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Thread: Kids Can't Use Computers... And This Is Why It Should Worry You

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    Default Kids Can't Use Computers... And This Is Why It Should Worry You

    Kids can't use computers... and this is why it should worry you - Coding 2 Learn

    Kids Can't Use Computers... And This Is Why It Should Worry You

    TL;DR? Why not just go watch another five second video of a kitten with it?s head in a toilet roll, or a 140 character description of a meal your friend just stuffed in their mouth. ?num num?. This blog post is not for you.
    The phone rang through to my workroom. It was one of the school receptionists explaining that there was a visitor downstairs that needed to get on the school?s WiFi network. iPad in hand I trotted on down to the reception to see a young twenty-something sitting on a chair with a MacBook on her knee.
    I smiled and introduced myself as I sat down beside her. She handed me her MacBook silently and the look on her face said it all. Fix my computer geek, and hurry up about it. I?ve been mistaken for a technician enough times to recognise the expression.
    ?I?ll need to be quick. I?ve got a lesson to teach in 5 minutes.? I said.
    ?You teach??
    ?That?s my job, I just happen to manage the network team as well.?

    She re-evaluated her categorisation of me. Rather than being some faceless, keyboard tapping, socially inept, sexually inexperienced, network monkey, she now saw me as a colleague. To people like her, technicians are a necessary annoyance. She?d be quite happy to ignore them all, joke about them behind their backs, snigger at them to their faces, but she knows that when she can?t display her PowerPoint on the IWB she?ll need a technician, and so she maintains a facade of politeness around them, while inwardly dismissing them as too geeky to interact with.
    I looked at the MacBook. I had no experience with OSX at the time. Jobs wasn?t an idiot though, and displayed proudly in the top right hand corner of the screen was a universally recognisable WiFi symbol. It took me seconds to get the device on the network.
    I handed back the MacBook and the woman opened up Safari. ?The Internet?s not working.? she stated with disdain.
    I?ve heard this sentence so many times now from students and staff, that I have a stock reaction. Normally I pull out my mobile phone and pretend to tap in a few numbers. Holding the handset to my ear I say ?Yes, give me the office of the President of the United States? NO I WILL NOT HOLD, this is an emergency? Hello, Mister President, I?m afraid I have some bad news. I?ve just been informed that The Internet is not working.?
    I decided that the young woman would probably not appreciate the sarcasm, and took the MacBook off her so I could add in the county?s proxy server settings. I had no idea how to do this on OSX. The county proxy is there to ensure that the staff and students can?t access porn on the school network. It also filters for violence, extremism, swearing, social networks, alcohol, smoking, hacking, gaming and streaming video. Ironically, if you were to perform a Google search for ?proxy settings OSX?, the top results would all be blocked because you used the word ?proxy? and that is a filtered word.
    ?Do you know where the proxy settings are?? I asked, hopefully.
    I don?t get a response. I might as well have asked her ?Can you tell me how to reticulate splines using a hexagonal decode system so that I can build a GUI in VisualBasic and track an IP Address.?
    It took me about ten seconds to find and fill in the proxy settings. I handed back her MacBook and she actually closed Safari and reopened it, rather than just refreshing. ?Thanks.? Her gratitude was overwhelming.
    I was about to leave, when she stopped me. ?PowerPoint?s not working?.
    This probably didn?t warrant a phone call to the President of the United States. I?m sure he takes an interest in technological issues, but the breakdown of the World?s leading presentation tool would probably be somewhat of a relief to him. At least the NSA wouldn?t be loosing any more poorly designed slide-shows.

    I sat back down and once again took possession of her MacBook. The slide she was displaying contained an embedded YouTube video, and as I have said, streaming video is blocked. I tried to explain this to the woman, and she then patronisingly explained that it shouldn?t matter as the video was in her PowerPoint and that was running from her USB stick. I didn?t argue, it was really not worth my time. Instead I do what I normally do for people and Just make it work. Using my iPad?s 3G connection, I set up a hot-spot and download the YouTube video using a popular ripping site and then embed the now local video in her presentation.
    ?So what do you teach?? she asked as I worked on her presentation.
    ?Computing? I replied.
    ?Oh? I guess these days you must find that the kids know more about computers than the teachers??

