Tuesday, September 8, 2015

21st century skills: technology production--or technology consumption

After a long and bumpy ride, a pilot version of the SentenceWeaver has finally found a home in a couple of local autistic support classrooms where it will undergo its first round of usability testing. As I've observed children using it, I've already had one concern. Some kids are clearly expecting more bells and whistles.

Unfortunately, for all the ways in which the SentenceWeaver's educational content outcompetes that of other programs, the other programs outcompete the SentenceWeaver in their their nifty graphics, fast-moving animations, and video game-like environments. Some of the worst offenders--e.g., CoolMath--are also widely used in schools, and kids are getting used to what they offer. The more these hyperactive programs permeate the classroom, the harder it may be to engage kids in quieter counterparts like the SentenceWeaver (or its progenitor, the GrammarTrainer)--especially ones that, like the GT/SW, embody the notion that learning requires a certain amount of mental effort as opposed to passive entertainment.

This makes me think of the educational choices of some of the top developers in the software industry. Many of them are choosing Waldorf Schools, with their famously low-tech, active-learning curriculum. It would seem that some educational software developers, while in the business of training other people's kids to be passive consumers of technology, are all the while training their own kids to become active producers.

1 comment:

C T said...

I strongly dislike coolmath now. My children always ended up fighting over it or right after playing it. We never use it anymore. It made little difference in their math skills anyway. The left-brained-ness is strong in this family, so I look forward to your program. :)