Monday, 10 September 2007

Schools history, tangibles again

After my daughter started school on Saturday we visited a historic school on Sunday. Comparing teaching materials is interesting. Especially providing up to date information in geography must haven quite a costly task. Many expensive charts and maps that were printed on canvas are now freely available in digital form. It seems that instead of having a film project, a slight projector, an overhead projector and canvas displays a computer and projector with internet access will do. Similarly having stamps to reproduce maps seems like ancient history, even though it has been still in use 20 years ago.

However I wonder what we loose by make things digital and whether or not this matters. Having a database (a box with cardboard dividers and a lot of paper slips) or a typewriter (with types that are moved by pressing buttons) on your desktop gives you a very immediate impression how things work. It is remarkable to see that historically tangibility of teaching materials was very common.

I think in the digital we should make more effort to provide means that people can understand the mechanism behind the technology (basics of HCI – conceptual models :-). This is however extremely difficult for purely digital products. My generation seems very lucky to have been witnesses of this transformation for many products from the physical to the digital – providing a lot of insight to us.