Public schools making MS Office mandatory
paul at boddie.org.uk
Thu Apr 7 20:37:31 UTC 2016
On Thursday 7. April 2016 19.25.28 Timothy Pearson wrote:
> 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.
This kind of thing is what effectively happened in the 1980s, at least in the
UK, where the chosen platform provided the anointed version of BASIC as well
as various other languages and tools as options, thus getting around the chaos
that existed at the start of that decade with regard to what could be taught.
Here's a nice reminder of what people were dealing with at the time (see the
"Usborne 1980s computer books" section):
Even then, providing enough computers for an entire class - if that was how
they were going to be used - was an expensive endeavour, and I guess that many
schools were not (at least initially) able to benefit from this kind of
product-specific standardisation because they were dealing with different
models of different vintages (which would also cause squabbling about who got
to use the latest machines in the class - who wants to use a monochrome-only
computer when there's a multi-colour one? - and so on).
A note on basic skills, though: a few years ago, I had to help my boss teach
non-computing scientific people various tools, and part of that involved
introducing the notion of the plain text file. The "industry standard"
advocates would, of course, override any teaching of such concepts and direct
everyone to the applications, which would be the Office suite, of course. We
spent quite some time showing people that a program called Notepad existed and
that Word was not going to allow them to edit a configuration file or look at
their data, or whatever task it was that they needed to accomplish. (The
GNU/Linux and Mac crowd didn't need the same hand-holding, probably because
those people had already exercised informed choice and were interested in the
workings of computers somewhat already.)
As soon as you have to make time for such unexpected extra tuition, that two-
day course starts to feel really short. Indeed, I started to understand why
universities sometimes complain about the skills of new students, although in
this case it was a university dealing with its own students.
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