A Stick in the Sand

I agree with Alan November that students need to develop a new kind of literacy to be able to work intelligently online. But–surely–that’s only a means to some other end. Yet, most of the conversations about technology I hear, on Twitter for example, but in staff rooms, too, are about working with new technologies, rather than working with ideas. I worry that we are putting the cart before the horse. A lot of technology is just inverse vandalism, says Alan Kay in a 1994 interview called A Bicyle for the Mind, Redux. Teachers, he says

…have to learn how to ask extremely hard questions about whether there’s any content there. A lot of technology is just what I call inverse vandalism, which is people making machinery just because they can. When educating, the first thing you need is ideas that you want to have the student learn. There has to be some resetting of what content actually is. If you have the ideas, you can do a lot without machinery. Once you have those ideas, the machinery starts working for you. Paradoxically, the most profound ideas I know about computers are easily done on an Apple II. Most ideas you can do pretty darn well with a stick in the sand.

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