The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Nice thought, but I don't think it'll work as intended

I've been hearing about the $100 laptop for some time now, and the more I think about it, the more I think it's a bad idea, but I'm having a difficult time expressing why I think it's a bad idea.

I remember back to my own days in school. My first exposure to a computer was in 5th grade, but I didn't get any access until 7th. And for me, that lasted all of two classes before I was permanently banned from using the computer (and I was still two years away before getting my own computer).

Sure, some kids will use the computers as expected.

But I suspect more will use the computers in very unexpected ways.

Some of which could lead to trouble (some of the stuff I did in college, had I gotten caught, could have had me expelled—or worse).

But that's even assuming the laptops get to their intended audience. Perhaps I'm being too cynical, but given the fact that the United Nations “Oil for Food” program didn't exactly feed many Iraqis, or that two bit dictatorial leaders kill the educated or intentionally cripple education doesn't lead me to be very optimistic about this endevour (I'm also involved in an online discussion about this topic).


Computers in the classroom

I'm actually very dubious about computers in the classroom, and it's not because of any Luddism I might have (heck, I have trouble getting rid of computers). I'm dubious for multiple reasons, one for the over-reliance on technology aspect. And two, I think it's a huge waste of money.

Years ago, maybe ten or so, I was invited to a middle school in Palm Beach County (forgotten which one it's been so long) to give a talk about the Internet. So one week day I arrive at the middle school and get a tour of their computer lab.

Oh.

My.

God.

A huge room, with about 20 or so high end computers (wouldn't surprise me it was Apple Macintoshes—Apple was always big in the educational system) all networked together in this gorgeous lab. Large windows. No visible wires (all wiring ran in tasteful pipes running up from each desk).

It basically exceeded any computer lab in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at FAU.

And the first thing that ran through my mind was, how much money was wasted on this lab?

Twenty computers. Assume two students buddy up at each computer. Fourty students per class. At six classes per day (the number I had in middle school) that's 240 students that have access to these computers. Out of a school that probaby had close to 2,000 students (it was a huge two story middle school—way larger than the one I attended). That's 12% of the student population had access to this beautiful computer lab.

And I have no idea what they actually taught on the computers (when I attended high school, it was BASIC and Pascal programming, but I doubt that's done anymore). I thought that the money spent on the computer lab could have gone to better use. More teachers. Better text books.

Anything but expensive, fragile computers that the teachers probably couldn't operate.

(Oh, and the students I talked to about the Internet? Totally uninterested in anything I said. Sigh.)

(Oh, and computers in the classroom? Highly distracting. Couple that with networked computers in the classroom, woo boy—just ask my Computer Graphics teacher … on second thought … don't.)


“But it'll be in color!”

From
"Bunny XXXXXXXX" <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
To
"Sean Conner" <sean@conman.org>
Subject
Wanna talk irony?
Date
Tue, 2 Jan 2007 23:06:43 -0500

I just discovered that the Hallmark Channel is showing M*A*S*H (final episode) which started at 10 p.m. Even if I didn't already have it on tape, I could have taped it for you. You were meant to see it, and I'm pleased to be the one to show it to you.

Guess I'm finally going to see the final M.A.S.H episode afterall.


One funny story about M.A.S.H.—growing up all we had was a small black-and-white TV, so all of my M.A.S.H. viewing was on said set. On the few occasions I've seen M.A.S.H. in color, it just looks … funny. It just … looks weird to me to see M.A.S.H. in color.

And that's the only show that I find weird looking in color. Perhaps because even in color, it's still fairly monochromatic, even if that monochromatic color is green.

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