A moron with a computer is still a moron

A Moron with a Computer Is Still a Moron writes David P. Goldman on Pajamas Media, in response to the New York Times story, In the Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Scores.

Chinese parents are buying their children pianos, violins and music lessons, while “New Age nerds” try “to keep kids “engaged” with video games.

It is the antithesis of education, which begins with discipline and extended concentration span.

Technology is transformational when it’s designed into schools, not layered on top of the same old stuff, writes Tom Vander Ark on Getting Smart. “The story of this decade is that personal digital learning will change the world.”



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  1. Sharon Rauenzahn says:

    Why does “technology in the classroom” always now seem to mean laptops, ipods, ipads, and the internet? Why does it never seem to mean:

    “snap-kit” hands-on electronics kits?
    3-d printers with instruction in mechanical engineering and design?
    learning to use industrial equipment of any kind?

    Is there a teenager left in this country who doesn’t know how to web-surf from a phone or use an ipad to watch porn on youtube? And yet, there is a constant complaint from companies about not being able to hire anyone with up-to-date useful technology skills, like any understanding of electronics or machinery.

    Do companies really complain that current high school college graduates don’t know how to spend enough time blogging and collaborating?

  2. Anyone teach programming anymore? Even if you’re learning 30-year-old BASIC, you’re learning more than most people do about what makes a computer “tick”.

    BTW, a moron with a violin is still a moron, too.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I’ve not really checked, mind you, but it’s my understanding that there is no porn on youtube.

    Other than that, Sharon, I mostly agree with what you have to say.

  4. Ze'ev Wurman says:

    Reminds me of an old silicon valley joke when anything with a chip inside was called “smart.” Goes something like this:.

    A “smart dog” contest. One walks on hind legs and bring back his master’s gloves. Another barks the to tune of Beethoven’s Eroica. A third dances to a cha cha cha music. Then another one comes in, jumps on the CD player left in the middle of the floor, rips it apart, gnashes at the printed circuit board, rips the integrated circuit from it and swallows it. Wins. One spectator to another: “Yep! That’s one smart dog!”

    Yep! That’s 21st century learning!

  5. No.

    A moron with a computer is still the head of IT.

  6. I remember how grateful I was when my children’s school–in an upscale community–did not allow calculators or computers for them! YEAH! They actually learned how to add and subtract and read and write. And, I had heard that Brandeis University did not allow calculators in math classes? Is that still so?

  7. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Purdue and Rose Hulman are both calculator free for a lot of their intro engineering classes. They want students to be able to crank it out by hand and understand what they’re doing before they take shortcuts. Of course, both of these programs have very high drop out rates– a lot of kids were “good at STEM’ at their high schools, but can’t cut it in a high-intensity program.

    The new “smartpad” obsession is like the old Powerpoint one. A monkey could put together a PP presentation– having a kid doing it showed nothing about ‘learning’- it just filled time.

    Technology in the classroom is just another way to babysit the kids who don;t care about the material. But you can’t force them to care. The best solution might be to divide the school into “kids who care” and “kids who don’t care” so we could pay the actual teachers professional rates, and then hire cheap daycare workers for the rest.

  8. How does the use of technology teach children to think abstractly?

    Computerized tools can help with teaching’s back-office functions, such as attendance, keeping student records, notifying teachers/students/parents of upcoming events or emergencies, and (if used correctly) allowing students to retrieve assignments outside the classroom, and to contact teachers quickly.

    If I must choose for my high school student between winning a state PowerPoint competition, or learning enough Greek to read the Iliad, I’ll choose the latter.

  9. A “moron” with broadband can learn almost anything from anywhere for free or cheap. As Curtis Bonk pointed out in The World is Open, that was an important threshold in human history. With Khan’s videos, everyone has access to at least one great algebra teacher. When you put great teachers together with personalized math software like MIND Research, Dreambox or ManagHigh, it is a very powerful combination–even for morons.

  10. Always comes back to the same. Those that care will learn wonderfully (and maybe better) with technology and those that don’t care will be entertained more I guess.

    And Tom, we have always had “Khan videos” and we called them books. A dedicated kid can learn a lot from books or internet videos but those kids are the ones already doing good in school…so who cares.

  11. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I’m with Parker on this one: Khan is an audiobook with a face. He might be a “great algebra teacher”, but I’d have to see him work with an actual person to tell you.

    And as a textbook, having seen a bunch of his videos, he’s just OK. A little tedious, actually, but not inappropriately so.

  12. Agreed that the main thrust of tech in the classroom should be to enable the teacher by reducing the time needed for non-teaching duties, and not to turn students into digital consumers.
    I am trying to go as paperless as possible this year for my assignments, so we’ll see how it goes.