    If you teach IT or Computing, this is a phrase that you?ll have heard a million times, a billion times, epsilon zero times, aleph times. Okay I exaggerate, but you?ll have heard it a lot. There are variants of the phrase, all espousing today?s children?s technical ability. My favourite is from parents. ?Oh Johnny will be a natural for A-Level Computing, he?s always on his computer at home.? The parents seem to have some vague concept that spending hours each evening on Facebook and YouTube will impart, by some sort of cybernetic osmosis, a knowledge of PHP, HTML, JavaScript and Haskell.
    Normally when someone spouts this rubbish I just nod and smile. This time I simply couldn?t let it pass. ?Not really, most kids can?t use computers.? (and neither can you ? I didn?t add.)
    She looked surprised by my rejection of what is generally considered a truism. After all, aren?t all teenagers digital natives? They have laptops and tablets and games consoles and smart phones, surely they must be the most technologically knowledgeable demographic on the planet. The bell went, and I really did have a lesson to teach, so I didn?t have time to explain to her my theories on why it is that kids can?t use computers. Maybe she?ll read my blog.
    The truth is, kids can?t use general purpose computers, and neither can most of the adults I know. There?s a narrow range of individuals whom, at school, I consider technically savvy. These are roughly the thirty to fifty year-olds that have owned a computer for much of their adult lives. There are of course exceptions amongst the staff and students. There are always one or two kids in every cohort that have already picked up programming or web development or can strip a computer down to the bare bones, replace a motherboard, and reinstall an operating system. There are usually a couple of tech-savvy teachers outside the age range I?ve stated, often from the Maths and Science departments who are only ever defeated by their school laptops because they don?t have administrator privileges, but these individuals are rare.
    I suppose before I go on I should really define what I believe ?can?t use a computer? means. Being a network manager as well as a teacher means I am often the first port of call when a teacher or student is having issues with computers and associated devices. As my lead technician likes to state, ?the problem is usually the interface between the chair and the keyboard.? Here are a few examples of issues I encounter on a fairly regular basis.
    A sixth-former brings me his laptop, explaining that it is running very slowly and keeps shutting down. The laptop is literally screaming, the processor fans running at full whack and the case is uncomfortably hot to touch. I run Task Manager to see that the CPU is running at 100% despite the only application open being uTorrent (which incidentally had about 200 torrent files actively seeding). I look at what processes are running and there are a lot of them, hogging the CPU and RAM. What?s more I can?t terminate a single one. ?What anti-virus are you using?? I ask, only to be told that he didn?t like using anti-virus because he?d heard it slowed his computer down. I hand back the laptop and tell him that it?s infected. He asks what he needs to do, and I suggest he reinstalls Windows. He looks at me blankly. He can?t use a computer.
    A kid puts her hand up in my lesson. ?My computer won?t switch on.? she says, with the air of desperation that implies she?s tried every conceivable way of making the thing work. I reach forward and switch on the monitor, and the screen flickers to life, displaying the Windows login screen. She can?t use a computer.
    A teacher brings me her school laptop. ?Bloody thing won?t connect to the internet.? she says angrily, as if it is my fault. ?I had tonnes of work to do last night, but I couldn?t get on-line at all. My husband even tried and he couldn?t figure it out and he?s excellent with computers.? I take the offending laptop from out of her hands, toggle the wireless switch that resides on the side, and hand it back to her. Neither her nor her husband can use computers.
    A kid knocks on my office door, complaining that he can?t login. ?Have you forgotten your password?? I ask, but he insists he hasn?t. ?What was the error message?? I ask, and he shrugs his shoulders. I follow him to the IT suite. I watch him type in his user-name and password. A message box opens up, but the kid clicks OK so quickly that I don?t have time to read the message. He repeats this process three times, as if the computer will suddenly change its mind and allow him access to the network. On his third attempt I manage to get a glimpse of the message. I reach behind his computer and plug in the Ethernet cable. He can?t use a computer.
    A teacher brings me her brand new iPhone, the previous one having been destroyed. She?s lost all her contacts and is very upset. I ask if she?d plugged her old iPhone into her computer at any time, but she can?t remember. I ask her to bring in her laptop and iPhone. When she brings them in the next day I restore her phone from the backup that resides on her laptop. She has her contacts back, and her photos as well. She?s happy. She can?t use a computer.
    A teacher phones my office, complaining that his laptop has ?no internet?. I take a walk down to his classroom. He tells me that the internet was there yesterday, but today its gone. His desktop is a solid wall of randomly placed Microsoft office icons. I quickly try and explain that the desktop is not a good place to store files as they?re not backed up on the server, but he doesn?t care, he just wants the internet back. I open the start menu and click on Internet Explorer, and it flashes to life with his homepage displayed. He explains that the Internet used to be on his desktop, but isn?t any more. I close I.E and scour the desktop, eventually finding the little blue ?e? buried amongst some PowerPoint and Excel icons. I point to it. He points to a different location on the screen, informing me of where it used to be. I drag the icon back to it?s original location. He?s happy. He can?t use a computer.
    A kid puts his hand up. He tells me he?s got a virus on his computer. I look at his screen. Displayed in his web-browser is what appears to be an XP dialogue box warning that his computer is infected and offering free malware scanning and removal tools. He?s on a Windows 7 machine. I close the offending tab. He can?t use a computer.
    Not really knowing how to use a computer is deemed acceptable if you?re twenty-five or over. It?s something that some people are even perversely proud of, but the prevailing wisdom is that allunder eighteens are technical wizards, and this is simply not true. They can use some software, particularly web-apps. They know how to use Facebook and Twitter. They can use YouTube and Pinterest. They even know how to use Word and PowerPoint and Excel. Ask them to reinstall an operating system and they?re lost. Ask them to upgrade their hard-drive or their RAM and they break out in a cold sweat. Ask them what https means and why it is important and they?ll look at you as if you?re speaking Klingon.
    They click ?OK? in dialogue boxes without reading the message. They choose passwords like qwerty1234. They shut-down by holding in the power button until the monitor goes black. They?ll leave themselves logged in on a computer and walk out of the room. If a program is unresponsive, they?ll click the same button repeatedly until it crashes altogether.
    How the hell did we get to this situation? How can a generation with access to so much technology, not know how to use it?
    Parents

