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Education Science

Students Do Better Without Computers 672

Gogogoch writes "The Telegraph is reporting a large study that shows that the less students use computers at school and at home, the better they do in international tests of literacy and math. The more access they had to computers at home, the lower they scored in tests, partly because they diverted attention from homework. Students tended to do worse in schools generously equipped with computers, apparently because computerised instruction replaced more effective forms of teaching. " Worth noting that it took almost 20 years for PCs in the corporate environment to actually have a positive impact on productivity; might the same be true in education?
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Students Do Better Without Computers

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  • Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:16PM (#11999748) Homepage Journal
    This is clearly a hormonal thing, and it's like making a case against human evolution. The computers are here and they aren't going anywhere. Learn how to use them to improve your test scores or find better porn - the choice is yours. I don't think you can make a case against students learning to use computers now, as opposed to waiting until they are over 40 and trying to find the Any Key.

    Corporations still have a hell of a time keeping employees off of Solitaire and Minesweeper. I think this is not a computer problem, but a "bored at work" problem. I can remember my teachers in high school - most of them were the most boring people you would care to meet. A select few would enlighten and invoke interesting discussion and methods to achieve success on the course.

    So this clearly is not a computer problem, but a teacher problem. Adding a distractive device that lets you leave a boring class is only a small price to pay to prevent the stagnation of our children's collective intellects.

    Let's put more money into better programs and methods for teaching, and wash out the teachers who aren't interesting. Maybe add some profit incentives for teachers?
    • Re:Hormonal (Score:3, Insightful)

      by haagmm ( 859285 )
      I think the parent makes a good point, i remeber Programing for my calculator to get rid of bordom, and of course playing games. Or Bringing a novel in and reading it discretly in the cornor. In short a computer is like a telephone or a graphing calculator a tool that can be used benificially or not.

      and yes i am "bored at work" and "reading slashdot"
    • Any (Score:3, Funny)

      as opposed to waiting until they are over 40 and trying to find the Any Key

      Wait - where is that? It's not on my standard 103-key.

      • Re:Any (Score:3, Funny)

        by Toresica ( 788403 )
        Wait - where is that? It's not on my standard 103-key.

        Take a piece of paper about the same size as one of the keys on your keyboard. Write "any" on it. Tape it to a key that you don't use very often.
        You now have an "any" key. :p
    • Re:Hormonal (Score:3, Interesting)

      Agreeing with parent, students are going to find a way to dick around in class, especially if the class is boring. As such, I still have an extensive collection of TI-83 plus calculator games. Unfortunately, teachers are sometimes a despised entity in the community. I know lots of people who think teachers are OVERPAID. Their arguments are of course ridiculous and I think anyone who believes this should have to stand in front of 50 teenagers and try to make them learn ANYTHING, let alone try to teach them
      • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Informative)

        by b17bmbr ( 608864 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:10PM (#12000632)
        I am a history teacher, and part fo the problem is that the educational establishment, i.e. teacher colleges, etc., stress all kinds of crap about engaging them, motivating them, etc. We have to de facto compete with the freakin computer, television, ipod, cell phone, etc., while the kids are sold a bill of goods about how learning should be "relevant" and "personal". I want to scream. Kids don't read or write anymore. I did my MA thesis on technology and writing, and guess what, writing suffers immeasurably when using a computer. Hell, I'm a geek like everyone else around /. But, the problem is education is denigrated today. It's all about whether it will earn you a dollar.
        • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jp10558 ( 748604 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:00PM (#12001440)
          By "writing" do you mean handwriting or quality of prose?

          Because I can say I've almost forgotten how to write cursive, and printing is getting difficult. I think I hand write things about 10 times a year, basically when there is an essay on a test, or I have to take a note somewhere.

          Everywhere else I type, either on my laptop, use grafitti on my visor, or type on my desktop. I can type much faster, with much less stress on my hands (my hand now cramps up in about 10 seconds doing handwriting).

          On the other hand, I have compared my essays that are handwritten vs ones that are typed, and my typed essays are far better. Some of that has to do with not being timed, sure. But it also has to do with being able to easily do corrections with typed papers. I can rearrange paragraphs, sentances and the like to see how it flows best. I can come back a day later, and easily change a word that I've overused with a synonym, or maybe rewrite that entire sentance as it is currently redundant.

          I can't do any of that with a handwritten essay. Each change listed above basically requires me to rewrite the entire paper, so I am far less likely to do that.

