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September 15, 2006


John  Powers

Not exactly on topic, but David Brin had a piece in Salon http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2006/09/14/basic/(you have to click through an add to read it)

"Why Johnny Can't Code" decries that kids can't play with Basic anymore. My first reaction was: "So what?" But on reflection Brin's point that it's important for kids to learn about how things work on a fundamental level. I was also charmed by how his son found an old computer on EBay to tinker with.

Computer labs are passe. But people won't out-grow the need to tinker--hands on to live.

School gardens are an example of spaces to tinker in. And science laboratories are too at their best. Talk to scientists or doctors and they'll tell you that learning how to use equipment was hard to learn and very important.

I don't really have a thought about what school designs for spaces for using computers. I do think that connectivity is important. But Brin makes an interesting point about the need to tinker directly with simple machines. At some level schools probably need spaces to do that. It's not just with computers, and to say schools need places with sawdust on the floor is exactly wrong when it comes to computers. But perhaps the old ideas of school laboratories still have some meaning and kids should be able to tinker on hardware and very basic programming. Maybe I'm simply worried that new school designs will be so clean we'll forget that kids need to get their hands dirty sometimes.

Andrew Pass

As I was reading your article, I was wondering if there were ever pen/pencil labs. Sounds kind of silly, doesn't it?

Andrew Pass

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