Another dot in the blogosphere?

Vendor speak

Posted on: December 12, 2016

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I tweeted this recently. My son spotted this standee at a mall. He asked me to join him in his critique of the vendor’s claims.

I was happy to oblige and I share some more thoughts now. I present and critique the educational value claims of a vendor offering a radio-controlled racing car service.

Eye-hand-brain coordination. Props to the vendor for trying to go one up on eye-hand coordination and trying to say the the brain and thinking were also important. So are other parts of nervous system (like the spinal cord) and several muscle groups. Why not add these to the mix and really educate people?

Spatial intelligence. This is a stretch given that spatial intelligence is about the knowledge and manipulation of 3D space, orientation, navigation, proprioception, etc., in sustained challenges. A quick whiz round a track is not going to do much to develop spatial intelligence.

Spark creativity. What a buzzword! I am surprised that this did not crash through the gates sooner. Creativity is nothing without criticality, as the contents of this standee exemplify.

Enhances fine motor skills. Needlepoint might require fine motor skills. Controlling a micropipette as part of the process of DNA extraction is a fine motor skill. People who skilfully control aerial drones for performances or camera work might possess such skills. But yanking wildly on a joystick? Probably not.

Parent-child entertainment. Why so specific? Can onlookers, siblings, or other relatives not also be entertained?

Improve mental focus. Does this address the dreaded short attention span syndrome? Have you seen kids playing video games or reading good book? They are laser-focused. A minute or two round a track will require focus, as will any other meaningful or self-directed activity.

Away from the “computer/smartphone syndrome”. And into the remote-control-a-device hole? So basically substitute one way of ignoring irritating people with another way of doing the same. I can think of so many other more worthwhile things a child can do on a phone or computer that does not require wasting cash on unproven edu-benefits of radio-controlled cars.

Improve psychology and personality. This one takes the cake. It seems forced because the vendor wanted one more item to balance the display. Just what does the phrase mean? Might a tough hike or doing public service do the same thing?

As my son and I shared our thoughts and bonded over the ridiculous claims, we did not notice someone cowering at a counter and behind the standee. But maybe the vendor was accidentally right. We did not play with the radio-controlled cars, but we benefitted from this critical thinking exercise.

I share this tongue-firmly-in-cheek. But there is a serious message too. There are many other “edu” vendors who make similar and even ludicrous claims about their services and products. The harm that they do and the money they make because no one questions them is no joking matter. We need to be critical mirrors and watchdogs in order to call them out.

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