          I'll just touch on the benefits of spell check and the ease of passing around a paper for review when it's on the PC. I'm in buffalo, I regularily have my sister in Ithaca, my cousin in Philadelphia and my friends a dorm over do a proofread of my paper. I can't realistically do that with a handwritten paper.
        • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Interesting)

          by madstork2000 ( 143169 ) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:13PM (#12001658) Homepage
          I have no less than 10 teachers within my close family (2 brothers, mom, grandfather, 4 aunts, mom-in-law, sister-in-law), all at differnt stages of their respective careers.

          The common thing I see as a problem, is not the teachers or technology. All of my reletives v iew the tech as another tool. In fact, my grandfather was responsible for setting up the first computer labs in schools in Oakland County, MI in the 1970s (remember we're the lucky ones with county wide muni-wifi coming soon!).

          Anyway, the problem they all cite is lack of support, software and overall expertise on the equipment. They always seem to be getting new stuff, but almost never are they properly trained. Even when they are trained it is on simple operation procedure, NOT how to make the technology an effective teacher tool.

          Too often teachers simply send the kids to the lab and say go at it. Providing little instruction. the kids mindlessly point and click and have a great time, but because the concepts for a partiucular game are not reinforced it is simply an hand eye exercise.

          I witness this first hand myself after taking my 5 and 3 year old to the public library. Both wanted to play the computer because it had fun games, neither actually did any thing educational. Basically clicked around and whated outdated shockwave animations.

          Heck they both get more education playing my 5 year old dreamcast, because he had to learn to read the menus, and count objects and whatnot in the games.

          Another big problem is the school board will push through bonds that can be used to purchase capital equipment, but NOT software. It has happened on more than one occassion that the idiots bought a bunch of new PCs but didn't have the funds to buy any software.

          One time the state gavce $1500 to teachers to by a personal computer for home, but they did not give them $$ to buy the software they use at school. Since it was a "personal" machine they could not install software using any school liscenses.

          My aunt and mother in-law both had nice ibooks laying around in a closet, until I rescued it and put linux on it and used it for a while. (I had to give it back when they retired, I never did hear how the new teahcer liked YellowDog).

          So administration makes dumb decisions and there is never enough $$ ot support the equipment and train properly. It is sad, my local district has been spending bucku bucks lately on buildings, pools, athletic fields, theatre etc.

          But in the same shortsighted way they spend all the money on tangible things, but cannot afford to properly staff the stuff. It costs $8 buck for a choir concert, that money used to be fund raiser for a trip, now almost all of it goes toward paying for the use of the theatre.

          I am sure the admin people mean well, but it sure as hell seems silly that all the upper level jobs in our district are filled with $80K -$150k + jobs that have a doctorate in education requirement to "manage the pools and fitness centers" or be a athelic director. It really is ridiculous. Oh well I am ranting and getting away for the point.

          The administration at all levels needs to GET A CLUE.
        • Re:Hormonal (Score:3, Interesting)

          by lgbarker ( 698397 )
          I did my MA thesis on technology and writing, and guess what, writing suffers immeasurably when using a computer

          I disagree. I'm an old geek who had to use a typewriter for papers in college. Since you could not correct or change a thought in mid-page, like you can on a computer, writing consisted of multiple hand-written drafts. This was very time consuming and resulted in optimizing for the mechanics of producing an "acceptable" paper rather than polishing the content and thought process.

          Add idiot pro

    • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by goldspider ( 445116 ) <.ardrake79. .at.> on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:26PM (#11999913) Homepage
      It's not a teacher problem, it's a work ethic problem.

      I can't imagine that Japanese teachers bend over backwards to make math and science fun, but Japanese students somehow excel in those subjects.

      Why? Because these students have a strong work ethic. They don't go to school to be entertained, they go to learn, and they appreciate the value of education.

      American students don't have the same respect for education. Unless it entertains them, they have no use for it. And even if a certain teaching style/tool does hold their attention, that alone doesn't make it effective.

      All the fancy gadgets and fun projects don't amount to jack if students have no motivation to learn.
      • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Facekhan ( 445017 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:52PM (#12000324)
        For one thing the value of school is ingrained in their culture. Here the value of highschool is a joke. It is so easy and so long, so backward, and so tediuous and such a toxic environment it is no wonder that each new group of freshmen in college seem a lot dumber than the last. Highschools in this country are seriously getting worse and no amount of money can fix them only a serious philosophical shift can do that.

        Japanese schools work better than ours because they are extremely competitive, do not refuse to provide higher level instruction to those who excel and because they innovate. The parents there also regard school very highly and go out of their way to make sure their kids are competitive.

        Our highschools on the other hand are based on the least common denominator.

