Why Kids can't use computers

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Why Kids can't use computers

Post by DaddyHoggy » Sat Aug 10, 2013 11:03 pm

Personally I think this is a very insightful and accurate article: http://coding2learn.org/blog/2013/07/29 ... computers/
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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by Diziet Sma » Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:21 am

DaddyHoggy wrote:Personally I think this is a very insightful and accurate article:
Not to mention sobering.. and as for some of the comments.. :roll:
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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by DaddyHoggy » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:44 am

Diziet Sma wrote:
DaddyHoggy wrote:Personally I think this is a very insightful and accurate article:
Not to mention sobering.. and as for some of the comments.. :roll:
I have a new rule with any comments section (for the sake of my sanity) - three 'tuts' and I'm out - so I didn't make it too far through the comments to this article (although I did write my own).
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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by spara » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:47 am

This was an excellent article. Right to the point. Currently here in Finland we don't have ict in our upper secondary level curriculum as a teachable subject at all. It has been 'integrated' into other subjects, which means it's basically not teached at all :(. Thanks for sharing the article.

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by cim » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:56 am

I'd agree on the facts and completely disagree on the conclusion. As the author himself mentions, virtually no-one - in his rather limited definition of "know how to use" - knows how to use a car. Yet millions of people are able to get the necessary functionality from a car, and considering the inherent danger level of the object, deaths and serious injuries are relatively rare (and falling).

Similarly, he claims that 20 years ago, 95% of 5% of people "knew how to use a computer", and nowadays 5% of 95% do. Obviously the numbers are rhetorical, but even then the result is that the proportion of people who "know how to use a computer" is constant. (Meanwhile the number of people who can get useful functionality from a computer is massively higher)

Similarly, with reference to politicians making decisions relating to technology:
Article wrote:If you can’t, then you have no right to be making decisions that affect my use of these technologies.
It sounds superficially sensible, but do we demand that only those politicians who could rebuild a car from the ground up make decisions on road transport policy? (Only those who can field-strip an assault rifle make decisions on defence? Only those who own multinational businesses can make decisions on business policy?) I suspect that we would actually, in many respects, get worse transport policy if we did: towards the needs of said enthusiasts rather than the general public.

Similarly, more technologically literate MPs would not stop the current filtering plans: it would merely ensure that the plans might actually work once implemented. Yes, that'd be an improvement... they'd be in there negotiating with the ISPs, competently rebutting all their technical objections to the filtering, providing them with industrial-quality network code to implement it which they'd written themselves, etc. (Conversely the things which are really wrong with the current filtering plans can be described solely in terms of end-user results without really losing effectiveness)

I'm not saying that MPs who know nothing about the subject area are a good thing, but when there's a problem with MPs the root cause is that the policies they want (and they do "know how to use a policy") are wrong. Teach the MPs in detail about the subject area and they will then be competent and wrong.

Going back to the more general point, I'm certainly all in favour of making it easy for people who want to learn detailed computing skills to do so (though I'd contend that it's never actually been easier than now!) and adjusting the curriculum so that the computing qualifications try to teach that, with office software shifted into other subjects - but I don't think it's an impending social disaster that most people neither have nor need those skills.

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by JazHaz » Sun Aug 11, 2013 9:34 am

Great article. Liked it so much I used the Tweet button to share the link. I almost never do that!

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by maik » Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:39 am

What cim said.

25 years ago people who bought computers for home use were intrigued by the technology and wanted to learn about it, hence they became computer literate. Nowadays people must have a computer to use email or Facebook (let's call thrm "forced" users of IT) and they couldn't care less about the technology. I don't blame them for being computer illiterate. General purpose computing as the author talks about is a complex matter and you need to be willing to invest time and effort to learn about all the different facets and how they play together. It's just unnecessary knowledge for someone who just wants to get things done.

Luckily, today there is iOS which is locked down so much that you don't need to worry about casual users messing it up with malware, improperly disconnected external memory, badly behaving drivers etc. It just works and seems like what solves most of the IT woes of the "forced" users of IT.

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by Commander McLane » Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:45 am

I'm basically with cim.

The article is great and I agree on very much of it. But he lost me with the car analogy, because—as cim already pointed out—it illustrates the weakness of the argument that everybody has to be a literate in each technology they use. The author admits that he himself—in direct analogy to what he's writing about computers—"can't use a car". Still I reckon he's driving to and from work happily every day. If that's not a problem, then I fail to see why it's a problem that most people "can't use a computer".

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by JensAyton » Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:16 am

maik wrote:What cim said.
+1

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by spara » Sun Aug 11, 2013 12:55 pm

The writer exaggerates and the car point in my opinion is meant to be an observation of a development that has happened than a problem that should be corrected. Although I'm a bit worried about my own car that is more of a computer than a car. They really don't want me to do anything to the car as every change requires some reprogramming. So every time I have to take it to some expert when there is something wrong. I hope and wish that it will not be the case with computers in the future. I want to have the possibility to do things myself and I want the children to have the possibility to understand how computers work.

As for the article, as a computer science teacher, the development of computing skills of these digi-natives has been startling. Year after a year there are more and more students that don't know a thing about computers. And I don't expect them to be able to tear the computer apart. I would like them to be able to do more than just click the Internet icon. They should know what happens when you click the icon. As a result when something goes wrong they should be able to cope with it to some degree. They should be able to check the cables and such rather than call ISP's hot line that will ask you to do those things.

It's about being independent and to better understand the world around us. We are losing our independence here just like with cars. We are becoming to be dependent on others when we use our devices, if we don't understand how they work.

