Learning Good

What goes around comes around. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Fang’s Law: Those who do not learn from science fiction are doomed to repeat it. Those who do not know Unix will reinvent it — badly.

There’s a reason these cliches exist. Like most cliches they’re basically true. God points out that reducing these truths to pithy aphorisms doesn’t make them any more or less true but does increase their value. She says that a picture may be worth a thousand words but a witty truism is worth more than that.

But why are we talking about this now? Well, God and I have spent a little time looking at Apple’s latest initiative, their new revision of the iTunes U concept, with their interactive retake on textbooks. She reminded me that I worked on a primitive version of the concept way back in the 1970s. I went to a school that used Control Data Corporation’s PLATO system. That system allowed you to go through course work on computer terminals and included the ability to take tests along the way to make sure you were picking up the gist of what you were reading. It seemed like a big advance in education but never really seemed to catch on.

Now instead of having to head on down to the school’s computer lab and sit down at a hulking CRT that only knew the color amber, I can pull out my tablet computer anywhere I’m at and bring up full color interactive lessons manipulated by touch instead of keyboard. So sure, history repeats itself, but sometimes the great thing about it is that it’s like a writer penning a second draft, it’s better than it was the first time.

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