Too Much Tech!?

In a stack of papers called Technology.

  • May
  • 25
  • 2005

After reading this blog post and this article , I felt a rant coming on. Once again, what started as a comment turned into a full entry.

The focus and content of the entire article, while interesting, doesn’t concern me as much as the comments sprinkled throughout in regard to the computer education students are vs. should be receiving. Additionally, through the course of reading the article, we find that, in an annual Education Week survey, Michigan finished in the bottom ten with regard to access of students to computers. California actually finished lower than Michigan, so this article’s concerns about student computer education strike a chord with me.

Maybe his thoughts, when fully represented and explained in his book, are better stated, but Todd Oppenheimer’s views were pretty weakly expressed in this article, actually. Based on other places his ideas are expressed, I can’t say that he doesn’t write well, just mistakenly. As far as I can tell by reading the two links I’ve presented on his work and glancing at how his ideas come across in the Detroit News article, Oppenheimer has the idea that students are mindlessly sitting in front of computers, letting the computer do all the work while thinking very little in the process. His idea that employers should teach about computers “in a summer” misses the point: computer literacy should be part of a high school education in the twentieth century for a country that expects to be competative in such a field as technology; students should graduate with a good understanding of computers as part of their high school training and preparation for life outside the walls of that institution. In their job, they should refine, not create, those computer skills. Computers can be used to help students think and write better; they don’t make that task any easier at the cognative level.

If my kids are writing about a tough topic, computers aren’t going to make their response easier to draft. The thinking, consideration, and formulation of a response will have to come from them, as always, whether dealing with pen and paper or keyboard and monitor. All a computer will do is allow them to play with the finished result a bit. I’d argue that there’s nothing better than a computer when it comes to drafting, composing, and editing. When I suggest “delete this sentence and see what happens” they can do exactly that without having to write the entire paragraph over again or without simply *imagining* how the paragraph would read sans indicated sentence. When I suggest “write this idea out 3 different ways, using different wording” as a way to clear up an awkward sentence, they can then insert each of the 3 variations into the paragraph to see which one works better. This is far more clumsy when writing on paper.

From the Detroit News article:

“It creates a short-cut mentality and fosters bad habits and values about the kind of perseverance that’s needed to conquer a complex topic,” he says. (source)

If there’s a complex topic and a computer is being used to “conquer” that topic, all the thinking that a person needs to go through to “conquer” it will happen regardless of whether or not a computer is employed in the conquering. In other words, a computer doesn’t free students from the thinking necessary to demonstrate to me their ability to write and read. I don’t see how using a computer for writing or for math (as is the context of the original Detroit News op/ed article) would create any shortcuts other than simple calculations, which a calculator would provide were a computer not used, and cutting and pasting text, a shortcut that I argue should be employed liberally. They are not free from the perseverance neccessary to think of the correct answer (in math) or write an effective statemet of their ideas (in English). They’ll still need to think long and hard in order to type anything into the computer in the first place.

“Any job you get anymore, you need some type of knowledge on technology and computer skills.” (source)

‘Nuff said.


1. Paul says:

[5/24/2005 - 7:25 pm]


Have you see the following article related to the Michigan laptop program?:

That article includes the following statement: “…a survey conducted by Michigan Virtual University found that fewer than one in nine teachers felt they could use the laptops to enhance their lessons”

How well prepared are our educators to integrate apprpriate and effective use of computers in the classroom? Are the statistics as bad as the ‘1 in 9’ make it look?

2. Todd says:

[5/25/2005 - 7:43 am]

Yes; it’s that bad. I’ve actually written about that problem on this site. Here’s the first part, with the other two parts available there.

I’d say 1 in 9 is optimistic. California doesn’t have any technology standards for students or for teachers.

3. Auntie C. says:

[5/27/2005 - 12:15 pm]

Yes, my nephew Todd is the genius of the family.
He knows way too much.
I’m proud of you Todd.
Auntie C.

4. Tom says:

[6/10/2005 - 5:40 am]

I think my response is too much for a comment. I’ll post it on my site.

5. Todd says:

[6/11/2005 - 11:17 am]

And, just for the record, here’s Tom’s response.