Learning Both Form & Function


I remember using my family PC to type papers with Word Prefect and play Chuck Yeager’s Flight Simulator.

The ‘c’ prompt would flash waiting for me to key in the executable.

I remember Wheel of Fourtune was “wof.exe.” If you ever forget an executable name,  you would have to look through the files using the “dir” function.

Fast forward twenty years, and I stood by a younger friend in amazement as he discovered file folder structure and organization for the first time. He had never even looked at the C-drive before.

I was shocked that someone who grew-up with email, Internet and Windows 95, would have so much trouble with technology. This is when I realized the importance of understanding both form and function.

Before that moment, my friend had only understood function. You turn on the computer. You sign in. You click the icon. End of story. There was no need to understand the “man behind the curtain.”

In a slick age of technology, the roots of computing is easily looked past.

Google’s Eric Schmidt recently criticized education in the UK, challenging them along the same lines. The overall criticism, however, could easily be applied to other countries and organized forms of education.

Schmidt said:

The UK is home of so many media-related inventions. You invented photography. You invented TV. You invented computers in both concept and practice.

It’s not widely known, but the world’s first office computer was built in 1951 by Lyons’ chain of tea shops. Yet today, none of the world’s leading exponents in these fields are from the UK.

He goes on and voices his amazement that computer science is not taught as a standard in UK schools.

Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made. That is just throwing away your great computing heritage.

How true!

As I have been wrangling a server migration of almost a dozen sites, I have had to deepen my understanding and knowledge behind the server and databases. Slowly my head is wrapping itself around the concepts, and as my understanding increases, I’ve become more agile in other areas.

In this day and age, why do we teach cursive writing and not typing?

Why wood-shop class and not computer programming?

[via BBC News | Image via Rainer EbertOzan Kilic & Sergio Piquer Costea]


Eric Dye

I am a blogger, business owner and lover of coffee. I spend most of my time as Programs Director for Open Church, but you'll also find me as a writer and editor for ChurchMag, as well as working on Live Theme and ChurchMag Press. All while enjoying my family and sipping espresso in Italy.

We have 4 comments...
Now let's hear from you!

  1. says

    This is a great point. I have taught high school physics for a while and every year we do a week on how computers work and the kids love it. I say we because I bring in our former IT director (retired) who was a teacher for 30 years prior to being head of IT. He has a great perspective on the history both globally and for our district. We have a circuit simulator and build a basic 4 bit adder. The kids are amazed. We talk about binary and basic digital concepts, how email works, how systems work, cell phones and usually some topics that the students are curious about.

    At first I was amazed at their interest. But then it seems natural that physics level kids might want to study things that modern physicist work on. So we have changed the curriculum to highlight the modern role of physics. We have had to cut back on some classical curriculum to do this but it is motivating to the students.

  2. says

    I spent months trying to teach myself programming using those books that claimed to teach you to code in C in 24 hours. I always got lost early on because I really disliked having to simply write code without knowing what it did.
    It was only when a friend lent me a book on Java from his University course that I really started to make progress. This was because the first chapter had no code at all. It explained what we mean by computers and code conceptually. It also explained why the main function is defined with public static and void.
    I’m so appreciative that I learnt how to use computers when everything started at the command line

What would you like to say?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *