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November 06, 2002
A comment on educational software

BEdBlog has had its most substantial comment yet. In my grand manifesto of Nov 2nd, I mentioned the role of computers in education, and my old London friend from way back who's now based in New York, Howard Gray, had this to say:

An aside on the subject of computer teaching. Most of the software is of the "page turner or fill in the blank" variety providing little excitement. Power teaching software is rare.

Some time back, I came across a clever software item called MathXpert by Dr Michael Beeson at www.mathpert.com. (No I don't sell this stuff nor do I get a commission for mentioning it). This clever software creates a way of solving math problems by providing hints and drills to solve algebra and calculus. The software functions as a tutorial ghost, or hand-holder in the background, to nudge you along the way. It does qualify as power teaching software of which there are few really good examples.

Brian is spot on, computers have often failed to make an effective impact in education. For good reasons. "Page turner" junk isn't good use of the technology. Books, pencils, and paper are much better and, more to the point, they are portable without the need for batteries!

Maybe there'll come a time when comments as useful and encouraging as this are an hourly occurrence on BEdBlog, but that time is not yet, and I am very grateful to Howard for this one.

My own prejudice about the use of the Internet to distribute educational material is based on my blogger's prejudice about the use of the Internet to distribute writing, which is that things only come properly alive when a decent number of people give up trying to make money and just start giving their stuff away. A brief look at this "mathpert" man suggests that he is indeed prepared to give out serious stuff, to anyone with an internet connection, even if on the back of that he's trying to boost his career. Fair enough, I'm in favour of people boosting their careers. (Which by the way means that if, unlike Howard, you do stand to gain from peddling educational materials or services or badly paid teaching opportunities here, peddle away.)

Contrast this with the "sample my stuff here but if you're serious I want your money up front" approach adopted by the mathematical van man spotted by Patrick Crozier the other day. He's just using the internet to sell text books. "Brochureware" is the expression I seem to recall reading somewhere. That's fine, that's his perfect right, and his brochures are well worth reading. But dotted around this huge planet of ours there are surely people who are giving out seriously good teaching stuff for free, and I want to hear about it.

Thanks Howard.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:43 AM
Category: Technology
[0]
Comments

OK - have a look at my site then - lots of links to free educational stuff.

Comment by: Susan Godsland on November 8, 2002 03:12 PM
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