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RE: <nettime> Use of Computers in Preschools
Jon Ippolito on Wed, 7 Dec 2005 17:34:02 +0100 (CET)


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RE: <nettime> Use of Computers in Preschools


Enda,

I like the spirit of Morlock's response--but since I'm not so keen on my kids
banging each other with toilet roll inserts, let me add some pragmatic advice.

One antidote to the marketing frenzy over computers for preschoolers is Lowell
Monke's "Charlotte's Webpage"
(http://www.oriononline.org/pages/om/05-5om/Monke_FT.html). While I agree with
most of his indictment of computerized education, Monke seems to miss the radical
potential of network culture, as when he can't see that his students' zeal for
hacking their school's security might be political rather than technical.

However, Monke's view of the politics of technology is clairvoyant compared to the
myopia of his PC-pushing opponents, who seem to have exactly the wrong idea about
which technologies will mend the social fabric and which will tear it to shreds.
Most opt for lining a room with locked-down Windows boxes and standalone,
"educational" CD-ROMs. For me, such "computer rooms" are a lesson in antisocial
architecture--of the hard and soft varieties.20

Conversely, most parents seem to think instant messaging and mobile phones are a
waste of their kid's time, whereas I'm betting that community efforts like
moblogging can reinforce real-world learning through social ties, if handled
thoughtfully. I also believe it's good for kids to get a taste of different
interfaces--it doesn't take them long, a bit like foreign languages--and I would
include Papert's turtle among them.

Where do you draw the line between social and antisocial media? When the
Wassookeag alternative school (K-8) contacted Still Water for advice about
integrating computers into their curriculum, Joline Blais and I recommended an
Amish approach. Contrary to popular belief, the Amish don't eschew all modern
conveniences; rather, they adopt new tools on a community-by-community,
case-by-case basis, and then collectively evaluate how the gizmos have changed
their social life. Most Amish settlements disdain landlines, because calls at home
take people away from their families; they have no problem with gas grills,
however, because barbeques serve as social magnets for group gatherings. (It seems
the Amish jury is still out on cell phones.)

So we recommended that this school try blogs or instant messaging or whatever for
a few weeks, then hold a "town meeting" to evaluate these new media one at a time.
Does Sally still build Legos with Leslie, or is she spending all her time IM'ing
with her online buddy Myst4ryGrl? Is Jimmy still practicing his skateboard grinds
outside on the playground, or is he too wrapped up in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to be
interested in recess? Regardless of what they choose to keep or discard, the most
important takeaway will be to debunk the assumption that technological advances
are always desirable or inevitable.

>I am sorry if this isn't the right forum for questioning this- don't
know where else to turn.

On the contrary: thank you for breathing some real life into the pompous
theorizing that often passes for media criticism.

jon


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