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Why There Should Be a Rock on Every School Desk

by Gary Barwin

     There should be a rock on every school desk. A rock teaches the same things as a computer.

     Some children & their teacher gather around a rock. They discuss it. They speak to each other. They share ideas, feelings, knowledge. They use the rock to communicate. It's connected to the wide world. It is a global communication device.

     There are a number of different types of rock currently available: igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic. The rock should be hard, soft, grainy, smooth, rough. It should be the size of a pillow or of a snail. It should be very large, so large that it would take two students -- or five students -- to carry it. It should be so small that a student could hide it in her fist or could roll it between her fingers. Large or small enough to talk about. To play with. To observe.

     Rocks help us understand what education is about. Rocks help us understand what we really want to teach our children but often forget when we are in the presence of computers.

     Humans have used rocks as tools for a long time. We have a long history of ideas about rocks. There is also a long history of ideas about humans in rocks.

     Describe the rock. Its solidity. Its rockiness. What does it feel like? What is it like to feel that you have a rock inside you? To feel that a rock should be thrown? To get hit?

     What are the ways of moving the rock? What parts of the body or tools can be used? Does it make a sound? When it's hit? When it's dropped? When it touches another rock?

     The rock breaks.

     How can it be put back together? Can this be done alone? Why did the rock break? Is every students' rock the same? Does each rocks say something about its owner? Owner?

     What happens if some students lose or break their rocks? How can the other students adapt? Can rocks be shared? Can something be made out of all the rocks?

     Where did the rock come from? What is the history of the rock? How did it come to sit on this desk? To be in this school?

     Why is a rock different than a goose or a football? Why is a goose better at flying than a rock? Which would be better at travelling in space? If you were drowning, which would be better to hold on to? If you were lost?

     We need to prepare our children to understand rocks. To be able to deal with the rocks they may find in their future. The rocks they may find beautiful, or useful, or difficult.

     A rock teaches observation, ideas, innovation. A rock teaches communication, understanding, self-knowledge. Rocks prepare our children for the workplace. For their future.

     If we remember that students can learn the same thing from a rock as a computer, then we can put computers on their desks. And then they can have the fantastic opportunity to experience all the dazzling specifics of what a computer has to offer.

     It is possible -- though very difficult -- to make a computer skip on the surface of water.