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RE: Mission Statement

> > It probably shouldn't say K12, because those are US terms.  I can't
> > think of the right term, though... it's there somewhere.
> The move world-wide is pretty much toward Life Long Learning - I suggest you
> use something like learners of all ages.

The world is moving that way (I guess...?), but that doesn't mean 
that Seul-edu should move that way (I guess...?).  Anyone who 
uses Linux will have a lot to learn -- but it's not a learning platform 
as such.  You learn because you have to, and if that's not reason 
enough than you'll probably stay with Windows or Mac.  Okay... 
that's stereotyping, but for learners of later ages the learning is 
significantly different.  There's often a type of motivation there that 
doesn't exist for children and a method of learning that's 
significantly different.

Perhaps this isn't true for all adults -- and I suppose this 
distinguishes those who do continue disciplined learning and those 
who don't (I mean... no one actually *stops* learning altogether).  
And perhaps to be more inclusive later education needs to deal 
with people who need different sorts of motivation and education.  I 
dunno.  But I don't think Seul-edu is trying to be on the forefront of 
education (at least not this front).  If Seul-edu succedes then 
maybe there will be a good environment for those who *do* want to 
do this, but one thing at a time.

I think it makes sense to pay particular attention to pre-college 
education, because it is self-similar and continuous in a way that 
doesn't happen after graduation from high school (or whatever 
comes before college).  Some things cross over -- dealing with 
public labs, for instance, which shares a lot between otherwise very 
different environments.  But college is a whole different story -- 
except perhaps community colleges, here in the US, which have a 
lot more continuity with high school.  But even that is iffy.

But it probably doesn't matter too much.  If someone comes to 
Seul-edu with a desire and vision to help in any direction for any 
age then that's what Seul-edu will do -- it's defined by the people 
who participate.  If someone comes up saying "you should be 
doing this" then they don't matter (regardless of what they say) 
because they are probably just another difficult troll who adds 
nothing to a group.  So the manifesto probably doesn't mean too 
much... we shouldn't be restricted to it nor forced to abide by it.

> BTW, You don't say anything about the educational /quality/ of the software.
> We've come a long way, made a lot of mistakes and even fixed some of them
> since the kinds of maths program that's been in this list (as a brit, I
> natually assume the posting's header was ironic - maybe I was wrong) and
> much of the stuff that came out for the Apple 8 bit machine. I think that
> there's a danger of Linux having to follow the same development route in
> edsoft that the rest of us did - why not short-curcuit it and get straight
> on with the good stuff.

In some ways educational software hasn't gotten very far at all.  
IMHO Math Blasters today is no better than Minus Mission on the 
Apple II, pedagogically.  In entertainment value they aren't equal, 
but they aren't that far apart.  Not enough to justify how much more 
effort would be needed to clone Math Blasters.  Neither of them are 
all that good, but in a narrow way they serve some effort.  Drill is 
overdone, but not worthless.

But another aspect of what I was talking about is that glitz really 
isn't all that necessary.  A good, flexible, challenging, interesting 
program without glitz is better than a lousy program with lots of 
cartoon characters running around and dancing.  After the first 30 
minutes kids realize this too.

A lot of the glitzy drill programs now-a-days have stupid 
animation/sound sequences when you get a problem right or 
wrong.  A kid with any sort of motivation at all won't want to be 
forced through this sequence when they get a problem wrong -- 
they want to try it again, right away.  I've seen kids get, rightfully, 
really pissed off at programs that do this to them.

Another issue is whether it's the Linux way, so to speak.  Many 
people (mostly Slashdot trollers and journalists with a desire to 
spread FUD) say Linux is all old technology.  I deride them, but 
they are right.  It's old, it's conservative, it's almost boring.  And it 
isn't by accident.

People in free software are cloning everything they can find.  They 
add a few good ideas here and there, but it's not revolutionary.  But 
what is revolutionary?  Not much that actually gets used.  All the 
cool desktops, operating systems, paradigms... well, most of them 
are dead.  We haven't gotten far beyond 70's technology.  But 
that's okay.  This time around maybe we can do it right -- slow and 
steady wins the race, all that stuff.

So I don't think Linux is going to be on the forefront of experimental 
techniques in computer education.  But it could take the really 
useful things -- leaving out the glitz -- and really do them right.  
What do you think are the down-to-earth things that computers can 
do well in education?

When I'm feeling more cynical -- and the sound from the damned 
games is annoying me -- I think that "educational" software is all 
stupid.  Real tools that real people use is what computers are for 
and there's no reason children can't use them too (perhaps with a 
little work).  In my opinion, this is the sort of pedagogical focus and 
achievable project that Linux is best suited for.

> I am finding it difficult to make my position on the nature of educational
> software clear in this group (without upsetting anyone:-) so I've attached
> an article I wrote for a newstand mag a couple of years back which sets some
> of my thoughts and attutudes out. It was OCRed, so may be a bit wobbly.

I'd be interested in some of your more concrete opinions on 
educational software.  I don't know any of the programs you 
mentioned in the article -- I suppose since I'm in the US -- so I 
couldn't ascertain your opinions from that.

Man, this message got a bit long.  I hope I didn't rant too much.

Ian Bicking <bickiia@earlham.edu>