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Outside the Skinner Box

Below is a link to a powerful article by Dr Gary Stager which I think is well written and much needed wisdom in the educational world today here in Australia, perhaps even more than in the US.

Some short excerpts:

Gary starts with an old quote of Seymour Papert’s:

The phrase “technology and education” usually means inventing new gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way. Moreover, if the gadgets are computers, the same old teaching becomes incredibly more expensive and biased towards its dumbest parts, namely the kind of rote learning in which measurable results can be obtained by treating the children like pigeons in a Skinner box.1

– Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon

He then goes on to state that:

Sadly, this quote from a paper written more than 40 years ago by two educational technology pioneers still reflects the state of affairs in many schools. Only the reference to B.F. Skinner and his behavioral experiments is dated. By any objective measure, one could conclude that the effort to inject computers in schools has been a costly disaster. Consider the following evidence:

  • Despite ubiquitous access, too many students possess low-levels of technological fluency and too few teachers know how to perform simple tasks using computational technology.
  • A quarter century after schools first embraced 1:1 computing (a laptop for every student), such efforts at student empowerment remain controversial. In too many schools, computers have yet to become personal.
  • Thirty-five years after schools began purchasing microcomputers, teachers still need to be bribed, tricked, coerced, cajoled, or threatened to use them. Nearly two generations of students have missed powerful learning opportunities due to the inaction of adults.
  • An infinitesimal percentage of young people are taught any computer science in schools despite the intellectual rigor, creative potential, and vocational opportunities afforded by programming.
  • Hysterical policies and cumbersome network obstacles make teachers less inclined to use computers.
  • Schools increasingly invest in “devices” with less and less computing power. iPads and other consumption technologies are outpacing computer sales.
  • Educational computing has come to be equated with the low-hanging fruit of “information access,” note taking, and purposes of even less value.

” …Personal laptops, programming languages, creativity software, cameras, MIDI keyboards, micro-controllers, fabrication equipment, and personal web space primarily benefit (bestow agency to) the learner.

Programming is a liberal art that should be part of every child’s formal education.

Schools need a bolder concept of what computing can mean in the creative and intellectual development of young people. …”

Read the full article here: http://www.nais.org/Magazines-Newsletters/ISMagazine/Pages/OutSide-the-Skinner-Box.aspx 



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