Pedagogy must keep up with computer capability

4th April 1997 at 01:00
Your front-page story (TES, March 21) presented a piquant contrast to the pleas for more support for information technology in the previous week's Computer Update. It seems there is unwillingness within the community that developed the computer to use its capabilities.

Perhaps this is precisely because like most people, they perceive IT merely to be the latest in a long line of new technologies emanating from the industrial revolution? What if the computer, or calculator even, is truly a new impressive medium wherein the sums do themselves, how stands our pedagogy ? Does banning calculators protect mental agility or does it prevent the emergence of higher skills?

By analogy, do we find prehistoric paintings inside caves because the flint-knapping masters banned drawing because it lowered standards of sensorimotor skill and threatened the quality of the stone tool industry?

Once we admit that IT is a new medium with astounding capabilities to represent actions, then we must accept that our pedagogy has to change very radically. The maths skills of the IT age already look as though they will be very different from those of the past.

However, a very serious problem is that those whom we would call on to advise us, including university dons, may be intellectually compromised. Their expertise cannot have developed the new higher level of skills of doing maths with an active medium. Can we rely on their advice?

This issue is not addressed in the manifesto of any of the major parties at this election - the concepts are too problematical for a political campaign. But once the ballyhoo dies down there will be some very serious thinking to do - but who will be capable of doing it for us?

Perhaps, for the first time in human history, we really do have to enlist the aid of children to open our minds, for IT is their medium, not ours.

MICHAEL DOYLE Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Keighley 37 Bright Street Skipton, North Yorkshire.

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