    I?ve messed up, as I?m sure many of you have. When we purchased an XBox it was Techno-Dad to the rescue. I happily played about with the mess of cables and then created profiles for everyone. When my son?s MacBook was infected with the FlashBack virus Techno-Dad to the rescue. I looked up some on-line guides and then hammered away in the terminal until I had eradicated that bad-boy. When we purchased a ?Family Raspberry Pi? Techno-Dad to the rescue. I hooked it all up, flashed an OS to the SD-card and then sat back proudly, wondering why nobody other than me wanted to use the blasted thing. All through their lives, I?ve done it for them. Set-up new hardware, installed new software and acted as in-house technician whenever things went wrong. As a result, I have a family of digital illiterates.
    Schools

    When it became apparent that computers were going to be important, the UK Government recognised that ICT should probably become part of the core curriculum in schools. Being a bunch of IT illiterates themselves, the politicians and advisers turned to industry to ask what should be included in the new curriculum. At the time, there was only one industry and it was the Microsoft monopoly. <sarcasm>Microsoft thought long and hard about what should be included in the curriculum and after careful deliberation they advised that students should really learn how to use office software</sarcasm>. And so the curriculum was born. <sarcasm>Schools naturally searched long and hard for appropriate office software to teach with, and after much care they chose Microsoft Office</sarcasm>. So since 2000 schools have been teaching students Microsoft skills (Adobe skills were introduced a little later).
    But the curriculum isn?t the only area in which we?ve messed up. Our network infrastructures in UK schools is equally to blame. We?ve mirrored corporate networks, preventing kids and teachers access to system settings, the command line and requiring admin rights to do almost anything. They?re sitting at a general purpose computer without the ability to do any general purpose computing. They have access to a few applications and that?s all. The computers access the internet through proxy servers that aggressively filter anything less bland than Wikipedia, and most schools have additional filtering software on-top so that they can maintain a white-list of ?suitable sites?.
    Windows and OSX



