Public schools making MS Office mandatory
tpearson at raptorengineeringinc.com
Thu Apr 7 17:25:28 UTC 2016
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On 04/07/2016 12:11 PM, Paul Boddie wrote:
> On Thursday 7. April 2016 18.29.49 Timothy Pearson wrote:
>> On 04/07/2016 06:14 AM, Guido Arnold wrote:
>>> I produced a summary of a longer debate on the German discussion
>>> list which addressed a lot of aspects that may be relevant to other
>>> European countries. Please comment here on this list or per PM. The
>>> text below is also available as a blog post .
>> As distasteful as I find this I think I can see why it is being done.
>> No government wants people coming out of its educational system that are
>> unfamiliar with the "basic" technology in use around the world.
> This argument about what was called "industry standard" software has been
> around since the 1980s. In the UK, with a battle between proprietary platforms
> - the one dominant in education and the one becoming dominant in workplaces -
> the argument went that children should learn the thing being used in
> workplaces in order to train them for work.
> (One can argue whether schools are supposed to be training rather than
> educating, but that's another debate. Given that computing was also meant to
> be applied to most subjects and be used as an educational tool, it was also
> questionable that one particular application - office technology - should have
> been prioritised, but that's also another debate.)
> The flaw in this familiarity argument was that anyone learning the currently-
> popular workplace software was always going to be behind the curve: by the
> time they had left school, even if they went straight into work and not
> entered further/higher education first, the chances were that they would be
> using different products. In fact, the flaw was compounded by the fact that
> the "education" platform in question had superior products in certain respects
> that more closely resembled the "industry" platform's products of a few years
> later than the "industry" platform's own products did when the children were
> being made to use them.
> (I saw this for myself since I used the "education" platform at home, whereas
> the school's computers were mostly running stuff using DOS, and even the few
> Windows computers were running primitive versions of the products people take
> for granted today. Indeed, some aspects of Office are probably still deficient
> in comparison to the software I was using at the end of the 1980s and the
> start of the 1990s.)
> And to keep up with "industry standards", sustained expenditure is needed:
> rather than there being a change in favoured products, it is now more likely
> that everyone is on the version upgrade treadmill. Whether schools should have
> the same budgetary priorities as businesses is another discussion to be had.
Yeah, I'm aware of this and largely agree. However, governments
generally turn a blind eye to their own slow pace, leading to laughable
situations such as the DOS one you mentioned. It's a lot easier for
schools to say "well, we tried" than to say "no, we're not going to
teach that at all".
Also, one aspect I did not bring up is that by standardizing the
platform you can to a large extent standardize the curriculum built on
that platform. This is very attractive at the scale of most educational
institutions; by forcing the exact same tools for all students, it
eliminates another potential cause for one student to be performing
better or worse than another.
Never mind that a mandatory upgrade from Microsoft would flush all that
down the drain...
> Personally, I welcome the single-board computer trend because it disrupts that
> upgrade treadmill, usually introduces Free Software, shows people that you can
> do the same with much less (and at much less cost), and allows for a broader
> range of experiences that would probably serve everybody better than a rigid
> training programme for software the children may never use again (especially
> in light of changes in the way computing is done, thanks to a wider range of
> devices being used than was traditionally the case).
100% agreed. This is partially why I suggested making exposure to and
work with SBCs mandatory for students on technical tracks -- they gain
exposure to the type of technology they will be working with in the IoT,
and at the same time they realise only a small portion of the computers
in existence run Microsoft products.
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