The Down Side of Computerized Schooling
schools have spent so much money on computer infrastructure, they should be
helping student achievement a lot. But despite the increased millions spent on
technology, our kids appear to be doing worse, not better, in reading, writing
and other academic pursuits. True?
it was $70 billion spent on ed
tech just in the U.S., just in the 1990s. But you're right: there's scant
evidence that ed tech has improved learning much. It's promising, of course,
especially on the secondary level. But results are mixed.
Computers in the
classroom are controversial. Schools deal with record-keeping that verges on
constant privacy invasion; an overemphasis on computer-assisted curriculum and
assessment that minimizes academic content that is not easily quantifiable, and
dangerously enmeshed, ethically-questionable relationships between school
officials and ed tech vendors.
teachers have found constructive uses for computers in the later grades, observers
say ed tech has been cynically oversold by political and educational hucksters
out to make a buck for themselves. They say high-tech learning is foolish
overkill in the early grades, anyway. Interaction with an adult, other kids and
a mix of learning tools is best, they say.
Kids today are
increasingly distractible; the overstimulating, flickering images of computers
in the classroom aren't helping. Kids are having problems building friendships
and other relationships, too, and although ed tech didn't cause those problems,
it certainly isn't helping.
Then there's the
big study published in 2004 out of Munich University, Germany. It looked at
175,000 students, age 15, in 31 countries, and found that those with more than
one computer in their homes actually did worse in school than those with only
one computer, or no computers, at home. (See this Christian Science Monitor article: http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1206/p11s01-legn.html)
The study found
that the more pupils used computers, the worse they performed in school. That
contradicts the glowing claims of superintendents and ed-tech vendors, but it rings
true. Watch a young person on a computer. You'll see game playing, Instant
Messengering, and music downloading . . . but very little constructive academic
another big educator justification for ed tech expenses - that kids must have
good computer skills for the work world - has also been exaggerated. The Munich
study said computer skills had no greater impact on employability or wage
levels than being able to use a telephone or a pencil.
What's the answer?
Hold your horses on ed tech. Use it as the good tool that it can be . . . but
don't stampede your common sense over a cliff, and over-do it on the techno
The Flickering Mind by Todd