Information Age Education Blog
Note to a Friend With Children
Guest IAE Blog Post
Ann Lathrop, Professor Emeritus
California State University, Long Beach
How do you answer a parent who asks about current important ideas about computers in education that might be applicable in their child rearing? Here is the advice I recently gave to one of my physicians, first strongly recommending the entire IAE website (http://iae-pedia.org) and then suggesting these three examples as a place to begin.
#1. Can I Go Play Now? Excerpt from IAE Blog entry posted 10-31-14 at http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/can-i-go-play-now.html.
Imagine that you are a parent with a grade school child. You have a very strange dream. In this dream you hear your child saying:
“Can I go play now? I want to go do my homework, practice on the guitar, and read the book I just checked out from the school library.”
In this dream you hear yourself replying in a stern voice:
“No, you may not go play right now. You haven’t finished responding to all of your Facebook messages, and you didn’t post a selfie yesterday or today. Also, you need to post at least six more Tweets today—remember our rule about a daily dozen! And you still need to spend at least 15 minutes more on Minecraft. I really like what you are doing there.”
[Now go to the website and read what happens next.]
#2. Teaching Creativity. Excerpt from chapter 5 of the IAE-pedia article, Brain Science, at http://iae-pedia.org/Brain_Science#Curious_Brain.
I highly recommend Robert Sternberg and Wendy Williams’ article, Teaching for Creativity: Two Dozen Tips. (1/1/2003). The Center for Development & Learning. Retrieved 5/24/2015 from http://www.cdl.org/articles/teaching-for-creativity-two-dozen-tips/. Here are four of the two-dozen tips provided in the article.
The most powerful way to develop creativity in your students is to be a role model. Children develop creativity not when you tell them to, but when you show them. The teachers most of you probably remember from your school days are those whose thoughts and actions served as your role model…they balanced teaching content with teaching you how to think with and about that content.
Define and Redefine Problems
Promote creative performance by encouraging your students to define and redefine problems and projects. Encourage creative thinking by having students choose their own topics for papers or presentations, choose their own ways of solving problems, and sometimes choose again if they discover that their selection was a mistake.
Errors on schoolwork are often marked with a large and pronounced X. When children respond to questions with incorrect answers, some teachers pounce on the students for not having read or understood the material and other students snicker. When children go outside the lines in the coloring book, or use a different color, they are corrected. In hundreds of ways and in thousands of instances over the course of a school career, children learn that it is not all right to make mistakes. The result is that they become afraid to risk the independent and the sometimes-flawed thinking that leads to creativity.
When your students make mistakes, ask them to analyze and discuss these mistakes. For the teacher who wants to make a difference, exploring mistakes can be a learning and growing opportunity.
Part of teaching students to be creative is teaching them to take responsibility for both success and failure. Teaching students how to take responsibility means teaching students to (1) understand their creative process, (2) criticize themselves, and (3) take pride in their best creative work.
#3. Chesslandia: A Parable. Excerpt from IAE-pedia article by Dave Moursund (March, 1987) at http://iae-pedia.org/Chesslandia.
Chesslandia was aptly named. In Chesslandia, almost everybody played chess. A child's earliest toys were chess pieces, chessboards, and figurines of famous chess masters. Children's bedtime tales focused on historical chess games and on great chess-playing folk heroes. Many of the children's television adventure programs were woven around a theme of chess strategy.
The reason was simple. Citizens of Chesslandia had to cope with the deadly CHESS MONSTER! The CHESS MONSTER, usually just called the CM, was large, strong, and fast. It had a voracious appetite for citizens of Chesslandia, although it could survive on a mixed diet of vegetation and small animals…. A CM's highest form of pleasure was to defeat a citizen of Chesslandia at a game of chess, and then to eat the defeated victim. Sometimes a CM would spare a defeated victim if the game was well played...
Formal education for adulthood survival in Chesslandia began in the first grade [where] nursery rhyme songs and children's games helped this memorization process. In the first grade, students were expected to master the rudiments of chess. They learned to set up the board, name the pieces, make each of the legal moves, and tell when a game had ended…. Reading was taught from the "Dick and Jane Chess Series."
[Computers arrive in Chesslandia:] While educators were slow to understand the deeper implications of chess-playing computers, many soon decided that the machines could be used in schools. "Students can practice against the chess-machine. The machine can be set to play at an appropriate level, it can keep detailed records of each game, and it has infinite patience." Parents called for "chess-machine literacy" to be included in the curriculum.
At the same time, a few educational philosophers began to question the merits of the current curricula, even those that included a chess-computer literacy course. Why should the curriculum spend so much time teaching students to play chess? Why not just equip each student with a chess-machine, and revise the curriculum so it focuses on other topics?
Many parents and educators were confused. They wanted the best possible education for their children. Many felt that the discipline of learning to play chess was essential to successful adulthood. "I would never want to become dependent on a machine. I remember having to memorize three different chess openings each week. And I remember the worksheets that we had to do each night, practicing these openings over and over. I feel that this type of homework builds character."
The education riots began soon thereafter.
This parable is now being played out in our schools, but the focus is on math and all other disciplines in which computers are becoming more and more capable. There are many areas in which computers are now more capable than humans. Read about some of these in David Moursund’s IAE Blog entry, Technology-based Mini-singularities, at http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/technology-based-mini-singularities.html.