Tags: education


"Lectron Electronic Dominoes"

So Slate had a piece about AskMeFi.com called "When the hive mind works, it's a beautiful thing." I've been a registered user of Metafilter.com since -- whoa, my profile says 2000. Still, I'd never asked a question.

Here's what I asked as a test -- one of the most elusive pieces of information I've been after for years:

Does anyone else remember this toy, an electronic set of building blocks, or is it just in my faulty memory? Who was the manufacturer? What was the trade name? (How do I search for it on eBay? :)

When I was in elementary school in the mid-1970s, there was a toy we had that I liked a lot. It was designed to teach about electronics. There were roughly cubical pieces of plastic that adhered together using magnetic interfaces, all of them also sticking magnetically to a metal plate. The top surface was white, with the schematic diagram symbol etched into the piece in black. The underside was clear plastic, so you could see the component inside (resistor, capacitor, whatever). One way to think of it is as a version of Radio Shack's "10,000 in One" electronic sets, but those used loose wires that were connected together using springs. Because this toy was built to more closely resemble building blocks, it came across as much more graphically elegant. The manual was a set of schematics -- you'd assemble the diagram using the blocks, and voila! you'd have made some gizmo.

Within 30 minutes someone had correctly identified it, and also given a link to the current manufacturer.

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Seth Godin has a great post on the business consequences of "dumbing down."

"The thing is, when you dumb stuff down, you know what you get?

Dumb customers.

And (I'm generalizing here) dumb customers don't spend as much, don't talk as much, don't blog as much, don't vote as much and don't evangelize as much. In other words, they're the worst ones to end up with."

So, here's the thing:

Apply this analysis to news media.

And politics.

UPDATED TO ADD: D'oh! Only now have I noticed the most important part. Think about education. I really believe half of our school problems are because we're convinced our kids don't want to learn.