The Computer Delusion
It almost seems counter-intuitive to be agreeing with this article in a class like this. I find myself afraid of being perceived as a Republican (shudder)…. but I did think that there were some very good reasons to pause and think about the head-long rush into computerized instruction on every hand.
The analogy to the filmstrips of the 1990's made me laugh, not because it was comical, but because it was all too true. Students loved them because they did not have to think and teachers loved them because they did not have to teach, parents loved them because their school was high-tech and no learning took place. That does seem a very apt comparison to the real-life use of computers in some schools today.
Najarro stated, "Every single child will do more work for you and do better work with a computer. Just because it is on a monitor, kids pay more attention. There's magic to the screen." Ortiz argues that "it is highly motivating" for students. The problem that I see with both of these statements, even if they happen to be true, is that the motivation is outside of the students themselves. In my classroom (at some point in the term) I often write on the board "yougottawanna." Which translates into You Have To Want To Do It." Students without internal motivation will not succeed, even if they are briefly enticed to perform some tasks in the classroom. The old dinosaur teacher in me believes that we have been very successful in teaching students self-esteem. Too successful, in fact. They are so satisfied with who they are and how they perform that they see absolutely no need to work, or try to get better. They are just fine the way they are, thank you very much. We have applauded their every attempt, even the less-than-admirable ones, and tried so hard to make sure that no one's feelings were ever bruised by losing, that we have created a generation of students who see no reason to exert themselves. No matter what happens, they will be applauded, probably receive a dozen roses, and maybe a new car. They are truly shocked when they receive an F on an assignment, or in a class, and immediately assume that it can be fixed with a little extra credit. I personally foresee many of them permanently inhabiting their parents' basements. And the parents will live with the "monsters" they (and the schools) have created.
I do not believe that computers are necessarily either good or bad for kids, although some of the arguments about sitting in front of a screen instead of developing real-life skills did have a real ring of authenticity to them. I suppose that I do also see too much of what the author blames on Sesame Street, in that my students have a hard time concentrating on things that do not shape shift, change color and dance every thirty seconds. I have even read research that suggests that kids' brains are being hard wired in the developing stages to require such constantly changing images by watching television. They argued that this is what accounts for the amazing rise in the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD. While I cannot speak to the validity of their science because I read the article too long ago, it did give me pause.
I guess the bottom line is, that while I love the Information Superhighway, I do feel that children are better served by doing "real" things with "real" people. I made my children turn off the TV and go outside. Now I make my grandchildren turn off the computer and go outside.