        Whether a competitive philosophy would be useful or welcomed in American highschools is doubtful. Japanese and other Asian countrie's schools have the downside of being straight-up brutal and can only operate in a nation where conformity and obedience to the state is a keystone of the culture.

        What US schools need is a few major reforms. Amend the various laws that require schools to provide services to special ed kids to include having to provide services to those who need more advanced courses and/or require them to let them graduate early. This would stop the mindless holding back of the gifted kids. I once had to repeat a math course, the exact same text in fact, just because the school did not want to inconvenience itself with a 6th grade level math group in 5th grade. So after taking 5th grade math in 4th grade I was screwed over and I think that was probably the point where I realized school was not there for my benefit but mostly for the benefit of the beuracracy.
        • Re:Hormonal (Score:4, Informative)

          by mrm677 ( 456727 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:06PM (#12000563)
          Japanese schools work better than ours because they are extremely competitive, do not refuse to provide higher level instruction to those who excel and because they innovate. The parents there also regard school very highly and go out of their way to make sure their kids are competitive.

          No, the problem is that every student in the U.S. gets a secondary education (high school). On the other hand, Japan weeds out the very best at an earlier age. A kid's future is decided before he or she grows up.
      • Re:Hormonal (Score:4, Insightful)

        by nseward ( 189519 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:09PM (#12000615)
        Work ethic has something to do with it. Also consider cultrual differences. The pressures put on kids in Japanese and even Chinese schools is incredible. I have many Japanese and Chinese friends and some of the stories I hear about the constant pressure to study and do well amaze me. So from my friends who have first hand experience in asian schools, I don't believe they feel any different about education then North American students do. They would like entertaining/interesting classes as much as anyone else it's just the pressure put on them to succeed and the almost constant schooling is driving many of them crazy.

        I read some where that Japanese people are the most stressed out people. This leads to health issues and break downs. I value education as much as they do but not to the point were I can't stand it anymore or at the risk of my health.
      • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moucheka ( 869562 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:12PM (#12000656)
        Ha ha ha! Not sure what rock you're living under but last time I checked (and I have been teaching in Japanese schools for several years) there was no 'work ethic' in existance, just bored students emailing each other, sleeping in class, being pushed up since failing isn't an option. Schools in Japan are streamed ie if you want to get into the 'right' university and get the 'right' job, you go to cram school. The rest of the population makes do. It is the same for businesses - people don't work harder, they just have to been 'seen' to work. This may mean sitting at your desk playing games on your cell phone, as long as you are there till the boss leaves. Please, no more 'cultural insights' about things you know nothing (BTW - I am an Australian who spent several years in the school system in Japan, both private and public and am now working for a tech company in TX USA)
        • Re:Hormonal (Score:3, Informative)

          When I went to study Chinese in Taiwan, I was in a small class with four other students, all Japanese. I thought that they were going to be robots, always ready with the entire lesson memorized, and they were going to leave me looking like a pathetic lazy American.

          I was certainly suprised when most of the students would regularly show up ten minutes late to class. The teacher, who was Chinese, wasn't terribly punctual either, but we still had a great class.

          So, all of those rumors about Japanese kids all b
      • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mirio ( 225059 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:15PM (#12000723)
        Perhaps it's also because the Japanese (and virtually every other nation on Earth) allow *failure* in their system. You don't make grades in a Japanese go to a trade/vocational type school and learn how to weld. It's that simple. I know this is/was the system in Mexico as I went there on a study abroad program in 1995.

        Every time something like this is suggested in the US we get to hear about how the self-esteem of children will be destroyed, etc. Our school system seems to value self-esteem more than learning these days.

        BTW: This may also be a reason why students in other countries fair better on tests...they aren't testing the one's that are in the trade schools.
        • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Interesting)

          by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:27PM (#12000921) Journal
          "Our school system seems to value self-esteem more than learning these days. "

          It's called "No Child Left Behind"...
          Talk with actual teachers about it... you'll find they all HATE it. It assumes all kids want to learn if you give them the chance, but the fact is that some do and some don't, and some are just too stupid to begin with to waste much time on... but ooooh, won't someone think of the children?!?
          • Re:Hormonal (Score:3, Insightful)

            Yeah, and since funding is now tied to performance, the administration of a school does not want the kids to fail for the wrong reasons. My friend who teaches at a high school somehwere in the US says he has students who never turn in any work, yet if he fails them, he gets pressured by the administration to change the grades. It's pathetic. Add that to never wanting the children to suffer from low self esteem caused by justified failure and you get a recipe for disaster.
          • Standardized Testing (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:53PM (#12001328) Journal
            Not only that but now teachers are judged based on standardized test scores so they teach the kids to do well on the tests instead of actually understanding the material or going outside of the boundaries of the test material.
          • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Geoffreyerffoeg ( 729040 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:05PM (#12004699)
            "No Child Left Behind"

            Think about those words for a second. How else do you not leave a child behind unless you hold everyone else back with him?
      • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:39PM (#12001106) Homepage
        American students don't have the same respect for education.

