The Fun They Had - Asimov's Peek At the Future of Education

I remember reading The Fun They Had in the 6th grade and thinking how fantastic and unreal it seemed. Having just re-read it (do it; it'll take you less than 3 minutes) I'd say Asimov was right on the money, what with all the talk of singularity and this Web 2.0 stuff. But he was off a hundred and fifty years or so in just how long it would take for computers to be in our homes 'teaching' us. Who could have seen just how quickly computers would become a part of our lives back in 1951? Even the genius Asimov thought that surely it had to be hundreds of years in the future.

That's one of the things I love about reading old science fiction. The writers knew something was coming, they just didn't know exactly what it was going to look like. So Asimov has little Margie turn in her homework in punch code. Ok. So he got the format wrong. But the implications for Margie and us as teachers remain. I love books. My house is filled with them and they are a part of me. I don't like sitting in front of a screen reading (I know, I know - the irony). I'd rather be lying on my back holding them. I remember a copy of Tarzan I had. This book was part comic, part graphic novel, and all primal testosterone. I realized later that it was one of those pulp fiction books that I'd read about. The pages were yellow and it smelled about as wild as Tarzan. His AIIIIEEEYYYYYYEEEAAAA's jolted through my hands. He would have kicked TV Tarzan's ass. You can't get that kind of funk from an old computer. I miss that book.

However, I do not miss textbooks. Are their days numbered? How much longer? How do we make sure we're involved? How do we disseminate the virtual world that is the Internet? Asimov was right, we did have fun. How do we keep doing so?

Note: I have also posted this in my blog as part of an experiment

Tags: 2.0, Asimov, The Fun They Had, singularity, web

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When I'm giving my "Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education" talk, I love showing a slide with the Dick Tracy watch and the Star Trek communicator. Science fiction writers and directors saw something coming, and the cell phone is even more amazing than they predicted.

I read Fahrenheit 451 this year because I had never read it and because a friend said it was her number one favorite book. It didn't become my number one favorite, but I will say that I thought about it for days afterwards. Like Asimov, I think Bradbury captured some of the core issues even though not able to see the twists and turns which inevitably make life so different than previously imagined. The idea that people would just tune out by being entertained makes for a fascinating discussion.

You can see us doing the same thing today with films like Final Cut. I hadn't even heard of the film, but as a science fiction fan, couldn't resist it when I saw it in the bargain bin at Walmart. It turned out to be the heady kind of stuff I like, even if it wasn't the strongest film overall. But the question of how our lives are changed when our actions are all recorded is most serious and we will be facing challenges of this sort, although they're not likely to be exactly as depicted.

Fun topic.

I'll have to check out Final Cut. Sounds interesting.

Here's two more books to read on the subject if you haven't already. Neil Postman's 'Amusing Ourselves to Death' and Huxley's classic, 'A Brave New World'. I haven't read Fahrenheit 451 yet. It's on my list.

Thanks for creating such a cool site!
For me it was 'Mi the barbarian'. I still wonder how it is we have become so civilized so quickly. We were all just beating out a living a few thousand years ago.... and yet Plato, Aristotle... Copernicus etc. etc. achieved so much without being able to google 'platonic vs aristotelian though' or 'mathematical theories'

The love-hate relationship burns here also. I have 'Audacity of Hope' and 'The Shack' laying to the left of my iMac. Both of them brought profound thoughts in to my milieux today, and there is still something about controlling the word, in a book it is speaking to me.... I don't speak back. Here I speak back. But I throw my words to the ether. Some do it just to see how many will hear it. Some read it for 'variable x, y, z', but I am only concerned with 'c, r, and g' but maybe it is about the hope that a connection will be made. I have made many profitable connections, but I am honestly not interested in the chit chat twitter twatter of the web. It's noise. Human noise....yeah, yeah, someone is gonna end up making money off of it. Just like someone will make money off my trash this week. But we are educators. What are we looking for? What am I looking for? It is amazing that I have time and energy (wife went out with friends tonight and I am enjoying a random spree thru hyperspace) to even do this after leaving heart and soul with 33 5th graders.......
The Fun They Had is on a list of sci-fi short stories I'm using with my 5th and 6th graders. The kids love the stories and we enjoy talking about what may have seemed far-out in the 50s being common place today.

FYI--if you ever are looking for the text of a short story online and can't find it there are two things you can do.. Search for the name of the story followed by .txt or c/p a paragraph of the story into the search engine. I was able to find the text to all the stories I wanted even though they remained illusive at first search.



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