower.

If it ain't broke... (4, Insightful)

pedantic bore (740196) | about 4 years ago | (#33847710)

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

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

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

fermion (181285) | about 4 years ago | (#33847842)

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

This of course would require schools to incorporate computers into the classroom. Some assignments done on the computer. Labs to be done on the computers. Reading with assessment done on the computer.

I know that the computer is not the only technology. But the general purpose computer can be a hub. A camera can act as a microscope. A sensor can collect data. The computer can read aloud while the child follows along. Videos of history, videos of math, etc. It will take some creativity to transform the classroom from black board to computer based, but it has to happen. otherwise our kids will graduate with skills of how to use facebook, but not of how to use the computer.

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

sdnoob (917382) | about 4 years ago | (#33847948)

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

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

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33848092)

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

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

On top of that, it's a lot easier to demand high standards on work, if you're not requiring several hours of homework every night, and allow the kids to gain some degree of mastery over it before moving on.

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33848150)

"Today's students are just plain DUMB compared to a generation ago"

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

"and a teacher that knows how to TEACH"

Something else that seems to be lacking. How about a decent curriculum, less pointlessly tedious work for people who understand the material, and no mandatory useless classes that have nothing to do with the desired profession of the student? Those would be great improvements.

"not just load and run some babysitter/educational game software on a computer."

Where does this happen? I have certainly never seen it. For the most part, students do sit at desks and do tedious paper work. Occasionally, they'll use the computer, but it didn't happen often for me.

arduino (3, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | about 4 years ago | (#33847726)

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

Why tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847728)

Teach like in the olden days [goo.gl]

Re:Why tech? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 years ago | (#33847776)

...or perhaps something that Socrates might recognize as a school.

Technique and intent are far more important than that tools.

It's the marksman, not the weapon.

None! (5, Insightful)

ogrizzo (23524) | about 4 years ago | (#33847738)

Or at least, nothing fancier than a microscope or an electronic keyboard. Definitively no computing equipment.

Re:None! (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 4 years ago | (#33848206)

If she went to a dinner table she'd see something recognizable too. What, people are still eating with metal utensils? Why not something electronic? Surely those could improve the eating experience. And what about parks? Those things are so unmodernized. They need some TV projection screens, speakers with music, internet terminals, maybe some golf carts to get around them. etc.

As much as possible. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 4 years ago | (#33847764)

What's wrong with tech in education isn't so much the problem with distractions is with teaching.

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

Re:As much as possible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847878)

What's wrong with tech in education isn't so much the problem with distractions is with teaching.

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

So, if the teacher's good, it's not needed.

And if the teacher's bad, it's wasted.

And you want "as much as possible"?!?! Why?

As little as possible (5, Insightful)

shadowbearer (554144) | about 4 years ago | (#33847766)

  Teach them how to think for themselves first.

SB

Re:As little as possible (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | about 4 years ago | (#33847934)

Indeed, it is far less satisfying for drugs and pornography to strip away your core cognitive functions when you never really had them.

Re:As little as possible (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | about 4 years ago | (#33847982)

  or television.

SB

Re:As little as possible (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33848014)

We can't have that. That would mean that they would possibly criticize our capitalistic ways and generally put into question the actions of our leaders! Then our society might actually improve and the big corporations which currently rule it could make less money! That is just unacceptable!

It's old, therefore it's not the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847800)

I don't find this argument very convincing.

moo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847820)

Cattle prods!

your mom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33847846)

n/t

There is nothing wrong with that (1)

Titoxd (1116095) | about 4 years ago | (#33847902)

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

What tech? (1)

jd (1658) | about 4 years ago | (#33847910)

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

  • A "Great Egg Race"-style eggmobile (a machine that can carry an egg through an obstacle course, powered by just an elastic band) - teaches the fundamentals of power efficiency and mechanics
  • A Micromouse (a self-contained, self-steering robot that can navigate a maze - schools used to build these for fun) - teaches herustics, space efficiency and logic
  • An 80s-era computer (the BBC microcomputer is by far the best, as it has every imaginable sort of I/O) - teaches elementary programming and the I/O teaches elementary analogue and digital electronics
  • An S-Deck (a standard plug-board for electronics kits, makes assembling solderless circuits a cinch) - goes with the above for teaching elementary electronics
  • Newton's Cradle (teaches some of the basics of Newtonian mechanics)
  • A Slide Rule (children should understand WHY maths produces the results it does - the results themselves aren't important)
  • An Archimedes Diver and a Lava Lamp (two ways to illustrate buoyancy)
  • A prism (helps in teaching about optics - a skill obviously not taught very well given the reasons offered by those who believe the moon landings were a hoax)
  • A Didgeridoo, a string and a strobe light (helps teach about standing waves in different ways)
  • Dry ice and a small chunk of granite (a nice way to teach the basics of radioactivity)

