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Journalist Todd Oppenheimer busts the techno-hype in The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved. According to an Education Gadfly review:

In writing that is often persuasive and always engaging, Oppenheimer details numerous failures of computers in schools: They dull kids’ imaginations, stymie real thinking, supplant effective instructional methods, substitute for worthier expenditures, allow kids to goof off, and, perhaps most obviously, too often simply don’t work.

It’s not that technology is never an effective tool. But much of the time and money invested in school technology has been wasted. Now that all the schools are wired, the new fad is giving every kid a laptop.

Wednesday, I watched a low-income high school student surf e-luxury.com at a school computer to check out Louis Vuitton purses. She seemed disappointed that I don’t own one. I urged her to study hard in college so she can enter a lucrative field and buy a $455 purse for herself some day.

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Comments

  1. I tend to agree, the amount of dollars spent on technology to get students ‘tech-savvy’ has for the most part been a ‘bust’.

    We have numerous students who can’t read, write, or perform math at grade level, and the number of students who can’t perform basic math without the aid of a calculator is increasing at an alarming rate.

    There was a time where calculators that performed basic scientific calculations cost $100-200 in the late 1970’s (I know, I happened to use one), but it didn’t teach the math concepts, and it was simply a tool, like all technology should be.

    The machines will start thinking, and the people will stop thinking – Tron

  2. Although I believe that technology has been overplayed in the classroom, it can have a role in both rote learning and in developing communication skills. Unfortunately, too many school boards have bought into the theory that the proper application of budget ensures academic achievement.

  3. The E-Rate money enticed the school systems into getting more computer technology. Unfortunately it has sometimes been ineffectively utilized. Teachers had no idea how to use it and there wasn’t much experience with it. Many teachers were completely computer illiterate but a lot of this is changing.

    Many school systems underestimated the cost of maintaining a computer system, network, servers, etc… It’s a pretty big job. Hopefully it’s not a budget buster.

    On the bright side technology has helped with communication between parents and teachers and administrators.

    My wife helps uses the schools web site to post homework assignments and general messages to parents and students. Email is also very helpful in communicating with parents.

    Technology is just a tool like a book or pen and pencil.

  4. Cost of a book: $20
    Cost of a pen: $2
    Cost of a pencil: $0.80

    Cost of a laptop, software, training, insurance, support, and maintenance: priceless.

  5. Mark Odell says:

    roux wrote: My wife helps uses the schools web site to post homework assignments and general messages to parents and students. Email is also very helpful in communicating with parents.

    I gather the impression that the “communication” to which you refer is very much “top-down” in orientation, allowing no doubt to remain about who’s really in control. Or am I misinterpreting what you wrote? Just curious.

  6. Jack Tanner says:

    Fabulous line by Linda Chavez ‘Bringing the internet into every classroom will do for education what it’s done for productivity in the workplace’

  7. Kirk Parker says:

    Geez, Mark, save your cynicism for something that’s warranted. There’s no lock of opportunities in the educational arena, that’s for sure, but Roux’s wife’s use of email to communicate with parents is not one of them. Have you ever used email before? Nothing top-down about it! Every tried to get ahold of your kid’s teacher after-hours? The asynchronous nature of email is just as beneficial there as it is in any other setting.

  8. Mark Odell says:

    Kirk Parker wrote: Geez, Mark, save your cynicism for something that’s warranted.

    Thanks for the valuable advice, I shall; no shortage of such things appears to be impending.

    Have you ever used email before? Nothing top-down about it!

    Have you ever worked in a hierarchy (e.g. a corporate business) that used e-mail top-down? I’ve worked in several. If you have, then you already know that it all depends on what (dis)incentive structure is put in place by “management” for the use of e-mail; e.g. attempt to communicate “bottom-up” once too often and the “offender” is punished (observation indicates that termination of employment is currently the most popular choice). There’s beaucoup top-down about e-mail if those who control the implementation of the system determine that it shall be so, and I can think of at least the following ways to accomplish that:

    1. SMTP/POP3 servers only permit internet e-mail, not intranet e-mail
    – a. all internet e-mail not from an address on a central whitelist is filtered or deleted or simply refused
    2. SMTP/POP3 server access is limited to “managers only”
    – a. computers on desktops, but only certain “approved” MAC addresses can access mail servers, and their access can be still further restricted
    – b. computers on desktops, but mail clients installed only on managers’ machines
    3. “temporary” employees don’t get e-mail addresses at all, not even for the intranet
    4. no computers except “thin” clients on desktops

    No very great power of imagination is required to envision one or more of these restrictions being implemented at a school, resulting in: e-mail among administrators; e-mail from administrators to teachers &/or parents; and e-mail from (but definitely not among) teachers to (but definitely not from) parents &/or students. That’s why I asked the question.

    Every tried to get ahold of your kid’s teacher after-hours? The asynchronous nature of email is just as beneficial there as it is in any other setting.

    I humbly concur, so long as the communication isn’t unilateral as illustrated above; that is to say, one party talks but need not listen, and the other party is relegated to listening only — any talk is either ignored or punished, just as the topdog shall prefer.

    If this be cynicism, make the most of it.

  9. I think computers are being pusdhed way to much in schools. While it is valuable for them learn how to use a computer and popular programs, it isn’t necessary to do all assignments on a computer. i don’t see the point of giving every kid a lab top. I’d rather see them be a able to take home books or readers.

  10. As far as I can tell, it takes the average kid about 47 seconds to master the controls for Max Paine (PS2 or Xbox) so I don’t see why we spend any time teaching them how to use a computer.

    What to use computers for… now that’s another matter.