View Full Version : The Myth about kids and computers

24th Oct 2013, 10:45
As someone who started with a Sinclair Spectrum, I thought that the blog by a teacher at Kids can't use computers... and this is why it should worry you - Coding 2 Learn (http://www.coding2learn.org/blog/2013/07/29/kids-cant-use-computers/) was interesting and upholds what I have always thought.
Here's an extract from it:

The prevailing wisdom is that all under eighteens are technical wizards, and this is simply not true. They can use some software, particularly web-apps. They know how to use Facebook and Twitter. They can use YouTube and Pinterest. They even know how to use Word and PowerPoint and Excel. Ask them to reinstall an operating system and they’re lost. Ask them to upgrade their hard-drive or their RAM and they break out in a cold sweat. Ask them what https means and why it is important and they’ll look at you as if you’re speaking Klingon.
They click ‘OK’ in dialogue boxes without reading the message. They choose passwords like qwerty1234. They shut-down by holding in the power button until the monitor goes black. They’ll leave themselves logged in on a computer and walk out of the room. If a program is unresponsive, they’ll click the same button repeatedly until it crashes altogether.

Mac the Knife
24th Oct 2013, 10:58
Yeah, I saw that article too.

Unfortunately true.

My son grew up with computers and he could no more upgrade RAM or swap a hard-drive than fly.

Me I remember soldering the broken off legs back on RAM chips...



24th Oct 2013, 11:04

My GF kids computer played up the other month, of course he got frustrated
because he couldn't sort it out, it was Software related, I said he must have
loaded another piece of crap on and he has a conflict that stopped him using
his PREFERRED Internet browser.

He had to use another browser to play games. He was annoyed, frustrated and loud.

Now, I went over, tried to fix it, couldn't. Went over net night, couldn't fix it.

I asked him why it was so important he use his preferred browser,
what school work was he not able to do ?

Guess what - none.

He only wanted to use his preferred browser because he preferred it to play games !!!

I got up and left him to sort it out himself. I wasn't spending hours
fixing it for that reason.

In the end, his younger brother fixed it but isn't sure how he did it !!!

24th Oct 2013, 11:18
Agree too.
There's no need to go deeper, as 500N pointed out - often there's reluctance to do anything differently than they're used to. Also, if we come to finding something reasonable with google (or whatever)... the logic is not there.
from the article:
This has happened before. It is not a new phenomenon. A hundred years ago, if you were lucky enough to own a car then you probably knew how to fix it. People could at least change the oil, change the tyres, or even give the engine a tune-up. I’ve owned a car for most of my adult life and they’re a mystery to me. As such I am dependent on salesmen to tell me which one to buy, mechanics to tell me what’s wrong and then fix it for me and as technology progresses I am becoming dependent on satellite navigation as well.
I doubt my five year-old son will even need to learn to drive. It’ll be done for him by his car. When he needs to get it fixed he’ll be directed to the mechanic that pays the most for on-line advertising. When he wants to stop for a bite to eat he’ll be directed to the fast-food outlet that pays the most for on-line advertising. When he needs to recharge his dilithium crystals he’ll be directed to the filing station that pays the most for on-line advertising.

24th Oct 2013, 11:28
To be honest I found the educational establishments obsession with teaching what will inevitably be outdated high level software packages to high school students more indicative of the DfE's nativity and ineptitude than anything else.

However, my daughter's chronic interest with Minecraft has her re-configuring servers, applying patches, setting IP addresses and getting into texture re-skinning. She now says she wants to learn how to code. It is all basic stuff, but she is delving into the technicalities in a way that most simply don't.

The Nr Fairy
24th Oct 2013, 11:33

Check out Python for Kids (ISBN 1593274076) as a good little intro to coding.

24th Oct 2013, 11:43
Thanks Fairy, will do :ok:

24th Oct 2013, 11:48
Both hardware and software are still a long way from being designed for 'normal people'. Things would be a lot easier if every IT designer took their prototype home, gave it to their mum (without doing it all for her) and actually listened to her comments.

