As part of their first assignment my students answer some questions about the interfaces they prefer to use and also reply to a divergent thinking prompt that changes by year. Here are two insights from the last round.
Emphasis on Mobile OS
Despite Apple’s decision to give up entirely on advancing their hardware in any reasonable fashion (Touch screen function bar… why not just a full touch screen with real pixel space? Abandoning the Air, iMac and trashcan) and their absolutely atrocious continued decent into dongle hell (courage?) a lot of people, myself included, really still appreciate many features in their computer operating system. I’m excited to see the vibrant OSx86 community that’s going to grow out of a need to preserve it for use with modern hardware. Anyway, surprising to me, for the first time ever during my OS preference poling my students actually liked an entirely different category more overall: mobile operating systems. It’s been dominated by Windows vs Mac for so long that I didn’t really think that the category, broadly combined, could rival it! I worry this has implications for a diminishing desire for generativity and control integrated into good interface design… but that’s not what this post is about, just wanted to explain the pie chart. More interesting:
A Reminder of Institutional Power of Education
The 2016 divergent thinking prompt was this:
You’ve been asked to re-imagine the 4 traditional disciplines (math, science, history, English) present in much of the American school system. What would you replace them with? For instance, instead of having math class every year you could have art class or speech class or a class on civic engagement, etc…
Many of the answers were those that I’d expect, the ones that help make a case for informatics, interdisciplinary learning, application and project-based classroom spaces and so forth: gym class, practical economics, art (digital or not), engineering/problem solving open studio settings and contemporary history. All quite worthy considerations and great ways to disrupt the norms and potentially better prepare students for participation in society and the workforce.
But I like the radical ideas more.
What if every child growing up in America learned to garden? Or skateboard? Or participate in theater?
These are activities that we typically think of as extracurricular or secondary. But if every single person knew at least the basics of how to garden – we’d have this massive industry built around it, many houses would be structured around gardens (the opposite of now), we might have gardening reality TV shows and I’d argue we’d have radically realigned relationships with food production, sustainability, the environment and more. This is the true power of education. It’s not just that it teaches sets of skills or is a place to put students while the parents are at work, the socialization that occurs there is a reflection of values. We so often talk about it in terms of how problematic the system is in its present state, or changing it in minor ways to accommodate agendas such as STEAM or computational thinking but I absolutely love this whacky brainspace we get into when we think of everyone in America being a skater or gardener or actress. Or what if we all, from day one, emphasized learning to how listen to one another in dialogic form regularly? This is the kind of utopia (or maybe distopia?) I could get on board with. Or at least craft an interesting movie or book universe about 🙂