July 22, 2024

How Not to Use Computers to Teach Kids

At the 2007 EuroLogo Conference in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, UC Berkeley Computer Science faculty member, Dr. Brian Harvey made a stunning presentation entitled, “How Not to Use Computers to Teach Kids.”

How Not to Use Computers to Teach Kids from Gary Stager on Vimeo.

Anyone interested in the use of computers in education should watch this meticulous chronicle of a typical classroom “project,” complete with missteps, trivial computer use and questionable teaching.

Brian is no opponent of computer-use in school. In fact, he has written four of the best computer science texts for young people ever AND has been a leader in the movement to teach children programming since the 1970s. He also created the free and open-source UCB Logo (Mac/PC/Linux) which is the basis for MSW Logo.

You may also download PDF and HTML versions of Brian’s fantastic three-book series, Computer Science Logo-Style, texts. A free version of Brian Harvey and Matthew Wright’s Simply Scheme: Introducing Computer Science, is also available.

Lately, Brian has been excited about Scratch, a new drag-and-drop programming language for kids from MIT. He has also been working with Jens Mönig on BYOB 3, (Now: SNAP!) [2021 edit]  an extended version with higher order functions,* to support an undergraduate-level introductory computer science course, and on establishing such a course at Berkeley.

2021 Update to previous paragraph: In addition to Brian Harvey designing the fabulous SNAP! programming language, he created the AP Computer Science Principles aligned curriculum, Beauty and Joy of Computing.

6 thoughts on “How Not to Use Computers to Teach Kids

  1. This video is so representative of what commonly happens in schools, whether it be with PowerPoint, Inspiration, or online resources. But this lesson would have been no less effective without the computers. Poor teaching is poor teaching. The deception here is that computer technologies make it better. It doesn’t.

    Thanks for sharing this video. I may have my students watch and deconstruct it.

  2. I’m sorry to say this is a good example of how not to use technology. All this could be said in less than 5 minutes and better slides. This is why we should not be cutting the jobs of technology integration specialists because they understand how to incorporate tech in a meaningful way and not just slapping it on top of some content.

  3. A telling statement, intended perhaps sarcastically, but very possibly what 10-year-olds actually think about school (at least subconsciously):

    “When you get a school assignment, the point is not to understand anything, the point is to jump through the hoop and get marked on it and go on to the next assignment.”

    The system is now sophisticated enough to deal with that, though. We anticipate that that’s what kids will do, so we give them additional hoops to jump through, which are carefully and thoughtfully designed to reward behavior that looks more like understanding and punish behavior that looks more like hoop-jumping.

    Unfortunately I think the 10-year-olds have figured us out, and now know how to mimic the understanding-like behavior we’ve trained them to perform without achieving any actual understanding.

  4. This is an excellent example of how not to use computers. If there was no lab instructor and technology facilitator, this may have been avoided. If you are teaching in the lab all day, then I can see how it could be difficult to communicate with the classroom teachers at times. If you weren’t in the lab as a class, but rather in the lab to work on a more thoughtful project, which would have been planned with the classroom teacher, this may have been avoided. By having the facilitator in the classroom with the teachers, then their must be planning and communications between them to think this through, starting with the end in mind. If they talked about what it is in the end they are looking for, again much of this may have been avoided. Great post, which I will visit again myself.

  5. I agree with the the content and I have take steps with my children to NOT do those things mentioned. My 6 year old daughter uses the computer to help with her reading and phonic to help build her vocabulary and my 4 year old son uses the computer to help him with number and alphabet identification. Both their exposure to the computer helps with their classroom work and my wife and I supervise their ‘home-computer work’. Great topic.

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