[K12OSN] Best approach to calm the school's administration ab out Linux?

Henry Hartley henryhartley at westat.com
Fri May 28 19:52:24 UTC 2004

>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Joseph Bishay [mailto:joseph.bishay at utoronto.ca] 
>> Sent: Friday, May 28, 2004 2:50 PM
>> What would be the best way to reassure them that the system
>> we have IS able to prepare the students for the future (IE:
>> Doesn't need to be Windows)? Note that in our area (Toronto)
>> there is no ministry-mandated computer curriculum, so
>> essentially the lab is used as a reference room for other
>> subjects. 

When you teach math to your students, you teach facts and concepts, you
don't teach how to use a particular calculator.

When you teach language to your students, you teach the parts of speech,
grammar and sentence structure, you don't tell them precisely what to say.

When you teach art to your students, you teach them how to express
themselves creatively, you don't tell them what to draw.

When you teach computer programming to students, you teach them about logic,
data and control structures, you don't teach them any particular language
(well, you might but that's secondary).

When you teach typing to your students, you teach them the QWERTY keyboard
layout (probably) and it doesn't matter if you use a typewriter, a Wintel PC
or a Macintosh.

When you teach your students how to do research, you teach them how to use
books, conduct interviews, perform experiments, etc., you don't just teach
them to use the encyclopedia for everything.  

When you teach computer technology to your students, you teach them how a
computer works and what it can do, you don't teach them how to use Microsoft

It's all about teaching concepts.

Or, another approach...

What are you teaching?

Are you teaching a course in Microsoft Word or are you teaching your
students to write?  As an employer, I'd rather have one person who can write
but can't find the computer's power switch than ten MS Word savvy people who
cannot express an idea to save their life.

Are you teaching a course in Microsoft Excel or are you teaching your
students how to calculate numeric values?  I'd rather have one person who
understands the relationships between numbers and can write a formula to
calculate a value than ten people who can use Excel but cannot tell me why
the numbers don't add up to the right total (or don't know how to tell if
the total is right in the first place).

Are you teaching a course in Adobe Photoshop or are you teaching design?
I'd rather have one computer illiterate person who can put colors and shapes
together to convey a feeling than ten who know how to use Photoshop but

The computer is a tool.  I didn't grow up using a computer in school.  Sure,
it useful to know how to use a particular brand of tool.  But the ability to
know what the tool is good for is vastly more important.  I'm a photographer
in my spare time.  I've used dozens of different cameras over the years.
They differed from each other in some significant ways - digital vs. film,
35mm vs. 120mm vs. 4x5in, rangefinder vs. SLR vs. speed graphic.  The
mechanics of the camera change and I've had to adapt.  But subject,
composition, exposure - those things are the same with any camera.  If I had
concentrated on learning to use a Canon rangefinder (my first camera) and
nothing else, I'd have had a hard time with the digital SLR I use now, or my
grandfather's Speed Graphic.

Anyway, I hope some of that is helpful.

Henry Hartley

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