Some people never learn.

Writing about the ministry of education in Ontario yesterday reminded me of the time in the early 1980s when I complained, loudly, that Dr. Bette Stephenson, then minister of education, was out of her depth talking about computers. Nobody would have noticed if I had not said it on the CBC evening news. As a frequent spokesperson for the Canadian computer industry, I should not have said her announcement of the Icon class-room computer was ridiculous. It was almost ten years before the ministry of education would agree with me.

The point I was trying to make at the time was that computers keep evolving, software is changing for the better (maybe) and different types of platforms are being introduced. It is not just Mac and Windows anymore.

I thought an amusing article in the Toronto Star by a harassed mother of three youngsters said it all yesterday when she found that three children in different grades need three different computers. The headline noted that she may chuck the Chromebook out the window. She found out what I was trying to tell the late Bette Stephenson, 40 years ago, the hard way.

It was why I laughed at the current minister when he first talked about computer-assisted education for Ontario students. I had a computer terminal in our kids’ playroom for a couple years around 1979-80 and I showed them how to access the General Education Development (GED) programs on it. I wanted to see how they reacted to the learning programs. They had little interest in the learning but quickly found the games. By the time he was 12, my son was already a backgammon wiz.

Developing computer-assisted learning is a very complicated marriage of computer expertise and teaching skills. It has to capture the interest of the student. It requires extensive testing and it has to be kept up to date. If you think it will save the ministry money, you have more to learn than the students.

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