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Our Greatest Missed Opportunity?

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I’m working on my new book and just ran across this article, an ingenious project at Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, here in North Carolina. Jim Tomberg, a teacher at the High School has received a grant from state and federal funds, to establish a software development course for his school. The funds were intended to promote unique and innovative projects in education.

The high school students in the project were to create original, documented (software) to the specifications of teachers in the elementary grades. Tomberg wanted the programmers to work closely with the students and teachers receiving the (software).

To make the entire project educational, Tomberg says he “let the kids make all the decisions. They organized the whole course.” They studied various brands of computers and decided what equipment to buy. Then they came up with the idea of doing a newsletter about their study – all composed on computers using word processing programs.

The (elementary) teachers who requested material did, however, retain complete control over the content of the programs. In every case, students spoke directly with each teacher to insure useful results in the classroom.

Sheila Cory, the districts computer coordinator is quoted saying, “The computer is (forcing) us to reexamine our goals in education.”*

If you’d like to read the article, you’ll have to dig up a September 1983 issue of Compute Magazine, page number 100.

In many ways, I think that we were more innovative and even forward thinking back before computers and the Internet became mainstream.

* Blackford, J. (1983, September). Computers in school: New approaches. Compute!, (40), 100. Retrieved from http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/issue40/computers_in_school.php


  • Ellen Dunn

    Mr. Warlick,
    I thought John Blackford’s article was very interesting! I didn’t know that computers were being introduced into the classroom in the 1980s. John Blackford says, “[t]eachers wonder how to tap this enthusiasm without
    sacrificing educational quality.” The fact that they were having trouble with not knowing how to blend
    technology without hindering the children’s education over 30 years ago
    is wild to me. I feel like this question is still being asked today. With technology changing so fast, though, it is important for our children to be technologically literate. I do think this was a missed opportunity.

  • Rachel

    Technology is so completely ingrained in our culture and education these days, it’s hard to imagine school – and even life – without it anymore. My family was late to adopt technology (I didn’t get a computer until around the year 2000) but I feel at a loss without it now.

    Do you think education is better or worse with technology? Is it hindering our way of thinking, or expanding our minds? The school where I’m teaching at the moment has very limited technology resources in the classrooms (a CD player and, well, WiFi is all we have). Granted, I’m an EFL teacher in Russia, but I’m struggling a bit with how to adapt to this situation, since my previous EFL classrooms around the world had wonderful technology resources!

    • Krista Lynn

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this post. I agree with your statements about technology and the use of technology in school environment.
      I believe that education is better with technology. The students I have are hard wired for technology when they enter the classroom at an early age. Technology is used almost daily with the use of a interactive whiteboard. I believe that technology, when used the correct way in a classroom, can be a great tool for expanding our students minds and will no doubt help our students when they enter the job force. This post clearly shows us how technology can be used by a school to help challenge students and benefit the school community in the process. Even thought it was an article from 31 years ago, the concepts of this lesson would still benefit students today.

  • Lisa

    One thing we have taken for granted is that everyone knows how to use a computer. Further, that everyone knows how to use all the programs, apps, etc that are out there being used today to facilitate learning. Many times the flavor of the day is being extensively used without providing anyone the training required to actually benefit from it. Just a thought…

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
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Raw Materials for the Mind

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