Feeds

'Sims school' abandons books for laptops

The net is all you need

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Technology vendors have long viewed the state of Arizona as rich pickings. In addition to the Federal pork barrel, state tax payers have found over $60m dollars for IT investment.

Now a high school in Tuscon is abandoning textbooks entirely, at the urging of the school district's technology evangelist, who appears to have caught the religion big time.

Instead of spending $600 per head on textbooks, Vail High School in Tucson will buy each of its 350 sophomores an $850 laptop. That shouldn't be too difficult - the school itself is located in a science park. But the Tucson school district's superinterindent, an enthusiastic technology evangelist called Calvin Baker, candidly admits he doesn't know quite how it will all work.

But he is adamant that the publically accessible computer networks can replace traditional textbooks. We unearthed this quote from him, from August 2004.

"If we can rely on almost limitless information available on the Internet, why do we need a textbook?" he asked.

Perhaps this site answers Calvin more succinctly, in eleven short paragraphs, than we can. Or perhaps he can look at empirical evidence gathered from over 30 countries around the world, which discovered that computer use actually reduces childrens numeracy and literacy skills.

Schoolchildren were developing a "problem-solving deficit disorder", and losing the ability to analyze, the Royal Economic Society concluded.

Mind you, they were pretty nifty with the trackpad - and had picked up some k3wl Google tricks.

Of course, a computer in the classroom doesn't make a good teacher bad, and a textbook doesn't make a bad teacher effective. But try telling this to a techno utopian.

Digital factory

In 1998, the historian David Noble organized a conference titled Digital Diploma Mills, which focussed on the increasing industrialization of education. As often as not, tech-heavy education led to "glitzy software and shoddy pedagogy" and severed bonds between teacher and pupil, reported Langdon Winner.

Today, the industrialization process is advocated without any apparent irony. The Arizona Educational Technology Plan, approved this January, calls for "an information factory, supported by a data warehouse [to] provide the longitudinal information needed for improving education in Arizona." [PDF, 630kb].

What is longitudinal information - and where does your child fit in? We don't have a clue.

And Vail High School's website seems to have undergone an intriguing, Sims-style makeover.

In addition to the traditional menu navigation, you're invited to "CLICK ON OBJECTS TO NAVIGATE SITE" in a Flash-enabled version of the SIMS. Simply rollover the pictures to hear the sound effects. Having made textbooks virtual, we need only make the nodes students themselves virtual to optimize the educator's experience.

Baker's slightly scary vision of his pupils as mere Sims nodes is a fascinating social experiment. With only internet resources such as Wikipedia available to Tuscson's pupils, they should be able to emerge blinking into the adult world with a round knowledge of everything from Ayn Rand to the Klingon grammar.

Which will be very useful if the earth is subject to an attack by Klingon-speaking, libertarian aliens. ®

Related resources for parents

The Alliance For Childhood
Computers and Student Learning - Fuchs & Wößmann, Royal Economic Society report

Related story

How computers make kids dumb

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.