        Nor do most American teachers (in my experience). Or maybe not "most", but many. And enough that it serves as a partial explanation as to why students don't respect education.

        Sure, teachers are extremely interested in having their students read and memorize trivia, doing exactly as their told at ever turn, but contrary to popular belief, that isn't "good education". What they're teaching kids is how to be bored and boring zombies, good little inefficient worker bees.

        Probably the best way to make people disinterested in education is to force them to sit through 6 hours a day of mind-numming drek, and then force them to repeat the process at home for another 4 hours, repeat that whole process 5 days a week, 10 months a year, for 12 years, and call that "education".

        The whole idea of a "work ethic" tends to be used in a bogus manner-- as though some people just have a mysterious virtue of being willing to work hard for no good reason. However, the truth is that people who have a good "work ethic" have usually been educated first that their work means something-- that their efforts are worth something. Expecting people to work hard, with no real purpose or meaning, by virtue of a mysterious "work ethic"... well, I have my doubts it will happen, and if it did, I'm not sure it would be a good thing.

        But I guess I'm being off-topic.

        • by Bishop ( 4500 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:25PM (#12001860)
          If investigated fully you will find that many parents don't have a respect for education, or atleast the education system. Many parents view the failure of their child to learn as a failure of the schools. These parents forget that they are ultimately responsible for their child's eduacation. Schools and teachers are only there to assist. This causes cynicism amounts teachers who are tired of having students dumped on them and being blamed for the child's poor learning. The children themselves quickly figure out that their parents only pay lip service to education. Why should a child be expected to respect their teachers, when the child's parent dosen't?

          There are many faults with the school system. Parents have to realise that they are one of the problems.
    • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lgw ( 121541 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:29PM (#11999950) Journal
      Adding a distracting device to the study environment can't be a good thing, but it's not like we're forced to choose between unlimited computer use and no computers at all.

      Clearly, learning to interact with computers is an important skill for modern life, and many concerns I've seen with computers in the classroom and home study environment are along the lines of "calculators will destroy students' math skills" from a few decades ago. Not a genuine problem, but instead a changing of what skills are important.

      However, clearly the distracting power of computers is great. A teacher shouldn't have to compete with that in the classroom. After all, the primary purpose of school is to educate, not entertain, and while entertaining teachers are clearly better at their jobs, the educational system needs to work with the talent it has. In the classroom, this seems simple to sort out: only allow computer access with specific purpose, direction, and supervision for a specific assignment, or during free time.

      At home it's an equal problem, but I think no worse that the introduction of the TV to the home. Everyone has to learn self discipline, and learning to avoid getting distracted when there's work to do is an important part of that. I think the only current problem is too many parents don't realize that sitting in front of the computer doesn't equate to doing something useful, and that's a temporary problem. Parents who want to make sure their kids are actually spending appropriate time doing homework will wise up soon enough, and if you take the computer away entirely, how will the student learn the important self-discipline of avoiding distraction?
    • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shalla ( 642644 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:30PM (#11999960)
      Let's put more money into better programs and methods for teaching, and wash out the teachers who aren't interesting. Maybe add some profit incentives for teachers?

      Why does someone always say it's the teacher's fault?

      Here's my suggestion: It's the kid's fault. If you choose to not pay attention in class, that's YOUR fault. No one else's. Enough of the bullshit about teachers needing new methods and ways to make learning fun. Sure, those help, but frankly, if the student has no work ethic, he/she isn't going to learn.

      Surprisingly, I found Chemistry to be boring as hell, but I still learned the material because that was my job. Stop pretending that kids should have to be cajoled to learn and tell them it's their job. If they don't like it... fine. They can not learn, but then THEY take the consequences, not the teachers.

      I'm not saying there aren't bad teachers, but I've known a LOT of them, and most of them work their arses off and buy things out of their own income to teach kids and yet they're always the ones who get blamed. In the meantime, I see a lot of parents coming into the library and doing the homework for their child without the kid even being present. Yet when Little Johnny fails that test, it's apparently the teacher's fault.

