One Laptop Per Child

Bill Vermillion bv at
Mon Nov 12 15:48:54 PST 2007

The door open and in walked trouble - disguised as our our old
nemesis freebsd-questions-request at, who uttered, at
Mon, Nov 12, 2007 at 21:37 :

> Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 13:30:46 -0600
> From: Kevin Kinsey <kdk at>
> Subject: Re: One Laptop Per Child
> To: Chuck Robey <chuckr at>

[edited to only portions I comment upon - wjv] 

> Chuck Robey wrote:

> >>> I am usually not the one to bring up these things but I feel very
> >>> strongly about this. Starting Monday, November 12 this website is
> >>> offering a give one get one deal. I believe the money will be well
> >>> invested. YMMV

> >>>

> >> That is a difficult issue, while this is an opportunity, I
> >> doubt this is the most needed thing to provide education.
> >> We are talking giving laptop to people who do not even have
> >> electricity in some cases...

> > You ought to actually _visit_ one or more of the schools that
> > have practical computers for the kids. At least in my own
> > experience, well, it's very disillusioning. The teachers have
> > only a vague notion about what a compuiter is, so basically
> > the students are given some games to waste their time with,
> > and graded on how quiet they are while playing. The teachers
> > themselves are usually actually frightened of the machines,
> > so they react negatively to anyone who volunteers to teach
> > computers.

> > I wish it wasn't this way. Maybe it's just in the schools I
> > visited? If so, anyone have a better experience? Until I hear
> > of some, I won't contribute to any "computers for kids" deal,
> > because it only benefits big computer companies, who sell the
> > machines, not the kids.

> I'd say that it is possible your observations have clued you in on
> a large problem.  Of course, it's likely not that way everywhere, but
> one result of a lack of teacher education re: computers is that people
> tend to think that they are computer literate if they can handle an
> office suite and use a pointy-clicky interface to build web "pages"
> --- which explains a few things about the culture at large.

Education - over the time when technology started rearing it's head
shortly after the turn of the second past century [eg 1900 and
forward] often has looked to this technolog as the saviour of
the educational environment.

When radio came about it was looked upon as the way to educate
million of children as radio could bring in information and perhaps
experts in the field to cover what was needed.

Then movies >with sound< came along - and the same arguments were

Then television. Ah - now we can experts teaching children
everywhere.  The ulitmate talking heads experience IMO.

And then color-television.  That was to solve all the problems
that b/w had - so you could see the colors in chemistry experiments
for example.

Then came the computer - with text screend.

It was though that they needed graphics enviormennts.  So those
came about.

Then it was color computers, then color computers with 3D graphics
and of course sound.

So for 70+ years people have seen the 'new technology' as ways to
solve the problems seen or perhaps mis-seen in education.

And what has it got us?  Has we gotten children with better

It seems today's studens have one of the prime goals is how
to pass the FCATs and SATs. IOW they have been taught how to pass
tests.  They have not been educated but taught.  And if when they
go into the world the come across problems for which they have not
been taught - they are lost because they have not been educated [a
distinction I make but others may not] to understand that with
which they are working and being able to figure out on their own
how to solve the problem.  Learning to pass tests doesn't prepare
them for that.

> Another problem is that use of the Internet for research in
> writing papers, etc. often misses the crucial "old school" step
> of actually writing notes based on the books your read before
> you begin the paper.  Recently I read a report by a 9th grader that
> was composed mostly of direct quotes from Wikipedia, et al, with
> no attribution whatsoever.  "Copy n Paste" may work in elementary
> art classes, but it's no good in academic research unless great
> pains are taken to ensure understanding and proper attribution.

And the problem with using the 'net for research is that so much of
what has been printed in the past - pre-mid-90s - has not [yet]
been made available for searching.  Sometimes you have to go into
the stacks at a decent library and pull down a book that hasn't
been opening in 30 to 50 [or more] years to find the real answers
to your problem.

> And, this may be near the real heart of the issue.  I don't think
> that many school administrators feel that games, educational or not,
> are the reason that schools should have computers.  I think that, in
> large extent, computers were added when some of them discovered that
> the Internet could give you more volumes of information than the
> school library, without leaving your seat or requiring a hall pass.

And I see problems with the modern public library systems that seem
to concentrate on what is popular - and having book-sales to get
rid of items that aren't checked out recently - and many of these
are reference books that have information not contained elsewhere.
A good friend of mind picked up several technical references that
way - that covered subject that aren't covered elsewhere.  In some
respects this is the dumbing down of America.   Hopefully the rest
of the world won't go in that direction.

> And that is why teachers should be a little more geeky, perhaps.
> Plugging a child's computer into the network without knowledgeable
> and *personal* guidance will pretty much guarantee that most kids
> end up on the baser end of the 'Net, rather than the best.  And,
> for the most part, teachers are no less busy than they were 10,
> 20, or 30 years ago.

> My $.02,

Some of the hardest tests were those in the university - here are 6
questions - pick any four - and you have three hours to finish

Or the three USGovt tests I've taken. Two with 100 question and one
with 50 questions.  You had 8 hours to take the test and many never
finished in the alloted time.  At least one of those I took and
passed the first time in a 4 hour session - had about an 80%
failure rate for first time takers.  And that was because our
group was educated in depth on the subject matters - so no matter
what the question or how it was worded, we could usually
get the correct answer.

Bill Vermillion - bv @ wjv . com

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