[plt-scheme] Re: computers in elementary school

From: karczma (karczma at info.unicaen.fr)
Date: Mon Oct 25 18:20:17 EDT 2004

Bruce Butterfield writes: 

> I have a kid in fourth grade; she attends a private elementary school for 
> gifted students. 

> I am less happy with the "computer class" they attend once per week, for 
> about an hour. It's kind of a mess; typing tutorials, math and reading 
> "skills", and worst of all, lessons on building Powerpoint presentations. 
> Now, personally, I think Powerpoint is a noxious virus leading to brain 
> cancer and early onset Alzheimer's but sadly I'm in the minority on this. 
> ... do 
> you have any thoughts on what would be an appropriate "computer class" for 
> younger children? I'm not thinking so much of programming skills; more on 
> the order of showing what kind of powerful tool it can be and what are its 
> current limitations. Thanks for any info/references.

Are you aware that you are opening a Pandora box?! 

Before the sunset in Patagonia you will get 726 contradictory opinions.
Most probably, there will be about 4 minor and polite language flames,
and possibly several people will tell you that Scheme is a Good Thing. 

My turn. I don't think that those computer classes should show to children
how powerful a tool it can be. Children don't like Lego because you can


but because putting 6 - 20 blocks together is enough to imagine things.
There is - from my perspective - some difference between average and gifted
children, and it is difficult to satisfy everybody. Moreover, what count
also is the personal engagement and the charisma of the teacher. Since the
art of communication, and visualisation is a part of the applicative layer
of computing, even the Powerpoint (or OpenOffice presentation tool) may not
be as bad, provided the teacher first puts a concrete problem, and then
shows how to solve it. 

The usage of computer as a general modelling tool is the paradigm no. 1 for
many people, including Alan Kay, apparently appropriate for gifted children.
Thus, see perhaps Smalltalk and the Squeakland/Etoys initiative? 


Jerzy Karczmarczuk 

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