Monday, December 03, 2007

Rudd's non vision will quietly ignore the potential of computers as creativity and imagination machines

The Australian (30th December):
JULIA Gillard's super portfolio of education and industrial relations is a strong signal about Rudd Labor's core economic imperative: productivity.

At first blush the size and diversity of the portfolio seems unwieldy and disparate.

Education revolution may have been the sexy election title, but for Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, it is really about creating a productivity revolution.

This is the thread that binds schools, higher education, childcare and the workplace. It is the thread that Labor hopes will boost capacity in the economy and take long-term pressure off inflation
- Gillard's role will be like a mini-PM
The Rudd / Gillard non revolution will be quite limited mainly because it will be mainly about productivity and vocationalism. This is a non vision which quietly ignores the potential of computers as creativity and imagination machines.

Vision: OLPC has a vision part of which is to empower children, as quicker learners. Of course that creates an issue with respect to the power relationships between kids and teachers and also puts demands on teacher to be learners of educational technology (as well as teachers). This is more in line with a real revolution, ie. represents some sort of overthrow or potential overthrow of teacher authority

Commercialisation: You don’t have a "personal computer" while it contains proprietary software that you can't modify and which also spies on whether you are running a legal copy of Windows. Also proprietary computer software is packaged these days to not contain any programming languages at all, by default (cf OLPC which has three - etoys, logo and python). Then we have warnings to users not to enter "Program Files" and the file extensions are hidden by default. There is active discouragement to looking under the hood

Some thoughts about what a real education revolution, with regard to computer usage, would look like:
  • laptops to take home, not computers stuck in labs
  • wide distribution on OLPC in Australian primary schools - it is now possible (givemany)
  • if you have to choose then laptops to the younger kids, not the older kids
  • free software
  • programming languages included in the software distribution
  • teacher inservice would focus on how maths and science concepts could be enhanced by computer usage
It is already obvious that the Rudd government has a managerial ethos ("government is primarily about the rational use of the levers of power rather than the force of moral conviction"- source). Talk of "revolution" is ludicrous spin doctoring. They won't do anything to upset software monopolies (the MS agreement is crippling to innovation) or which puts too many demands on teachers or educational bureaucrats.

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