      Slightly more on-topic than that rant, computers are tools. They should be used as other tools are: when appropriate. Instead schools often seem to try to integrate them into lessons that are better off not using computers. It's like giving kids Bunsen burners for every lab, even ones that don't involve heat. Too tempting to pass up and usually detrimental to what they were really supposed to learn...
      • Re:Hormonal (Score:3, Insightful)

        by learn fast ( 824724 )
        That's a nice idea, but unrealistic. If your goal is to increase the learnedness and literacy of your society, simply saying "It's the kids' responsibility!" gets you precisely nowhere.

        There are clear correlations between the influence of various teachers and teaching techniques and methods and so forth. These will, reliably, improve the results of the teaching process. This has nothing to do with the individuals involved (assuming their are statistically normally distributed).

        This is especially importart
    • Re:Hormonal (Score:3, Insightful)

      by u-238 ( 515248 )
      Computers are the antichrist of scholarship.

      Why the hell would I bother reading the whole book and getting a broader perspective of the topic I'm studying, or spending an afternoon in the library researching the subject, when I can type search google for a quick review or answer to my problem? This is the reality, this is what kids are doing today.
    • Re:Hormonal (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:44PM (#12000184) Homepage
      I must disagree. My computer was seized for 2 days for running a DC++ server on the campus network, and I did more homework for those 2 days than any other week in recent memory. I could have watched cable TV to make up for it, but the bulk of my wasted time was in surfing websites and playing video games. Watching TV while doing homework is mostly productive, but using a computer while doing homework (at least for Mechanical Engineering students) is extremely unproductive.
    • Re:Hormonal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:45PM (#12000210)
      Computer usage is pointless. They should have investigated what KIND of computer usage. For example, I would agree that if your computer usage is limited to surfing chat sites, bantering on AIM (with txt-speak, even) and downloading the latest Lincoln Park album, you're probably one of the kids who would score lower on tests - not because of computer usage, but because of your mentality.

      Likewise, if you learn to program, use reference sites for studying (or to find out more information on topics you broach in books, newspapers, conversations, etc) - then you're probably going to score well because of your mentality.

      Computer usage itself is not the problem. How the computer is used is not the problem either - but it's a great indicator of your problems.

      Hell, a decade ago, computers were not just some toy to hop on and chit-chat with while listening to the latest rap or pop song. While it was used for games, there was an enormous amount of learning, exploration and discovery going on. It was back before a time when everything was glossy, corporate and homogonized.

      It's a bit like food. Saying "food makes you obese" is stupid. There's nothing wrong with food or eating. But if you eat doritos and twinkies all the time, there's a problem. Likewise, someone who takes the time to prepare and serve quality food with good ingredients and a generally healthy intention is making good use of food. They have the right mindset.

      But hey, some people would rather blame "that evil computer!" than "my stupid kid!".
    • Re:Hormonal (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 )

      I don't think you can make a case against students learning to use computers now, as opposed to waiting until they are over 40 and trying to find the Any Key.

      Sure, students should learn how to use computers. That doesn't mean they should be in every classroom, or should be used in a pathetic attempt to replace teachers. Learning how to use a word processor and a web browser is maybe two weeks of instruction in middle school, not a major educational investment.

      Computers will no more be the magic bullet

  • zerg (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Omlette ( 124579 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:18PM (#11999769) Homepage
    Which 20 years are Hemos referring to? It was my understanding that all recent "productivity" gains are from laying off large numbers of people and telling the survivors to "kick it up a notch or get the f out"...
    • Re:zerg (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rich0 ( 548339 )
      Seriously though, I question studies which show no benefits from computers.

      Usually they simply state that companies aren't making any more money now than they used to be, and so productivity hasn't imporved. The two aren't directly connected, however.

      What happened is that everybody automated, and so everybody's costs dropped, and so everybody lowered prices to compete. Everybody makes the same money, but a tax accountant today costs the same or less in 2005 dollars as they cost back in the 70's using 19
  • What Matters (Score:3, Insightful)

    by superpulpsicle ( 533373 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:18PM (#11999771)
    What matters is how well you do in life, not in school. Without a computer or computer skills, it's hard to get high end jobs in any industry. A student can get more As without a computer, but they'd be knee deep in shit when they see it everywhere.

    • Re:What Matters (Score:5, Informative)

      by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:26PM (#11999902) Journal
      Didn't read the article, did you. Their report also noted that being able to use a computer at work - one of the justifications for devoting so much teaching time to ICT (information and communications technology) - had no greater impact on employability or wage levels than being able to use a telephone or a pencil. So no, your post has been proven wrong. But thanks for playing.
      • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:50PM (#12000284)
        ... than right here.