Most kids don't read instructions, ever. They've never had to. Budget-obsessed senior school managers insist on cheap, crap textbooks that nobody reads (nor should they; they're badly written & full of errors) Teachers hand out worksheets, then do it for the kids anyway or the class grade suffers and they get another lecture from a targets-obsessed senior manager.

All of this is easily fixable. I've fixed it with the software I write and the kids I teach. I've taught other software writers and teachers how to do it. However, almost nobody gives a damn about quality any more. There's nowhere near enough money in providing it.

p.s. my 12 year old niece plays Minecraft a lot and has started to ask about coding - maybe there's something in that game!

24th Oct 2013, 12:05

The thread premise reads like a lament of the old west, or new world, or "when fire was new and ya had ta learn how to use it."

The last 50 years of our experience is just the first teeensy microsecond of the age of computing, the first drop of water out of the Roman waterworks of such virtue that the trick eventually won the world for them... for a time.

One can remember a time, fifty six or four or five years ago, when I thumbed through a book supplement from an Electrical power magazine my father had brought home from work that showed pictures of computers - many of them analog, in various situations.... with ties and funny haircuts on all the people. Frustrating thing about the magazine was they didn't explain how the things did stuff with numbers....duuh. Spent quite a long while on that connundrum.... nobody seemed able to tell one the way of it.

Year or two later built me first flip flops -- half a dozen of 'em, using giant power transistors made for auto radios, because rock & roll was hot and that made them cheap.... could see the ones and zeros easy enough on little incandescent lamps tied to the counter latches... but still didna comprehend how that connected with serious arithmetic.

Maybe six years after that, found self sitting alone and in-charge in a dim-light trailer, with a giant radar screen and a trackball for playing spacewar, if one could just figure out how to load it -- into the PDP-1 Computer, the first or second serial number unit of the first serious mainframe machine in Digital EquipmentCo's computer line, about 8 thin refrigerators worth of stuff inside hinged doors. Took four or five tries to set up the 12 or 20 toggle switches on the panel, press a button and thus load a scribbled mystery sequence of one in half a dozen such ciphers... and then the flip of another switch, whence a paper-tape reader whirrs, and presto, the two little blue ur-spacecraft globbies appeared on yon giant radar screen.... and the game was on. The secret then was... and still is... none of it means much of anything, really, but if one follows the sequences correctly, one gets to the next level of complexity.

Four years after that I was designing new architectures for faster computers for one of the main contenders in the technology for real-world stuff mainframe business. Four years after that was running a desktop PC manufacturing company, tearing out hair trying to build 'em fast and reliable and cheap... Speed forward however many additional years it takes to get to now... as result or byproduct am surrounded by old, older, and very old computers... nearly all different...plus some new ones ...with dozens of operating systems and languages and compilers and disk formats and cable connectors --- and the only way I can eventually get anything to work is to look in a folder or drawer for a little slip of paper that has some magic numbers and phrases on it... and type them in. Often it works.

I will cut this ramble at the late edge of nostalgic retrospection, except for saying that everything we know now about electronics, computing, programming, even thinking, likely will be irrelevant to computers as they will exist even fifty years from now...., and going on fifty thousand year forward, should humanity's luck hold so long, computing (of many, many forms and sorts not yet conceivable to us) maybe will be an Element, in the Greek style, in there along Earth, Fire, Air, and Water. "Morph" might be fit for the moniker. Or "Cele".

24th Oct 2013, 14:50
Me I remember soldering the broken off legs back on RAM chips...

I didn't do it myself, but I remember one of the guys I knew at school doubling the RAM in his ZX80 or 81 by soldering a second RAM chip on top of the existing one, and bending out a couple of the pins to connect to wires from the relevant points on the circuit board to make it work. I guess he'd have been maybe 12 at the time?

Upgrading my Spectrum's RAM was much easier, since the sockets were already on the board and you just had to insert the chips.

