Still Waiting for the Revolution… 26 January, 2009Posted by paralleldivergence in education, ICT in Education, Internet, NSW, Politics, technology.
Tags: Alan Kay, Digital Education Revolution, education, ICT in Education, revolution
Date Log: January 2009. Still waiting for the revolution.
Australia’s Digital Education Revolution is coming. Even before it started, it was identified that the $1.2 billion promised was not going to be enough, so now with the injection of a further $807 million, Educational Authorities across the country are investigating hardware options including laptops and wireless connectivity. But Dr Alan Kay is still not convinced that this will be the revolution our children need.
So who is Dr Alan Kay, and what would he know anyway? Well, apart from being directly involved with many of the milestones of Information and Communications Technology, including the development of the graphical user interface and mouse at Xerox PARC and defining the conceptual basics for laptop and tablet computers and E-books, Kay is a forward-thinking educationalist.
He has been anticipating an “Education Revolution” for over a decade now and way back in 2003 Kay was interviewed by Scholastic and related many of reasons why the Revolution has been delayed. Sadly, most of those reasons are still with us today. And we are still waiting.
When asked why he believes that the computer revolution hasn’t happened yet, Kay replied:
“Most schools define computer literacy as being able to operate Microsoft Office and maybe do a little web design. They’re missing the point. That’s like saying, “If you know which end of a book to hold up, and you know how to turn to Chapter Three, then you’re literate.”
Literature is first and foremost about having ideas important enough to discuss and write down in some form. So you have to ask, “What is the literature that is best written down on a computer?”
In this new age of the social web, the literature our students write needs to have an audience – to read, to appraise, to respond and to discuss. Rote learning and regurgitation does nothing to promote the critical thinking that is essential in an ICT-based world.
When asked about the return value of the $40 billion spent on ICT in U.S. schools, Kay said:
“It’s a chicken and the egg thing. What’s happened is probably a successful egg—but with no chicken yet in sight. I can go into virtually any school that has computers and see children who are happily using them, as well as see teachers who are happy that the kids are using them. Parents are happy, principals are happy, and school boards are happy. But if you know anything about computing or about math and science, you can see that very little of importance is going on there. “
Of one-to-one computing in our schools?:
“I think the big problem is that schools have very few ideas about what to do with the computers once the kids have them. It’s basically just tokenism, and schools just won’t face up to what the actual problems of education are, whether you have technology or not.
You can put a piano in every classroom, but that won’t give you a developed music culture, because the music culture is embodied in people. The important thing here is that the music is not in the piano. And knowledge and edification is not in the computer. The computer is simply an instrument whose music is ideas.
Educators have to face up to what 21st-century education needs to be about, and start thinking about solving that problem long before they bring the computer on the scene.”
Yet here we are in 2009, six whole years have passed since this interview and we are about to introduce hundreds of thousands of laptops into schools - the instruments are arriving before we have the musicians who can play them.
Fidel Castro once said, “A Revolution is a struggle between the past and the future”. His fellow revolutionist, Che Guevara said, “The Revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall”.
It appears that our apple has already rotted but is still hanging on due to the overwhelming force of apathy. Still, the Revolution is coming.