    My first PC was an ESCOM P100 with Windows 3.1. My second was a Packard Bell with Windows 95. My third was a custom build with Windows XP. My fourth was an Acer laptop with Windows 7. I now use a MacBook Pro with OSX (or occasionally Ubuntu, depending on my mood and levels of paranoia). Windows 7 was a game changer for me. It was the first time I?d installed an OS and had literally nothing to configure. Even a PE teacher could have managed it.
    Windows 7 (I hate 8, but that?s another story) and MacOSX are great operating systems. They?re easy to use, require almost no configuration, include or provide easy access to all needed drivers, and generally ?just work?. It?s fantastic that everyone from the smallest child to the eldest grandparent can now use a computer with absolute minimal technical literacy, but its also a disaster. It didn?t used to be like this. Using an OS used to be hard work. When things went wrong you had to dive in and get dirty to fix things. You learned about file systems and registry settings and drivers for your hardware. Not any more.
    I should think the same thing will one day be said about the ability to drive. There will still be the auto-mobile geeks out there that?ll build kit cars and spend days down the track honing their driving skills, while the rest of us sit back and relax as Google ferries us to and from work in closeted little bubbles.
    Mobile.

    Mobile has killed technical competence. We now all carry around computers that pretend to be mobile phones or tablets. Most people don?t even think of their phone as a computer. It?s a device to get quick and easy access to Google. It?s a device that allows us to take photos and post them to Facebook. It?s a device that allows us to play games and post our scores to Twitter. It?s a device that locks away the file system (or hides it from us). It?s a device that only allows installation of sanitised apps through a regulated app store. It?s a device whose hardware can?t be upgraded or replaced and will be obsolete in a year or two. It?s a device that?s as much a general purpose computer as the Fisher Price toy I had when I was three.


    So this is the state of the world. Lets make up some statistics to illustrate my point. If 20 years ago 5% of us had a computer in our homes ? then you could pretty much guarantee that 95% of those computer owners were technically literate. Today let?s assume that 95% of us have a computer in our homes, then I would guess that around 5% of owners are technically literate.
    This is scary and I?m sure the real statistics would be scarier still. It?s something we should all be worried about.
    Why?

    Technology affects our lives more than ever before. Our computers give us access to the food we eat and the clothes we wear. Our computers enable us to work, socialise and entertain ourselves. Our computers give us access to our utilities, our banks and our politics. Our computers allow criminals to interact with us, stealing our data, our money, our identities. Our computers are now used by our governments, monitoring our communications, our behaviours, our secrets. Cory Doctorow put it much better than I can when he said:
    There are no airplanes, only computers that fly. There are no cars, only computers we sit in. There are no hearing aids, only computers we put in our ears.
    The Summer of Surveillance has me worried.


    After Snowden?s revelations first came out, I went into school on Monday to find that most of my colleagues and students had either not heard about the scandal, or if they had just didn?t care. While I was busy deleting my on-line accounts and locking down my machines, my friends called me paranoid and made jokes about tinfoil hats. My family shrugged their shoulders in that ?Meh?way, and mumbled the often quoted ?Nothing to hide, nothing to fear?. Then, out of the blue, Cameron announces that ISPs are going to start filtering The Internet. It?s described as a ?porn filter?, but the Open Rights Group?s investigations implies that far more than porn will be filtered by default. Then to top it all, Cameron?s chief advisor on this issue has her website hacked and displays just how technically illiterate she really is.
    Tomorrow?s politicians, civil servants, police officers, teachers, journalists and CEOs are being created today. These people don?t know how to use computers, yet they are going to be creating laws regarding computers, enforcing laws regarding computers, educating the youth about computers, reporting in the media about computers and lobbying politicians about computers. Do you thinks this is an acceptable state of affairs? I have David Cameron telling me that internet filtering is a good thing. I have William Hague telling me that I have nothing to fear from GCHQ. I have one question for these policy makers:
    Without reference to Wikipedia, can you tell me what the difference is between The Internet, The World Wide Web, a web-browser and a search engine?
    If you can?t, then you have no right to be making decisions that affect my use of these technologies. Try it out. Do your friends know the difference? Do you?
    Fixing it all

