Whenever I typed something in class, my pupils were always impressed that I could do it without looking. My parents, enlightened beings, sent me on a touch-typing course: this has been a terrifically useful skill, even if I’m not at very many words per minute.
We’re always being told how valuable IT skills are, and schools have made a lot of investments in computing equipment – and yet pupils leave school unable to type. This, in a computer age, is akin to not being able to write. Compulsory touch-typing would help all pupils, even those who have found their own ways of typing (with varying levels of rapidity and accuracy). If nothing else, it would give them at least one of the employable skills that we’re told they all lack. Touch-typing ought to be part of the primary curriculum (along with singing, woodwork and massage).
Operating systems are a cause for thought, too. I use the Linux-based Ubuntu: it’s free and doesn’t try to disempower the user (although Ubuntu Unity is going that way, sadly), and it doesn’t crash (unlike Windows) and it’s not up-its-own-backside (unlike Mac). I don’t find everything about it easy. I have no formal computer science training at all, and I don’t understand even basic concepts and terms. Ubuntu will install programs for you quite straightforwardly, except for those it doesn’t, in which case you have to grapple with the terminal and use all sorts of phrases (sudo apt-get, etc.). Inquisitiveness and the internet are invaluable: someone somewhere will give you the answer to your problem.
Linux is also co-operative. It’s the home of open source, which means that anyone can contribute to inventing or modifying programs. On a philosophical level, I think that Linux provides hope for society: if we are to survive the awful environmental catastrophe that we’re so eager to bring about, we will need to change our mentality from one of capitalist profit to one of non-profiteering co-operation. Linux shows that this can be done and that people are willing to do it. (Wikipedia follows the same suit.) On a practical level, you need to know more about computing – or at least you need to think more – than you do using Windows. Linux assumes that you could, if necessary, carry out a bit of programming, although it doesn’t require you do to so.
Because it’s free, co-operative and needs the brain’s attention, Linux is, therefore, the perfect operating system for schools. With pupils able to touch-type and programme, a computer-literate workforce is a dead cert.