Monday, June 26, 2006

the instruments of torture

WRT, students learning computer skills at School.

In summarising the discussion at slashdot (will publish later) about computer literacy it became clear that as well as the skills of literacy there is also an attitude and also an environment that promotes literacy.

Some users have the attitude of mastering the machine, of looking behind the screen, of exploring it more deeply. One tiny example, I've noticed how much more proficient those who learn and become fluent with keyboard shortcuts are over those who just rely on the mouse. (but of course there is far more to it than that)

Environment is so important IMO. Brian Harvey used to give his students the key to the computer lab. Read his great article about this. The trend increasingly on my patch is to lock everything down and to restrict options rather than expand them.

1. Censor-ware
2. MS Agreement is bad in a number of ways. The MS UI is dumbing down (eg. hide file extensions), also the agreement restricts the uptake of Open Source, which is far more compatible with an educational philosophy (sharing stuff)
3. Copyright Law (getting worse)
4. DRM (restrict ability to copy to prop up ageing business models)
5. Locally many schools are obsessed with security (they have their reasons)

I call these things the instruments of torture, analogous to the instruments of torture shown to Galileo to restrict his freedom of thought. Increasingly, I spend my days being annoyed / frustrated / angry about the instruments of torture.

Taken as a group: skills, attitudes, environment - how are we going in Schools at the moment?

Not very well, I would suggest.

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