A Special Holiday Season Ed Tech Story

So, you finally got away from the family for a few minutes and you’re checking to see if anything is up out here in Cyberspace. I’ve been looking around and the old haunts are pretty quiet. I guess that is as it should be.

If you have a few moments, here is a bit of a Holiday gift for you. It was written in 1951 by Issac Asimov for a syndicated newspaper page and later published in” Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine”. It’s an interesting take on educational technology. Hunker down and read the entire story by clicking on the link below:

The Fun They Had
by Isaac Asimov

 

asimov.jpg

Margie and Tommy, children in the year 2157 find a real book in an old attic…

They turned the pages, which were yellow and crinkly, and it was awfully funny to read words that stood still instead of moving the way they were supposed to–on a screen, you know. And then, when they turned back to the page before, it had the same words on it that it had had when they read it the first time.

“Gee,” said Tommy, “what a waste. When you’re through with the book, you just throw it away, I guess. Our television screen must have had a million books on it and it’s good for plenty more. I wouldn’t throw it away.”

The book is about schools in the “old days…

So she said to Tommy, “Why would anyone write about school?”

Tommy looked at her with very superior eyes. “Because it’s not our kind of school, stupid. This is the old kind of school that they had hundreds and hundreds of years ago.” He added loftily, pronouncing the word carefully, “Centuries ago.”

The schools they read about have teachers, only not they kind they Margie and Tom are used to…

She read the book over his shoulder for a while, then said, “Anyway, they had a teacher.”

“Sure they had a teacher, but it wasn’t a regular teacher. It was a man.” “A man? How could a man be a teacher?” “Well, he just told the boys and girls things and gave them homework and asked them questions.” “A man isn’t smart enough.”

They learn about the special building all the kids went to…

Margie wasn’t prepared to dispute that. She said, “1 wouldn’t want a strange man in my house to teach me.”

Tommy screamed with laughter. “You don’t know much, Margie. The teachers didn’t live in the house. They had a special building and all the kids went there.” “And all the kids learned the same thing?” “Sure, if they were the same age.”

“But my mother says a teacher has to be adjusted to fit the mind of each boy and girl it teaches and that each kid has to be taught differently.”

Margie begins her day at school with the electronic teacher…

Margie went into the schoolroom. It was right next to her bedroom, and the mechanical teacher was on and waiting for her. It was always on at the same time every day except Saturday and Sunday, because her mother said little girls learned better if they learned at regular hours.

The screen was lit up, and it said: “Today’s arithmetic lesson is on the addition of proper fractions. Please insert yesterday’s homework in the proper slot.”

Finally, Margie daydreams about the old schools…

Margie did so with a sigh. She was thinking about the old schools they had when her grandfather’s grandfather was a little boy. All the kids from the whole neighborhood came, laughing and shouting in the schoolyard, sitting together in the schoolroom, going home together at the end of the day. They learned the same things, so they could help one another on the homework and talk about it.

And the teachers were people…

The mechanical teacher was flashing on the screen: “When we add the fractions 1/2 and 1/4…”

Margie was thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days. She was thinking about the fun they had.”

 

peace

pete

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2 thoughts on “A Special Holiday Season Ed Tech Story

  1. Pingback: EdBloggerNews
  2. Pete, thanks for this. I used to use this story with my students who were poor readers. Scholastic, in 1967, included this in an anthology of “Best Short Shorts”. They later included it in a number of their 1968-1970 publications, including their Scholastic Teacher issue in March,1970. At least one version was “written down” with controlled vocabulary. It was popular among English/Reading teachers of that era!

    It is a good story, and its message of school as a social place and technology as an isolating factor resonates still!

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