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Schools Still Not Up With Alan Kay’s Ideas

You have to love long-haul flights for catching up on reading. I am flying from Hong Kong to Perth, Western Australia and, en-route I have been reading a paper that I saw referred to on a list I monitor which had an interesting discussion recently about whether it was possible to predict a long future for the teaching of ICT as a discrete subject in schools. As one might imagine, the list that had a lot of experienced and reflective ICT and other teachers on it really grabbed this juicy bone hard and chewed it till it was devoid of all meat, marrow and even bone! Along the way there was some great discussion about why we should bother to teach anything (a topic I often start workshops with).
Along the way, this dissertation was referenced TRACING THE DYNABOOK:
A STUDY OF TECHNOCULTURAL TRANSFORMATIONS

by
John W. Maxwell

This is a bit of a lofty and academic sounding title but I really do recommend that readers who struggle with why the educators and institutions that you deal with sometimes seem reluctant to embrace the use of the technology that is reshaping the world as we know it, consider putting it on your reading list.
One of the great take-aways for me was thinking about the vision and the energy that must have been a part of the teams that Alan Kay worked with in the early days of shaping his Dynabook vision. In today’s world of amazing technology being thrown at us every “marketing quarter”, design for obsolescence in a few short years, pursuit of the latest gadget and amazing web tools seemingly landing each day, It is a very easy trap to fall into being blasé about a device that Kay would still like to see used as an “instrument whose music is ideas”.

The other amazing thing is just how far-sighted Kay is about the transformative power of the technology. Even though a lot of what Kay was thinking and writing about back in the 70s is now commonplace in terms of the availability of the hardware, it is clear from reading this that we have a long way to go to take onboard the way that Kay sees technology being used with children. I loved this quote:

Kay’s enthusiasm and unbridled romanticism is captured in his best-known quotation: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Kay’s future included children, personal computers, and a new kind of literacy.

Such a large, far reaching document is impossible to summarise here in a short blog post. I urge you to consider putting it on your holiday reading list.

Photo: Looks like an Ad, No? http://www.flickr.com/photos/crystalginn/115479869/

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