My contribution to recent comments/questions, etc.
sheine.mankovsky2 at tdsb.on.ca
Sun Mar 23 00:08:08 PST 2003
I'd like to add a few comments with respect to the contributions folks have
made in the last little while. First, on the matter of a book (text) to
"help" teachers use Squeak in the classroom, I would suggest that it's not
useful to go that route. The computer is the book.
What is a book? According to Neil Postman in Amusing ourselves to Death,
"books...are an excellent container for the accumulation, quiet scrutiny and
organized analysis of information and ideas. He goes on to say that "it
takes time to write a book, and to read one; time to discuss its contents
and to make judgments about thier merit, including the form of their
presentation. A book is an attempt to make thought permanent and to
contribute to the great conversation conducted by the authors of the past".
Postman doesn't say anything about books containing knowledge. So, if the
book is a container, it seems to me that without abandoning the book, we can
switch to another one, just as we did to the book.
In conventional classrooms in our public education systems books are used as
though they do contain knowledge. And, we use curricula to further define,
read limit, the knowledge that we make available to students. It is not a
natural process. My concern is that in all of this we shortchange our kids,
as we (adults) were shortchanged. You can have a look at what I wrote at
on this at
After I came back from L.A. last January, I decided that it was important
for me to use Squeak to be able to really talk about its potential for our
kids in the Toronto District School Board. Seeing the kids use Squeak had
made a powerful impression on me. They were having a great time "making"
their learning. I also had a great time sitting beside one of B.J.'s
students and asking questions about what he was doing, why, etc.
As I see now, the experience also left me very angry about some of my own
experiences as a student--starting in kindergarten. And it didn't get all
that much better when I started playing around with Squeak. Fact is, I just
plain couldn't do it.
But I believe therefore it is all the more important for me to contribute to
changing the learning environments we create for our kids. I think John
Steinmetz talked about the need to create a supportive infrastructure.
Discussion on change isn't moving very quickly, nor is action. None of us
is surprised by that. The discourse continues to focus on education
(schooling) rather than learning, and on operational/structural issues. It
should focus on creating a new vision for learning in the digital, global
age, and on the means that we need to create for supporting the vision. I
am finding it a lonely, frustrating, generally emotionally painful road.
Not fun. So, if anyone feels a need to vent, curse, etc., I've got lots of
time for you. Drop me a line anytime.
A few days ago there was some discussion in a Toronto daily about kids' math
deficiencies, and, of course, who was to blame. The article by Margaret
Wente in the Globe and Mail discussed poor math skills
NT18/TPColumnists/?query=margaret+wente. Several letters ensued.
I believe that adult products of the "schooling" approach to learning will
have great difficulty moving comfortably and productively into environments
like Squeak. And if adult folk are going to rely on a book, ie text, for
support, I would speculate that the chances are even slimmer. That's my
story and I'm sticking to it.
Sebastian, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that you and your
kids have worked only on-line. And they aren't fussing too much about
whether Squeak is a research environment or a productivity tool. That's
adult prattle. They're just doing it, and enjoying their discoveries as
they make them.
Finally, l agree that we very much need to permit ourselves to carry our
childhood with us throughout our lives. Sometimes we should even flaunt our
childhood shamelessly. I do from time to time, and love doing it:)
Take care, eh!
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