Monday, November 19, 2007

Get Yourself Some Educay-shaaaaan!

Our teenage nephew used to dislike school. He went to a rather decent primary school, where he was diagnosed hyper kinetic whenever he did not do his homework. He claimed he was bored. When he turned 12 his parents did not send him to just another decent high school, but the best school in the region and the most conservative one too – Roufa's famous Alma Mater! How he blossomed! He is now not only a handsome and social young boy, but the best student around, assigned to tutor other students! He's assuming all kinds of responsibilities! In his previous school he had indeed been bored all along. Now he's all enthusiastic about school! What had been soup to him is now knowledge! He is really learning how to learn!

He is not learning how to learn by fiddling with his laptop.

The person typing these lines, that's Mimi of course, or almost her, was not taught to use computers, but the Internets were too tempting, so she had to learn how to operate them. Evey idiot can learn how to use a computer, computers are stupid. When the computer crashes, Mimi turns it off and then on again. It seems to work. Tell her to do something more sophisticated, and she will look at you like you just told her to build a car from scratch. Who knows how many computers she would burn before she got a grip. Besides, she prefers to use her valuable time to understand the world, which is much more interesting. Let the geeks fiddle with the stupid machine.

You think we have something against computers? No, not really. Mimi is not proud to be on the wrong side of the digital divide. We have something against poor education enforced by stupidity and vice versa.

Our notorious cousin, Marina the Mediterranean Nut, regrets that her formal education “was full of holes”. Perhaps, we suggested, those holes produced the nut that she is, much like holes give swiss cheese character. She did not like our joke. She had been full of holes that she'd had to fill in herself if she wanted to do something in her life.

Marina went to a decent primary school, then a mediocre high school. Just like Mimi, when she entered University, she had never even touched a computer. And she was going to study Science! Somehow she managed her way through a tough but chaotic University. Her grades were mediocre to excellent, depending on her mood. But she made it! She's now getting paid to solve scientific problems on kitchen-sized computers using three different languages! By Germans, mind you! And she learned it almost herself!

But then again, she is a stubborn and ambitious nut. Her IQ is something like 154. She had learned how to read by the age of 3 – and that was Greek, mind you. She's a singularity. Only C- students – that's TV journalists – would use her exceptional story to make a generic point.

At least we are using three stories to make our point, and we are not even getting paid for it!

The C- generic point could be: give a child a laptop and they will learn how to learn. They will learn not only how to charge its battery, but also to write the code to go with it! Because all children are potential genius geeks, like Herr Professor Nicholas Negroponte, of MIT and Wired. Not only that, they would download textbooks that their stupid teachers wouldn't even know they existed! They would read those textbooks! They would finally receive the education they deserve!

Nicholas Negroponte succeeded in producing a very cheap yet decent laptop, that consumes very little energy and is tough enough to survive the conditions prevailing in remote rural areas in the developing world. He wants every child to be able to have a laptop, no matter how poor. He's been trying to sell the idea to country leaders, get them to buy the laptops massively, with not much success. He's been trying to find sponsors in rich countries - hence the Give One Get One initiative.

The idea is this. The children that the laptops are aimed for are expected to maintain them themselves (that includes adapting the open-source code). No teacher required. When a virus hits their mean green learning machines, they will learn how to fix it themselves. (And we are talking about children in "remote rural areas", who presumably play basketball with their laptops – hence the machines had to be tough!) Project adviser and education specialist Seymour Papert assures us that it's the best way for the children to learn how to learn. Learn what, anyway. Who needs to know where their country is on the map when there's Google Maps? His point exactly! Google knows where the country is, not stuffy people behind desks.


American politicians are also learning how to learn by fiddling with other countries' internal affairs. They take uneducated guesses and when failure occurs, they call it “learning”.


Children need much simpler things than a laptop to be healthy and happy and even literate. A bed-time story for example. Our friend Frog the Reading Hero will explain – we also placed a link on the right!


Lord Likely said...

I am not sure I would want my teacher on my lap.

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

What about your desk?

Marina No Nut said...

You're making fun of me again! You can't afford it, I know too much about you. ;-b

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Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

Look who's there! Marina oh nut, like lord likely would say,

We regret nothing!

haitvonline, we have no idea what you're writing in your blog!

Frog the Dog said...

youchers, grown ups say the strangest things sometimes!
but my friends here are quite right, children need simple things - like me - hahahaa!!
Sit down with a mug of hot chocolate, and a good book, it will make EVERYTHING seem better :)

Monica said...

Ooooo... Nicholas Negroponte- The One-Laptop-Per-Child Man... I have friends who work on the $100 laptop :) It's actually a pretty cool little piece of technology. I think all laptops should be so colorful and alien-like with two antenna... MIT was covered in crank handles of varying sizes one day in honor the $100 laptop

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

So, Monica, have you bought yourself an alien laptop or two?

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

By the way, thanks for the very funny link! Cranks for brains, anyone?