As you can see, some of these COULD have been done in Laura Ingles' time. They weren't, not because the stuff wasn't there but because the schools at the time (and the parents at the time) were rather bone-headed. Passing tests and not being punished were then (as now) the important things. Knowing stuff was an optional extra. Getting a person to the point where they COULD know more was not merely optional but actually discouraged. Farms needed hands and getting kids too smart might make them move out.

In addition to tech, I'd advise teaching 2-3 languages, or anything else that is high volume, low density (ie: builds up lots of neurons but doesn't require a hell of a lot of connections between them), as the ages 11-18 especially is when the brain's growth is at a maximum. Forcing the brain to expand at that time allows the person to learn more later on. (Certain knowledge requires lots of cells, other types of knowledge - usually the important stuff - requires lots of connections. Having lots of extra brain cells means you can build more of these connections so can learn more of the important stuff. It also seems to impact how quickly the brain ages later in life, with more cells equaling a longer time at peak mental capacity.) Languages seem to be the best for creating extra space. Doesn't matter if they're never used later on, since they're not being learned to be directly useful but rather to malloc out a large heap for the brain to work with. Endangered languages are therefore the best, since they will require the most additional room - a language only becomes endangered if so few relate to it that it's not useful in and of itself. But that's exactly the property you want for this brain padding. You want something that forces the brain to make as much extra space as possible, so the fewest possible shortcuts the brain can take the better.

And different language groups. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 4 years ago | (#33848162)

In addition to tech, I'd advise teaching 2-3 languages, or anything else that is high volume, low density (ie: builds up lots of neurons but doesn't require a hell of a lot of connections between them), as the ages 11-18 especially is when the brain's growth is at a maximum.

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

Books and blackboards (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 years ago | (#33847950)

Computers are tools. They're not magic learning devices. If there's a use for them in a school, by all means they should be used. If you have a belief that computers on their own will aid learning then you end up with a solution looking for a problem.

Charisma and attention. (1)

EWAdams (953502) | about 4 years ago | (#33847986)

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

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

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

Uh, what for? (1)

dosius (230542) | about 4 years ago | (#33848024)

Seriously, what need is there? Just to look fancy? Gather dust on the desks and in storage rooms? I can't think of anything that would require or even benefit from the use of a computer or anything technologically past about 1980 (hell, past 1950) that came up in elementary or middle school, except possibly for special-ed students (and mind you I was one, though partially mainstreamed).

-uso.

The actual list (1)

Posting=!Working (197779) | about 4 years ago | (#33848044)

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

Who? (1)

david.given (6740) | about 4 years ago | (#33848048)

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

Re:Who? (1)

Kozz (7764) | about 4 years ago | (#33848252)

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

The question is irrelevant.... (1)

luolimao (1918692) | about 4 years ago | (#33848064)

DISCLAIMER: I am writing this from a student's point of view. So this might be completely unhelpful. Or even more helpful than the viewpoint of a teacher. Either way, just take this with a grain of salt.

What's important is not necessarily the technology, but methods of teaching. Regardless of available tech, if you can get students interested in a subject, they will succeed. However, if you just give students a laptop, or a graphing calculator, they're going to be interested in the piece of equipment as opposed to the lesson. In fact, it will easily make your lesson less interesting. Therefore, the point is to use your resources to add to the lesson, not detract from it. Technology, and even computing equipment, can be used, but the way it is used is more important.

For example, if you're teaching about graphs of trig functions for the first time, it doesn't hurt to have students do something as simple as graphing the six functions on Wolfram|Alpha usin a smartboard and figuring out, "hey, the graphs of the cofunctions are just translations and/or reflections of the original trig function." In that case, their attention would be drawn towards the front, and they would actually be paying attention. Also, it would help them figure out things like that on their own.