    Parents

    Stop fixing things for your kids. You spend hours of your time potty-training them when they?re in their infancy, because being able to use the toilet is pretty much an essential skill in modern society. You need to do the same with technology. Buy them a computer by all means, but if it goes wrong, get them to fix it. Buy them a smartphone, give them ?10 of app store credit a year and let them learn why in-app-purchases are a bad idea. When we teach kids to ride a bike, at some point we have to take the training wheels off. Here?s an idea. When they hit eleven, give them a plaintext file with ten-thousand WPA2 keys and tell them that the real one is in there somewhere. See how quickly they discover Python or Bash then.
    Schools

    In the UK we?re moving some way towards fixing this issue. Gove and I have a love-hate relationship, but I genuinely like what he is doing to the Computer Science curriculum. We just need to make sure that Academy Heads stick to Computer Science, and don?t use curriculum reform as a means to save some money by scraping the subject all together.
    We could do more though. We should be teaching kids not to install malware, rather than locking down machines so that it?s physically impossible. We should be teaching kids to stay safe on-line rather than filtering their internet. Google and Facebook give kids money if they manage to find and exploit security vulnerabilities in their systems. In schools we exclude kids for attempting to hack our systems. Is that right?
    Windows and OSX

    USE LINUX. Okay, so it?s not always practical, but most Linux distros really get you to learn how to use a computer. Everyone should at least have a play around at some point in their lives. If you?re not going to use Linux then if you?re on OSX have a play around in the terminal, it really is fun and you get to feel like a hacker, as does the Command Line or PowerShell in Windows.
    Mobile

    This ones tricky. iOS is a lost cause, unless you jail-break, and Android isn?t much better. I use Ubuntu-Touch, and it has possibilities. At least you feel like the mobile phone is yours. Okay, so I can?t use 3G, it crashes when I try to make phone calls and the device runs so hot that when in my jacket pocket it seconds as an excellent nipple-warmer, but I can see the potential.
    Conclusion

    This has happened before. It is not a new phenomenon. A hundred years ago, if you were lucky enough to own a car then you probably knew how to fix it. People could at least change the oil, change the tyres, or even give the engine a tune-up. I?ve owned a car for most of my adult life and they?re a mystery to me. As such I am dependent on salesmen to tell me which one to buy, mechanics to tell me what?s wrong and then fix it for me and as technology progresses I am becoming dependent on satellite navigation as well. I doubt my five year-old son will even need to learn to drive. It?ll be done for him by his car. When he needs to get it fixed he?ll be directed to mechanic that pays the most for on-line advertising. When he wants to stop for a bite to eat he?ll be directed to the fast-food outlet that pays the most for on-line advertising. When he needs to recharge his dilithium crystals he?ll be directed to the filing station that pays the most for on-line advertising.
    I want the people who will help shape our society in the future to understand the technology that will help shape out society in the future. If this is going to happen, then we need to reverse the trend that is seeing digital illiteracy exponentially increase. We need to act together, as parents, as teachers, as policy makers. Lets build a generation of hackers. Who?s with me?

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    Just wondering what the point of this article is? It is about kids, education, parenting or technology?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Astrid View Post
    Just wondering what the point of this article is? It is about kids, education, parenting or technology?
    I had there same thought - there may be a point in there but it certainly is quite hard to decipher, even if you do know the difference between The Internet, The World Wide Web, A web browser and a Search Engine. I do agree however that focus should be more on teaching than protecting when it comes to technology.

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    Is it we should all understand the mechanics of a computer?

    I guess that's the argument that you should understand your car to drive it....except I don't understand them either!

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    I think it's about the mechanics of a computer and trouble shooting problems.

    Easy.....just google the problem kids! Lol! Do you know how many times google as helped me fix something on a computer!

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    I'm pretty hopeless with technology, but I can do the majority of what was described in this article easily. So can DH, and most other people we know. Most people my age know these things about computers. But then, I also know loads of people my age who don't. So I don't think it's an age thing, maybe the sort of circles we mix in?