As a mathematics teacher I find that understanding computers and computing is an excellent exercise of logic. What's more logical than the workings of a computer? But that's another story and out of the scope of the article.

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by cim » Sun Aug 11, 2013 2:34 pm

spara wrote:We are becoming to be dependent on others when we use our devices, if we don't understand how they work.
The thing is, for the very basics of food, water and shelter, at least in my country it has been the case for decades or centuries (depending on wealth) that you don't need to understand how they work to make use of them. Arguably the need for an individual or a small group to be/contain experts in all survival-related skills ended with the Agricultural Revolution; it was certainly gone after the Industrial one.

Power generation, transportation, health care beyond extremely minor injuries, construction, manufacturing. All of these are areas we depend on for either survival or reasonable levels of comfort. Very very few people are sufficiently skilled in all of them to survive independently.

We are all already extremely dependent on others. Why is that more of a problem for computer programming?
spara wrote: I want the children to have the possibility to understand how computers work.
Absolutely. But you have the possibility now to understand how cars work. Most of it is documented publicly - at the very least to the level where with sufficient tools and resources you could theoretically build your own car. You could retrain as a car mechanic, and learn how to program existing cars.

And likewise those who want to understand computers have more opportunities than ever before. Obtaining a general purpose computer is cheaper in real-terms than at any previous point. In the 1970s and earlier you basically couldn't get one for personal use. In the 1980s you could but it was expensive. Nowadays, a basic computer is much cheaper - and there is of course now the Raspberry Pi project for extremely cheap general purpose hardware, too.

In the 1980s you had relatively few resources for independently learning programming. There were books, and listing magazines, of course, but mainly you were on your own. Nowadays a quick web search throws back thousands of tutorials in a range of styles and skill levels (of varying quality, but then so were the books). If you want to learn, there are free compilers or interpreters for tens of programming languages in a range of styles; back then you had the choice between the dialect of BASIC that came with your computer, or assembly language.

I also think the author is perhaps underestimating the degree of specialisation within "knows how to use computers": I can program in several different languages, but my knowledge of computer hardware basically stops at "cables go into holes of the same shape". Of the example cases, I'd have got 5 of the 7 - iPhone syncing and hardware wireless switch I'd have taken some time to fix (or passed on to someone else). So I guess I don't know "how to use computers" by the author's standards. This doesn't bother me: I do know how to get useful functionality out of them.

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by Commander McLane » Sun Aug 11, 2013 2:50 pm

cim wrote:I also think the author is perhaps underestimating the degree of specialisation within "knows how to use computers"
See here (first panel).

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by spara » Sun Aug 11, 2013 2:55 pm

cim wrote: We are all already extremely dependent on others. Why is that more of a problem for computer programming?
Yes. It's a larger phenomenon and should be seen in a larger scale. I want to emphasize that I don't expect every single computer user to know how to program. From an educator point of view, I would like to see that every person who passes through elementary && secondary level education would gain some knowledge about computers in general (and a bit of programming too) as they are such a fundamental part of our lives.
cim wrote:But you have the possibility now to understand how cars work. Most of it is documented publicly - at the very least to the level where with sufficient tools and resources you could theoretically build your own car. You could retrain as a car mechanic, and learn how to program existing cars.
True again :), but I really can't do anything to a modern car as it needs special software to control it. But in theory, yes, knowledge is obtainable.
cim wrote: And likewise those who want to understand computers have more opportunities than ever before.
Here is a valid point. I'm actually thinking about children and how much computer science they should be taught in school. The writer of the article raised one common belief. It's that the young automatically know those computers better than the old. This I think has led to think that the young do not need education in that area in school.
cim wrote:So I guess I don't know "how to use computers" by the author's standards. This doesn't bother me: I do know how to get useful functionality out of them.
I'm with you here. That wifi kill switch thing has got me embarassed numerous times.

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by JazHaz » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:19 pm

cim wrote:Here is a valid point. I'm actually thinking about children and how much computer science they should be taught in school. The writer of the article raised one common belief. It's that the young automatically know those computers better than the old. This I think has led to think that the young do not need education in that area in school.
I think that it would be very useful for all kids to learn how to take apart/upgrade or build a computer in class.
spara wrote:I'm with you here. That wifi kill switch thing has got me embarassed numerous times.
My old laptop's wifi switch was set to off by default. There was no way of having it switched on permanently, so every time I turned it on I had to manually turn on wifi before I could connect to the net. Annoying!

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Re: Why Kids can't use computers

Post by spara » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:35 pm

JazHaz wrote:
spara wrote:Here is a valid point. I'm actually thinking about children and how much computer science they should be taught in school. The writer of the article raised one common belief. It's that the young automatically know those computers better than the old. This I think has led to think that the young do not need education in that area in school.
I think that it would be very useful for all kids to learn how to take apart/upgrade or build a computer in class.
:) Yes, that would diminish the mystification of a computer that surprisingly many pupils seem to have. It's seen as a black box that mysteriously does stuff rather than a machine with parts. In the article the "linking to the youtube video issue" is a very common error, that might be avoided, if people using computers had a better view of the machine and the Internet.
JazHaz wrote: My old laptop's wifi switch was set to off by default. There was no way of having it switched on permanently, so every time I turned it on I had to manually turn on wifi before I could connect to the net. Annoying!
My current laptop has this swipe (?) kill button that I accidentally touch. If there must be kill switch, please let it be a proper mechanical on/off switch.

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