24th Oct 2013, 14:54
RAM used to sell for Apple Macs for about $3000 a piece.

God it was expensive - and profitable :O

Upgrades were easy.

24th Oct 2013, 16:46
I have just purchased a 3Tb drive for £85 and reflected on the days when 64k RAM had a similar price ticket.

24th Oct 2013, 17:25
I've I've mentioned in several other threads over the years: my son is autistic with Aspergers syndrome. His social skills are improving but still aren't what they "should be." Regardless, if left to his own devices (hardy hardy har har) he will spend unusual amounts of time on the Web and specifically Youtube. However,
he is also very adept at: swapping out RAM/Memory, defective hard drives, CPU's, motherboards and assorted PCI or PCI-e boards. He also does his own backups of his systems.

So, although he gets his rocks off, so to speak, on the Internet he is quite familiar with operating systems, hardware and the management and maintenance thereof.

Never ceases to amaze me. :ok:

25th Oct 2013, 09:49
I am at a loss as to why its felt everyone should learn to program. The world does not need a generation of poor programmers.

I grew up with television, I don't know or need to know how to build a TV or how to make a TV programme.

Mac the Knife
25th Oct 2013, 13:22
Learning to program is an excellent discipline and a fine way to learn to organize your thoughts and learn some logic.

(There is no better (well, few better) feelings than writing a moderately complex program and getting it running cleanly)


26th Oct 2013, 09:41
I've I've mentioned in several other threads over the years: my son is autistic with Aspergers syndrome. His social skills are improving but still aren't what they "should be."

Maybe his "gain" level is set a bit too high, up in the calculation zone, making it relatively easy for him to get to the end point of cogitative treks without hesitation, but more difficult than for most to pause along the trail to contemplate the intermediate stages of process along the way to the intended destination.

Many people -- perhaps most -- have some initial trouble thinking clearly in terms of the arbitrary absolutes required for n-ary logic, but can cruise quite comfortably in the endless byzantine ambiguous and ambivalent nuances intrinsic to ordinary (human) animal behavior and thought.

Perhaps you might find it interesting to devise a short impromptu course for him on the variations, literature, history and diversity of Ambiguity, Uncertainty, etc. that occur in normal human interactions and circumstances. If he can be made more aware of common cases where ambiguity is normal and appropriate, he may become more fluent in perceiving and tolerating it in interactions with others, and also may well learn how to "fake" it. A short course in the logic of contextual ambiguity, as it were, with guidelines for extended study.

Just a well-intended thought, mind you. Am an interested observer, but hardly an expert regarding normal psychology. The above fits well with what bits one does know, however, from study about cogitative grindings at the synaptic level.

26th Oct 2013, 10:23
It amazes me that my 20-something year-old daughter can't really "use" a search engine effectively.

Sure, playing with social media websites, piddling about on her phone - no problem, but actually using the computer for much more than leisure and youngsters aren't actually that good.

I think it's because us old 'uns that didn't have the "benefit" of being taught how to use what the customs used to quaintly refer to as "automatic data processing machines" had to work it out for ourselves - use our brains!

26th Oct 2013, 10:23
Just to put things into perspective. Some twenty plus years ago I got my hands on the very first 486DX2 50Mhz machine to be sold in Australia. It came suitably protected in a very strong cardboard box. The computer has long since disappeared to the tip, BUT I've still got the cardboard box. Used in the garage to store spare cables and stuff.

First serious job in the computer industry was in the early seventies - forty years ago. Have learned more operating systems and programming languages than you can poke a stick at, and forgotten most of them. IT stuff is massively ephemeral. What is absolutely essential today will have no value tomorrow. That is the nature of the beast.

26th Oct 2013, 10:50
The computer has long since disappeared to the tip, BUT I've still got the cardboard box.

Truth be told! Should be carved onto the flank of an improbably-tall high-rise somewhere in China ...as the motto for our age.