        What Matters (Score:5, Insightful)
        The guy didn't read the article, yet felt qualified to comment on it anyway. Other people who didn't read the article found his comments "insightful" despite the fact that they contradicted the findings of the article.

        Re:What Matters (Score:3, Informative)
        You did read the article and quoted part of it, yet your rating isn't as high as the guy's who skipped the reading.

        Welcome to Real Life. It's just like this in the work force which is why the article makes so much sense.

        It isn't what you know. It isn't what other people know. It's how well you can re-state their pre-existing opinions to impress them. It's all about what other people (who didn't do the reading) BELIEVE you know.
    • Re:What Matters (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SilentStrike ( 547628 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:39PM (#12000126) Homepage
      First, let me say that I am a big fan of computing. I run a student linux user group, I am a computer science major, and computers will be an integral part of livelihood when I am working as a software engineer after I graduate in a few months. Still, I think computers are a big crutch. Consider finding the sum of the first 100 positive integers. It's extremely easy for me to grab a linux machine and type

      rob:~$ python
      Python 2.3.4 (#2, Dec 3 2004, 13:53:17)
      [GCC 3.3.5 (Debian 1:3.3.5-2)] on linux2
      Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
      >>> sum(range(101))

      And if knowing the sum of the first 100 naturals was all that I ever needed, the computer would be extremely useful. On the other hand, if I had no computer, I would probably be forced to think of something clever, like Gauss, and actually learn something. The insight I derived from the thinking is much more valuable than the answer itself. I think the problem with computers is that they are a crutch as much as they are a tool.

      I'd personally much rather hire someone who got in A in calculus without using a calculator rather than one who did it with a TI-89.
  • Parents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:18PM (#11999772)
    Parents need to be comfortable with computers to be able to understand HOW to get kids to get full use out of a computer. Thus I would expect the current generation of kids to be one of the first to be able to improve their education through the PC.

    Though of course, parents will also be using it as a surrogate TV.
  • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:19PM (#11999784) Journal
    Kids that use calculators most of the time are less likely to be able to do simple mathematics in their heads, or even with pen and paper. Kids that use spelling checkers to verify their work are less likely to know themselves how words should properly be spelt simply because they don't learn from their mistakes.

    How the hell is any of this news to anyone?
  • by utexaspunk ( 527541 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:19PM (#11999788)
    are the problem. most of the time the kids know more about the computer than the teachers do. and the teachers don't have any idea how to use the computer to teach. perhaps now that so many programmers are out of work some of them will end up teaching and will make some decent educational software. (not holding my breath)
  • I still think parents should be involved in helping with homework. Distrations are TV, Computers, Playstation, etc. If parents spent some time with their kids to get their homework done (not do it for them), it's quality time for kids, and their homework gets done. Then they can do their computers and video games.
  • use them properly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pe1rxq ( 141710 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:20PM (#11999800) Homepage Journal
    Often computers are just thrown into a classroom expected to do miracles on their own....
    Add to that teachers that know less about them than the students and you get a nice mess....

    Computers can do wonderfull things but you have to use them right, they should only be used to add something usefull like better representations.
    They should be used to teach things USING computers not just to teach 'computer'.

    • Re:use them properly (Score:4, Informative)

      by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:49PM (#12000263)

      I teach in the school of ed at a university, classes meant to help future teachers understand the proper way of using tech to teach something else. Even by the end of the semester, after lectures, assignments, expert models, and micro-teaching with feedback, some of them still don't get it.

      I find the ones who understand us quickly are the science teachers. The English teachers are usually second to get it, followed by history, dance, and everyone else. The interesting thing is that this trend seems to be independent of the time we spend, and the resources that are available in each field. Science does have tools like Logger Pro, but we cover video editing for the dance people, and they just don't see its usefullness.
    • Re:use them properly (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dunstan ( 97493 )

      Often computers are just thrown into a classroom expected to do miracles on their own....
      Add to that teachers that know less about them than the students and you get a nice mess....

      But the authorities are under pressure to as much computer equipment into as many schools and classrooms as possible, so most of the money is spent on procurement rather than deployment.

      So the schools get no say in whether they want the money spent on computers or not: it is top-sliced from their budgets before it ever get

  • Well, duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:20PM (#11999806) Homepage
    Computers are the biggest time-suck ever created. At least with the TV on you can do homework at the same time.

    And let's not forget that when students do their homework on their computer, they're only copying and pasting stuff they found on the net. How is that learning?

    Computers are tools. They CAN be used for improving learning. But they rarely are.
  • Unfortunately, too many parents are too lazy, too buzy, have the wrong priorities, or think that "buying a computer" will make their kid smart.