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    I don't know, I took the point as the author being a bit self important about their job and how important they are at the school

    I don't know, I don't think everyone does need to be competent to do some of the things described, just as I don't think everyone needs to be able to fit a bra properly or service their car. We don't all need to be able to do everything it's fine to have a network person at a school that knows the answers to stuff related to the network. By their own argument people are spending less time on PCs so why are they so miffed about people being less skilled at using a device which is in decline?

    To flip the argument in another direction, I've worked in a 'helping people out with technology role' before (not help desk but the people that staff used to come to to avoid help desk!) and there is a saying some where about if you keep being asked the same question you must be answering it wrong! If you keep having to do the same task for people over and over you aren't helping them to help themselves and they keep coming back you aren't succeeding. Which ironically is kind of the criticism they have of parents just fixing computer problems and not teaching......

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    Wow, long rant. But I officially can use a computer, so huzzah. (I started programming at Liebling's age, but I'm a girl so it doesn't count; my gender means I can't "do" computers to many.)

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    Didn't seem self important to me considering they expressed where they had messed up themself too. Seemed kind of reflective as well as offering some practical solutions.

    I think there is a difference between needing a mechanic to fix a fault in your car and needing a mechanic to turn your car on for you. I don't think it is saying people need to be experts but to just know the basics, not to make his job easier but for safety and so they know how government changes actually affect them. The danger of just blindly plugging yourself into technology without much awareness for what is actually going on.

    And tips on how to inspire kids to be problem solvers of their own technological challenges (could expand to anything though).

    Or that's what I got from it lol.

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    I found this article pretty interesting, from the viewpoint of anecdotal evidence supporting what a number of studies have already indicated. There's a popular perception that young people have "grown up with computers" and they are "digital natives" like that's some kind of statement of skills-competence. But from an educational & informational perspective, the majority of these young people do not have the technology or information skills that they will need in the workplace of the future. That's ok if it's acknowledged & addressed by the education system & policy makers. But if the people who fund those programs assume that no effort is needed because young people know it all, that's a huge problem.

    Fortunately in Australia we have a federal govt dept who looks after these issues as part of its portfolio, so I'm not sure the real bit of the rant in the article is applicable in this country.

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    I found it interesting, but also a little but judgemental ... because the same article could have been written, with the focus (instead of computers) being:

    • cars
    • the law
    • medicine
    • money
    • gardening and gardening tools
    • birthing
    • carpentry (furniture and structures)
    • linguistics
    • the philosophy/psychology of education
    • physics
    • chemistry
    • weather and atmospherics
    • our bodies
    • food and cooking and eating (and sourcing and agriculture and farming and slaughtering and ... you get the picture)


    and so on and so forth ... in my job, it is similarly really frustrating when clients come and metaphorically fling their crusty issues on my desk, and expect me to essentially fix it for them - the same sort of way she (he?) describes people coming to him. And like him, I can reasonably easily unravel a lot of the issues, but not magically, and not without having a significant background and experience, and plenty of the time, THEY could have sorted out a lot of it (or not come into the issue in the first place) had they done some really basic things.

    That being said, despite having multiple teeth (promise!) I know precious little about them other than how to use them, and I sure as heck couldn't fix them if something went wrong. So I'd go to a dentist.

    I do however try to take care of my teeth, and to know a bit about how to do that, and have a good sense of when I need to go and see an expert.

    And then when I do need to see an expert, I'm polite, and try not to take them for granted (or to take the attitude that I'm just paying for a service, and can treat them as I please - which seems to increasingly be the attitude around service providers in general).

    Computers too - I know enough to get by, and to try to figure things out (turn it off and on again ...) and then to seek assistance if needed. I know enough to know how to take care of it (in the same way that I aim to treat all my possessions with care and a sense of good stewardship) and I plan on instilling those values of respect, care, general know how, and inquisitiveness in my children.

    So yeah, I don't know much about computers ... I'm not sure whether my kids will either. It really depends if they are interested in them or in other things. I want them to be interested in something, and to have something that they just want to pull apart and piece back together and tinker with and play with and learn from and develop ... for the author, that seems to have been computers. Ace. But clearly not cars, from the sounds of it. And that's ok.

