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Edward Tenner, in The Atlantic…

… gets us all fired up for more techno-classrooms as fall semester approaches.

… [M]ass information technology out of the box was not developed for education.

Microsoft Office is great value at academic discounts. But Word has become a mini-desktop publishing and collaboration program for corporate users, Excel’s statistical analysis and graphing are limited, while its mainstream financial power is more impressive. And the bulleted style of PowerPoint, while widely used, has inspired a classic of academic backlash…

Margaret Soltan, August 12, 2010 4:10PM
Posted in: PowerPoint Confidential

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2 Responses to “Edward Tenner, in The Atlantic…”

  1. david foster Says:

    Well, why not have some university computer science departments actually *write some software* to meet these specialized needs? Creating a simple spreadsheet program with some integrated statistical and graphing capabilities should not be beyond the capability of a few bright students with good professorial direction. And wouldn’t it be a great resume item to say “Wrote the XYZ module for the QRS system, now used at 50 universities”? There are ways to get software other than praying and sacrificing virgins (a scarce resource on campus, I am told) to the gods of Microsoft or some other supplier.

    More importantly, there is far too much thinking along the lines of: “We need to get us some technology so we look cool. Wonder what technologies are coolest right now? Oh, and by the way, I guess we need to figure out something to use it *for*.”

    Michael Schrage, an interesting and thoughtful writer who actually knows quite a bit about technology and its applications, wrote the following in 2006:

    “What better way to breed cognitively spoilt children than sparkly tools that interactively cater to their impatience and short attention spans? Tears of frustration are an essential part of education. The ability to press on even in the absence of simulated cooing and “isn’t this fun?” encouragement matters. But most educational software has nothing to do with cultivating character. Character does not even rise to the level of an afterthought. It is all Rousseau and no Epictetus.

    This absence of character is sadly revealing. Classroom computing offers less of a bold vision than a cowardly cheat by technocrats counting on technical innovation to shield themselves from hard questions about what schools should be. That sensibility is emblematic of a monied elite that would rather buy tools than go through the painful process of determining how best to use them.”

  2. Bill Gleason Says:

    Or one could use free software such as gnuplot with decent graphics and statistical analysis.

    As a decent alternative to Micro$, the free software package, Open Office, it runs under Windows.

    Or what the hell. Use the free Linux package, Ubuntu. If we could only get our university’s IT department to support Ubuntu, we’d save everyone a lot of money.

    And the students would learn a lot more…

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