    God forbid kids without computers might actually pick up a book and read it for fun.

    We've got a generation of adults who, once they're out of school, have lost the ability to read anything longer than a magazine article. It's not ADD - it's simple laziness on everyone's part.

    But that's okay, ply them with Ritalin while continuing to fight the "war on drugs". So what's next in our irresponsible, don't accept blame society - people suing computer/os suppliers because their computer made them "stupid"?

    • Schools take the joy out of reading, so of course kids don't pick up books much. That's not a computer problem at all. Want kids to read? Get them into it before the schools turn it into drudgery.

      As for the article, it's rather self contradictory. First

      "Once those influences were eliminated, the relationship between use of computers and performance in maths and literacy tests was reduced to zero"

      "The more access pupils had to computers at home, the lower they scored in tests, partly because they
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:21PM (#11999819)
    Clifford Stoll's 2000 book High Tech Heretic [] made a similar claim about the dangers of computers in basic education.

    (Stoll posts in ./ under his own name and aliases.)
    • Speaking as someone who has disphraxia and dyslexia , i have used computers since a very young age to communicate in a litterary form(my handwritting is totaly illegable and my spelling is dire) also i have used it for visual learning .
      The day it was discoverd when i was in primary 3( about 7 years old) I went from a D student to a straight A student, other students in my class also used computers to learn ( this is back in the mid 1980s) .Some of them tended to fool around and just did not get anything done , others like me , found it a great help .
      I have used them all my life and to me they were and still are invaluable , so i imagine its best to see this as a situation where you just have to have the right tool for the job .;) tell you one thing though , i dont know a single CS student who would be better off without a computer though(except for some things)
  • by cyngus ( 753668 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:21PM (#11999823)
    Computers are a tool. Too many educators have and continue to view the computer as some sort of magic bullet. Some educators seem to think if they just get a bunch of computers the kids will learn better. I imagine this conception is because kids like using computers, but this doesn't necessarily mean they're paying any more attention to absorbing information from it than they were from the teacher. There are also lots of studies where computers have been shown to increase test scores. For example, at an elementary school where I worked, we employed a reading program that used computerized testing. Reading ability and comprehension improved markedly. Computers can making teaching more effective, but they can't make it just happen, that's what teachers are for.

    • "Computers can making teaching more effective, but they can't make it just happen, that's what teachers are for."

      Exactly! Wish I could mod you up. Sounds more like an issue of what those kids are actually doing with the computers and for how long.

      Sure, if they're planted in front of them like an interactive TV to "keep Bobby busy", you're likely to end up with a script-kiddie Spud who doesn't realize "HotBlonD69" is a 50-year old dude with a beer gut.

      But pick the right programs appropriate for the

  • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:22PM (#11999834) Homepage Journal
    then Here are a bunch of other things that have been tied to lower test scores []

    If anything, its a problem with education not competiting enough with other distractions.
  • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:22PM (#11999846)
    First you have to convince me that PCs have improved the productivity of the American business/office. The evidence on that one is at best inconclusive. (in your analysis don't forget to factor in the hordes of PC support techs who did not exist as late as 1992 in most businesses).

  • by MC68000 ( 825546 ) <.brodskie. .at.> on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:22PM (#11999847)
    Computers cost quite a lot of money. Furthermore, in the US, the federal program that provides low income schools with computers is notoriously inefficient and corrupt. Such money can be spent on other things.

    I know of an inner city high school that had a crumbling building but was equipped with an ultramodern computer lab (we all know that it takes a 3 Ghz Pentium 4 with 1024 MB ram to do high school research) and a $100,000 3D printer. It's just sad how beauracracy manages to waste our money.
  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:23PM (#11999854) Journal
    Having been to a highschool that just got "computers in the classroom" kick while I was there, I've seen what it did to the teaching style.

    The whole thing quickly turned into a babysitting device. "Do the math exercises the computer tells you to do while I grade your homework. When you're done, just sit quietly and keep yourself amused." Needless to say the plan lasted about a year before remarkably level-headed people sorted things out and things went back to normal (more-or-less).
  • by nasor ( 690345 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:23PM (#11999860)
    I have several close family members who teach in middle and elementary school, and they've been saying this for years. Their main complaint about computers in the classroom is that educational software seems far more concerned with making learning fun than with making effective use of a student's limited time in the classroom. Of course, computer learning programs are great for the lazy teachers - they can just dump their students in from of the computers and enjoy their coffee while the students "learn".
  • Oh yeah, well swimmers do it better in the water. Runners do it better in the woods.