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    i think that tied in with the snowden stuff and the assumed knowledge that children will grow up with technology = technological competence is interesting.

    there has been growing research and debate as to the use of technology in school curriculums and its impacts on cognitive processes. are our brains benefitting from the use of this technology that has been created by some pretty phenomenal brains or are we at risk of actually losing out on the thinking part?

    the idea that we are being subsumed by a tightening grip on individual identity and self-governance through the increased use of technology and social interactions on social media and communication across Internet et al is an important one that we must absolutely begin to navel gaze about.
    Snowden and its impacts on our uses of such technology is extremely terrifying to me...especially the lack of interest (or is it understanding?!).

    This is what i am on about (quoted from the above article): "I want the people who will help shape our society in the future to understand the technology that will help shape out [sic] society in the future. If this is going to happen, then we need to reverse the trend that is seeing digital illiteracy exponentially increase. We need to act together, as parents, as teachers, as policy makers."

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    I think the main point he is making, that children are not learning to really understand technology through their current use, is very relevant. With the car anology- sure, I don't know how to build a car or understand how all of it works because that's not my speciality. But I do know how to drive one and through that I understand some basics about how it operates and I can apply my knowledge to some thoughtful, independent use of the car (eg. choosing my own mechanic through discussions and understanding what they are doing). When our children are no longer driving cars they will potentially lose some of that independence by being driven to the mechanic who pays for the most advertising. Of course that will happen. Sure, there will be options to choose your own but the majority wont.

    We already know that because it's happening in the computer world. Our children's experiences are often being driven by who pays. Teaching them how to drive the experience for themselves will help them to better understand how it all works and have a grasp on the important issues surrounding technology, regarding privacy, access etc etc.

    I don't think we are immune to this situation in Australia at all. We have internet censorship which has come close to being violated on many occasions and mostly pushed by politicians who don't seem to have a grasp on the way the internet works. Don't even get me started on Tony Abbott and his views on the NBN.

    I don't think he's saying everyone has to have a deep level understanding of computers and be a computer mechanic. But knowing to read a pop-up box before clicking ok or knowing to plug in the cables shouldn't be such a mystery. We shouldn't fear computers and be so mystified by them. Our children should be taught how to drive them, just like we currently teach them to drive a car.

  14. #14

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    I get what you're saying meow, but I think that there are two very different things being discussed in the article:-

    1. a lack of technical ability (eg: not understanding that the computer overheating and running very slowly are likely to be linked, and signals that these are symptoms of something being wrong, such as a virus); and

    2. an attitude issue (eg: not checking the cable is in before wailing "the interwebs have died" or clicking "ok" before reading the pop up box or downloading things without sussing out whether they're legitimate and non-virusy or ... lots of things ...).

    Regarding the first category, I would reiterate my point about computers being one of a large number of things that we use day by day, and don't necessarily have a good operating understanding about. And that I personally don't have a problem with that. Over the past 15 years, I have intended to learn how to sew (to make basic garments), do basic (very basic) mechanics, computer programming (as my current ability is Logowriter and Basic before it was even Qbasic), photography, human movement, genetics (understanding - not fiddling), carpentry (just to be able to fix stuff) and more. But there just isn't enough hours in the day or dollars in the bank - or space in my head! So I try to get better at things I enjoy writing, pottery, cooking, etc.

    Regarding the second - this is a problem. A big problem. But I don't think it has anything to do with computers - or children. It's people in an "instant" age.

    Quite seriously, I put this sort of thing down in the same category as:-

    • someone saying a toy is broken without checking if there's batteries, something stuck in the wheels, etc.
    • someone standing at the pantry / fridge / etc moaning that there's nothing to eat simply because there's nothing they can pull out and put in their mouth, which looks appetising at that precise second.
    • someone complaining that they have nothing to wear, when they quite clearly do (it just perhaps is not new, not sufficiently "trendy" for them that day, or it's still on the floor dirty from two weeks ago).
    • someone saying they're bored and expecting someone else to stop what they're doing and entertain them, instead of going for a walk, picking up a book, or doing any one of a million things that they could do if they chose to.
    • someone saying, "it's not here" when all they've done to find it so far is open their eyes and hope it would miraculously materialise in their hand.
    • someone saying "I've never got any money" because they keep on spending it on things that they don't actually need.
    • etc ... I'm pretty sure we could all make an impressive list from our own observations of the human race.

