Role of computers in education - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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#31 of 33 Old 08-03-2004, 01:36 AM
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This article was written almost TWENTY years ago!!?!! Things have changed ALOT since then...

In 1985 I was a sophmore in high school. There were FOUR computers for the whole high school. We were an affluent neighborhood. I was the ONLY kid I knew who had grown up with a home computer. In 1991 when I graduated from college the Computer Science department had only about 20 computers! We did our home work on printouts once a week and the rest of the time was hand written on lined paper. And I went to the largest University in New England.

Nowadays, if a graduating student wants a job, they MUST have strong computer skills. Regardless of position. [Ever SEEN the computers that Macy's uses? How about McDonald's? Or Safeway?] Can't really do an "A" paper either without online research, at the elementary level. And most libraries now have a computer system for checkout and reservation as well as catalog, etc. In fact, in Seattle anyway, you can't even get a driver's license without taking an online test?

Twenty years ago there were few if any computers in schools, and fewer still in homes. Today there are more computers in both, but they are not to blame for the problems that exist (still) in education. Children who are not read to at home, aren't. And weren't. Denying them access to learning via computers in overcrowded underfunded schools etc doesnt seem to me to be the answer.

This article is really really outdated. The computers at MIT in the 60s and 70s were Punch Card?! Double sided floppys were seriously cutting edge high tech. 64k HD was BIG!! The military was the only institution large enough to afford to HAVE large scale computerization. Etc Etc Etc. Weizenbaum hit his zeinth, in his 40s after immigrating from Nazi occupied Germany, in the mid-60s when he created ELIZA, a very simplistic AI program. By the mid-70s he was already being bashed for designing a "gimmic" program being replaced by the likes of ALICE, etc. By the 80s he was "history" lesson, even at MIT.

Wow. Sorry but this article really 'got my goat.' I admit freely to being very very 'pro-computers', donating my time and money to helping GET computers into schools, etc. I am also very interested when I read studies about the effects of accesibility of computers in homes and schools at various ages. I look forward to future topics. Hopefully more recent articles too.
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#32 of 33 Old 08-03-2004, 10:15 AM
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For me it is a matter of timing. I think computers are totally appropriate for high school. I could maybe even go as far as 7th - 8th grade but before that I don't see any need for computers unless the child has a special need that the computer facillitates with learning such as hearing impaired or autistic.

Before that time, I believe human interaction is much more important. Computers are a tool and should not be used as a substitute for a human teacher (unless you live in the outback of Alaska!).

My kids are around a computer as we have one at home and they see them all around but I do not let them use one or play games on them except for on very rare occasions. For us, it is like TV, I would rather have them playing outdoors, with their friends, reading a book, etc. than staring at a screen. They will spend the rest of their adult lives staring at a screen very likely!
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#33 of 33 Old 08-03-2004, 03:07 PM - Thread Starter
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As the original poster of the article I feel like I ought to respond. If children need to learn computers in order to be able to be employed, then the appropriate time for vocational education, any vocational education, is high school. In the old days high schools offered shop, typing, home economics (not my favorite course) and so on. They still offer drivers education. They didn't start children learning to type in 1st grade. Introduction to driving isn't offered in 3rd grade. I have a hard time seeing computers in their role as employment tools as requiring pre-high school access.

As tools for education the point is certainly more debatable. The points I've tried to make in some of my earlier posts is that the evidence for computers as an "essential" educational tool is weak. There are lots of people who function effectively in the world, with or without using computers on a daily basis, who did not use computers in school. People who can read, write, do math, drive a car, work on teams, solve problems etc. Most of the people currently using computers learned in high school, college or beyond. My daughter had a friend in college who, when she started programming class, had never before touched a computer keyboard. She got an A with no particular difficulty. This was in the 1980's. I think I mentioned above that college librarians are not very happy with the search skills that high school students bring to college. Would this problem be solved by earlier exposure? How?

So, my question is, does anyone have any research that demonstrates that computers in elementary school are an essential educational tool, whose neglect would leave children unable to ever catch up with kids who did benefit fron having computers in said elementary school? I will be delighted to see an example.


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