Tuesday, June 14, 2011


To all of you who were part of the discussion on the ISED Listserv, welcome. To all of you who just happened to stumble upon this site, welcome also. This is where I'll try to keep you up to date on the latest stages of my project involving the Driver's Ed model of computer literacy, as opposed to the Auto Shop model.

That having been said, I suppose I should start with the post to ISED-L that started this all.
Technology Education: "Driver's Ed" vs "Auto Shop" 

In its infinite wisdom, the school board of my hometown decided that one of the graduation requirements was a semester of Driver’s Ed. For everyone. Regardless of whether or not your family owned a car. Regardless of whether or not you even wanted to learn how to drive. Driver’s Ed was part of the junior year Phys Ed/Health requirement, and the only way you could get out of taking the class was if you were blind.
They felt that at some point in their lives most of the students would find themselves behind the wheel of a very dangerous piece of equipment, and that they should spend 42 minutes a day, five days a week, for 18 weeks, learning the rules of the road, how to read highway signs, and how to properly operate that piece of equipment. They didn’t think it was enough to have Mr Miller drop into our History class when we were talking about the Battle of Trenton, and quickly show us how to drive there.
In contrast, our schools also offered Auto Shop, which would now probably have the much cooler name of Automotive Technology. This was an elective course in which you learned how to take apart and put back together various parts of the car, with the goal that eventually you’d be able to do most of your own repairs…get a job in a garage…or maybe even open up your own shop someday.
The powers that were didn’t see it as a choice between Driver’s Ed and Auto Shop, but as a case of needing both. Everyone needed to learn the basics of how to drive a car, but Auto Shop (or Automotive Technology) was there for those who wanted to go on further.
Today there’s a big push toward teaching fewer classes in basic computer literacy and teaching more courses in things like robotics and programming. Many educators say that students already know how to do the basics, so we have to remain relevant and competitive by pushing them into the “more advanced” (and better marketable) classes.
I’m sorry, but this is dumping Driver’s Ed in favor of Auto Shop. Not only that, but if we stay with the Driver’s Ed/Auto Shop metaphor, saying that students already know the basics because we’ve seen what they can do with iMovie and how much time they spend on Facebook is like saying that they don’t need Driver’s Ed because they know how to operate the sound system and the power windows.
I have nothing against Auto Shop, or Automotive Technology, but it’s an additional course. Learning how to build a car doesn’t teach you the rules of the road or how to safely handle that two-ton piece of equipment. Similarly, I have nothing against courses like Programming or Robotics – heck, I teach Programming – but students still need to learn the basics of computer literacy, and they need to learn them on a daily basis.
Over the next few months I’ll be spending some time developing a book of lessons about what I think practical computer literacy in the 21st century looks like. If you’re interested in seeing what this looks like, please feel free to drop me a line.
And if you agree with me, but are afraid to speak up in front of all of the Automotive Technology teachers who seem to monopolize the conversation here, then feel free to drop me a line privately.
So that's where we're starting. Over the next few days or weeks the look of this blogsite will evolve as I'm able to put more time into it now that school is out for the summer. One of the first things I intend to post and talk about is a copy of my new typing book.

Stay tuned!


  1. Am excited to watch this unfold. My current school will be rolling out its first computer classes in 2013. This will help with all the decisions to be made!

  2. LOVE this analogy, and I'm very interested to see how your book is coming. I have thoughts on this - I'll email you privately and share.