However, if you tell them to graph it on their personal little TI-84's, it's almost as if you have given them an excuse to go off in their own world and start playing BlockDude on their calculators; their attention is immediately yanked away from you, the teacher, and toward some tiny little device in their hands, that will be a crutch, a distraction, and therefore a complete detriment to learning. Also, TI-84's just suck, because the time it takes to learn all the different functions, as well the time taken to input functions and such, is ridiculous for the small gains. Tech shouldn't be that (relatively) difficult to use and that easily distracting at the same time. And the very fact that you can put games on there makes is unsuitable for the classroom setting.

Hehe. I guess in certain cases, the tech used does make a difference. If you use tech that is easily used for distracting purposes (that iPhone that she's texting with? or that Mac that he's checking his FaceBook wall on?) it renders all you efforts to hold your students' attention useless. (Even if the class is so intricate that not paying attention for a second will cost them significant knowledge of the subject) It seems like common sense, doesn't it? Apparently most of my teachers didn't seem to get that.

Of course, in any discussion regarding technology and learning, the issue of PowerPoints comes up. As far as I'm concerned, teachers need a lesson on using powerpoint properly. Or maybe 30 lessons. Teachers more often than not make the fatal error of putting up every bullet that they're talking about in the powerpoint. This, again, detracts attention from you. Seriously, you could just put the powerpoint online and let us students take notes on it on our own time. There's a great powerpoint (haha) about this very issue at http://www.slideshare.net/GlobalGossip/steal-this-presentation-5038209 [slideshare.net]

Quite simply, I agree with "pedantic bore". Tech for its own sake is useless for real learning. It's the method of getting students' attention toward a subject that really makes a positive difference.

From glancing through the solutions (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33848068)

There's seems to be several good ideas suggested.

1) Participation is important.

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

2) Smaller class size is better.

There was an interesting proposal to put two people into a classroom, a teacher and a helper, while capping class size at 20 people. I think the author is unrealistic about the cost per student, but it's a good idea.

3) Technology and training acquired since the 19th century can make learning more comfortable and address to some degree learning and physical disabilities.

There was a good idea about adjustable desks in there. Also, we have pretty good how to make classrooms more conducive to learning through good lighting, sound proofing, etc. Also, allowing for changes in classroom geometry and similar flexibility allows a classroom to accommodate a teacher or class's wishes (even if those things aren't terribly useful, it gives a bit more control over the environment to the teacher). Awareness of learning and physical disabilities (even something as simple as being left-handed can cause problems in the classroom) and technological fixes for some of those problems means that a number of students can participate more fully in the classroom who'd otherwise have more trouble or even be left behind or isolated.

4) For many important forms of education, technology has yet to provide a better solution either by cost or by effectiveness.

A number of ideas avoid trying fancy technology in the classroom. For example, lecturing with a blackboard is still comparable to any similar means of transferring knowledge from single person to many (unless the teacher is handicapped, in which case technological assistance can help) and has a lot lower overhead (cost and equipment). Physical education is barely touched by technology (though there's a great deal of knowledge and ideas now on how to exercise).

5) Vocational part of education (the "hands on" part) is heavily dependent on technology.

OTOH, if you want your class to get down with an Arduino (or other such things), you can't do that with a blackboard.

Whatever (1)

vtcodger (957785) | about 4 years ago | (#33848072)

What should be in a fifth grade classroom. In most places, a computer for the teacher and a decent printer.

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

I do something similar (1)

Bandman (86149) | about 4 years ago | (#33848102)

except I explain modern technology to Benjamin Franklin. It's a fun way to look at the modern world (and you learn to question your assumptions. Even tried to explain TV to an 18th century scientist?)

Nothing... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 years ago | (#33848160)

I'm a programmer and database admin by trade. I also think our children should learn about computers in school. But what schools have been doing lately is insane. The only computers in the school should be in the computer lab. Cellphones and PDAs should be banned outright. Kids should be learning with pencils, paper and rulers. All essays should be required to be hand written. Computer Science classes should be mandatory but kept completely separate from other activities. In school we are teaching kids logic, how to solve problems, etc... Computers make that easier. Exactly what we don't want. It should be very difficult to solve a problem in school. Once you've got it down the hard way, then you can use the shortcut. Until then computers are just hampering the learning process.

The best motivator of all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33848170)

A switch. Preferable one from a sapling.

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