Chris's Rants

Monday, January 24, 2005

Tim Bray: The Decline of Script

Tim opines on The Decline of Script.

I had meant to write about this a short while back. I was engaged in a similar discussion a while back over beers after tennis on the topic of education. We were all in agreement that it was a complete waste of time for children to be taught penmanship (cursive writing). They should be learning keyboard skills if anything. Of course, most of the young kids know more about computers than their teachers which is really sad.

This brings me to a post I have been meaning to finish for over a week. There had been some discussion on this point in the blogosphere in response to this article:
WASHINGTON - Schools lag behind much of society in using technology, but students are seeing benefits and clamoring for more access to computers, the government says.
Maybe the educators should ask the students how the technologies they use daily could be used to improve things in the schools.

Today's kids have grown up immersed in technology. They use email, IM, and the web starting at an early age, many teens have web pages and blogs. They could probably teach their teachers a thing or two if the teachers bothered to ask. Beyond that, we really do need to have a societal discussion on the state of our educational system. The education system we currently suffer was designed for the industrial age, not the information age. That needs to change. We need to recognize that IT is a critical part of our lives and IT skills are critical to anyone's success, regardless of their vocation.

Here are some simple ways that some simple technologies could improve education, especially as it relates to communications between teachers, parents and students.
  1. Wiki and/or blog -- some schools use an online service (I can't recall the domain) to post homework assignments, but it was clunky and probably costs money for the school. For elementary schools, where a teacher has a single class, a blog would suffice. The teacher could blog homework assignments on a daily basis. Both parents and students could have easy access to this information. It would help parents supervise homework and eliminate the circumstances where students "forgot" to bring home their list. For secondary school, where teachers and students have multiple classes, a wiki might be a better choice. It could be access controlled so that students weren't tempted to hack the information.

  2. IM -- teachers could give out their IM address and offer to help students with questions about homework assignments via IM. Parents could contact the teachers and vice-versa to discuss the student's progress, etc.

  3. XForms-based testing -- this just makes sense to me. Teachers spend considerable time grading tests and homework. This could be easily automated, especially for multiple-choice type tests. The time that teachers could save not having to grade tests and homework assignments could be used to coach students (see IM above)

  4. Text books on DVD, memory stick, or better yet, on the web -- again, this just makes sense. Sure, not everyone can afford a computer, but that excuse is becoming less and less valid with every passing day. You can get a decent entry-level computer for less than $500.00 USD. Kids don't really need to lug around a backpack of tomes when they could be stamped out on CD or DVD saving tons of $$$ in printing costs for school systems.

  5. For that matter, how about wiki text books? -- this is an idea that could be worth pursuing. Especially for some of the more volatile curricula.
All in all, I think we have to do something to transform education in this country. Let's start by asking the kids to help teach the educators something about how to use a computer.


  • I really like innovative ideas for applying computers to education. I found an intriguing open source project...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 25, 2005 6:41 PM  

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