Earlier today (on my Computer Science Education blog) I reported on a teacher who was seeing some interesting and positive results by letting students use tools (computer software tools) that are often blocked or banned in schools. As the day wore on though I heard about the other side of this coin.
Ben Chun reports in his blog how his attempt to demonstrate how DNS works to translate domain names to IP addresses was foiled by the fact that his students are locked out of the command prompt. This is a pretty typical lock down I have found. Anyone know "a DNS/reverse-DNS lookup utility that is free, doesn’t require administrative privileges to install (and preferably doesn’t need to be installed), and can do both forward and reverse DNS lookups." If so drop by his blog and leave him a comment.
On a related note a friend of mine told me about a school local to him where they are using very old software to teach C++ programming. The tech people are afraid that if they allow students to learn how to program on the modern computers that are attached to the network students will "hack into the OS core and do evil things." Yeah, sure, ok. Can I get their resumes? Thanks!
What has happened that we are so afraid to teach students things that are useful and powerful? Are schools dropping machine shop out of fear that students will make knives and zip guns? Are we dropping baseball out of fear that students will use the bats to beat each other senseless? Are we dropping chemistry for fear that kids will open their own Meth labs?
And yet somehow schools feel the need to place a governor on the learning of technology. I have to wonder - who is the problem? Is it the students who want to learn or is it adults who don't want to learn?
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