    So those sorts of things - call them human, impatient, lazy, idiotic, whatever - are not things which I think have anything to do with computers. They're attitude issues.

    A friend of mine works for a bank, another for an electricity company, another in a law firm, and one thing I hear over and over and over again from them (in various levels of decibels, depending on how angry they are!) is that customers and clients are constantly calling asking questions about things which they've been sent letter about, but they clearly have not read them. I don't think that means that the customers/clients necessarily don't know about banking, money, electricity or the law - but rather that they've got their mail, seen it's not a bill - it's "just" a letter or a pamphlet - and they've chucked it straight into the bin, and then later had a question because something has changed or happened or whatever - and they're peeved and are on the phone all angry at my friends ... they should have read the letter, and then they would have known - and could possibly have done something about it.

    So, yeah, I see those two things really differently.


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    I think those are very valid points, and I think to a large degree that was my take away message. Don't forget to teach children to really be thinkers. In some ways that is juts presented in this blog with the computer bias due to the writer's own personal bias. But it is certainly a more universal message. Given that computers are such a wide spread tool, they are a good opportunity to ensure we're living this teaching philosophy. Which is also why I chose to put this blog under education & learning- I think education as a whole is really the crux of the matter.

  16. #16

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    Agreed!!

    And I'm glad you posted it.

    I think you've hit another nail on the head there too in terms of weighing up the source and value of something found on the Internet. I see that ALL the time these days in essays

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    I actually see this as a much deeper issue. and the points that peanutter touched upon as inextricably linked to the concerns raised by the author and also, by those who are beginning to question basic human rights issues that are constantly under threat due to the increasing levels of censorship and monitoring by governments and affiliated agencies regarding web use.

    I mean, seriously, do we all just have a quiet chuckle when we read articles where a family home is surrounded by gun wielding maniacs (government issued withstanding) all because her family over the course of their 'googling' managed to trip the censors with their search terms 'pressure cooker' and 'backpack' and perusal of articles relating to the boston bombings....all mutually exclusive searches mind you; undertaken by different members of the family? I find that frightening. I also find, that because of a distinct lack of understanding and a large level of apathy (the 'whatevers') people are having freedoms infringed to a whole new and more restrictive level.

    Sheesh, 20 years ago if they told us that all our mail would be read, that every book that we picked up or newspaper article that we chose to read would be under the watchful eyes of our governments we would of been totally freaked out. and now? people are kinda annoyed/worried but mostly just couldnt care less.
    people need to start being mindful, to start understanding what this means and why and how it all works.

    this then ties into the need as the author of the blog suggests of people to start really learning how it all works, from the computer up (i agree with meow that it's not all about knowing it all to the level of an IT professional who has spent many years at university etc to get where they are).

    kids do use computers. they use them alot. they are part of the classroom in the same way that blackboards and calculators once were: they are becoming integral. but instead of teaching our children how to use the computer or ipad, we need to teach them how and why (not just 'click here and that pops up!').

    for example, there is an increasing trend towards webcam use for the *ahem* more sultry online love fests. this is all well and good and if it floats your boat. but not an insignificant number of young people are unaware that those 'live' images on their webcam can (and are) captured and can (and are) shared...they know how the webcam works but they dont understand its capabilities alongside the capabilities of other programs and computer applications. Just an example....

  18. #18

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    I don't think the attitude is new. It's been around for a lot longer than we've had computers, even those computers that took up entire rooms.

    You know what I hate with every generation, the idea that somehow the next are doing it wrong. The next generation is lazier, suckier, more self entitled more wasteful etc etc. If we stopped comparing ourselves, or those around us and instead of judging but helping we might actually get somewhere as a society overall. I call this the "Kids these days" mentality. And not only is it counter productive it's lazy and elitist.

    As for computer safety and government censorship it's not something most kids are blind from. In fact it's quite the opposite. I know more adults that are easily led to believe everything they read or hear than I do most 10 year olds. And especially not my nearly 12 year old.

    As for the article I still believe strongly in the saying "If you can't explain it simply, then you don't understand it well enough."

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