    Oh wait. Never mind.
  • A computer is an ends to a mean, if you know how to use the internet (Google, Wikipedia and whatever your poison of choice is news wise), you can find out MUCH more than most books will tell you (most have a stand point and never tell you the opposit stand point).

    So no, a computer doesn't mean you worse off, using it to play minesweeper or talk on an instant messenger program as you work does.
  • by Taladar ( 717494 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:25PM (#11999890)
    I guess they compared students using almost exclusively computers to students using books when both have the same budget or something like that. In that situation computers are bad. There are much less learning programs out there than books and you can't get good grammar by reading online-english. You won't get good results in math tests if students let their computer do the work for them. Computers are not meant as replacement for traditional forms of learning. They should be added as another alternative way to learn things where traditional learning has weak spots.

    I use a computer a lot but I also read a lot and I am perfectly capable of calculating without an electronic (or mechanical) calculator when it comes to basic arithmetic calculations (add, subtract, multiply, divide,...). Sadly that isn't true for everyone using computers today and I blame parents and the education system for that. We even have students at our Computer Science course at the University unable to calculate simply things like 2 to the power of 3. I don't think this is the result of computer use but the result of a lack of other forms of learning in addition to computer use.
  • by ssk77077 ( 855702 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:26PM (#11999903) Homepage
    It's that infernal rock and roll music that's ruining our childern
  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:27PM (#11999919)

    ...computers don't belong everywhere.

    Education is one of the places where computers don't really belong. A computer cannot answer questions, tell memorable stories that make information stick in your head, or deal with the oddball questions that only a living flesh-and-blood teacher can field.

    Also, computers - by taking the drudgery out of your homework - leave you with less of an education. An example is Calculus. I learned calc with a pencil and a piece of paper. I had a simple calculator of the $5 kind. As a result, I have a better idea of what is going on than if I just simply plugged stuff into Student Maple. To put it another way, when I see an integral, I know about Riemann and know what I'm looking at.

    Bottom line - there is no shortcut to learning. If you take one, you're not learning.

    • Education is one of the places where computers don't really belong. A computer cannot answer questions, tell memorable stories that make information stick in your head, or deal with the oddball questions that only a living flesh-and-blood teacher can field.

      I really have to disagree. Computers can bring a new dimension to teaching. As an example, while teaching about volcanoes a short clip of a volcano erupting could be a great addition. Sure you could always do this before with an old-style projector a
    • by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:15PM (#12000717)
      Absolutely wrong.

      Computers are certainly a valuable tool for instruction.

      What they are not is a complete replacement.

      There are certain kinds for learning for which a computer is very well optimized, and I'm not just talking about entertainment. A well written, computerized flash program could probably teach you vocab far quicker than a human instructor. The computer can keep track of your accuracy and even response time for each item, figuring out your weak points and concentrating on those. And it can do this equally well whether you have 5 classmates or 500. No teacher can match this feat.

      The problem is that we are in the backlash of the education dotcom bubble. Just as with the business dotcom bubble, we're now looking at the ideas seriously and sorting out what works from what doesn't. It will take time as the correct tools and methods are identified. As with e-commerce, things will improve. Teachers won't be replaced, but their lives will be easier, and their students smarter.

      Computer generally offer win-win, it's just a bumpy road.

  • by TheKubrix ( 585297 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:27PM (#11999921) Homepage
    This is just like most bills that get passed to "protect our children", when its not the children that needed protecting or changes in their lives, its the PARENTS.

    To say that student is better off having NO computer is not only wrong, but incredibly stupid. Without good computer skills, college and real life is going to be an incredible struggle.

    No, the problem isn't the computer, its the parents who don't control the situation and their environment. Granted, if a student with a computer has broadband with not restrictions, and addictive games like WoW, then yes, its going to be very detrimental to their education, but is it the computer's fault? No. Parents need to educate themselves and know/understand how to limit computer usage.

    Its sad, but most children/teenagers see computers as nothing more than a toy, or a way to get "free music and movies". Don't blame computers or children, its obviously the parents.
  • Time on task (Score:3, Insightful)

    by elflet ( 570757 ) * <elflet&nextquestion,net> on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:28PM (#11999936)
    Quite a few studies have looked for the "magic bullet" that helps students learn, and only one thing has emerged reliably -- time on task. Yup, the more time you spend working with the material (read: doing homework, working in class, etc.), the better you do academically. The correlation is extremely clear

    If you have that emphasis, using computers in the classroom [] has a positive impact. If you just use computers for the sake of using them (or they distract students away, as in the article), they have a negative impact.

    The other place where computers fall down in the classroom is that quite a bit of learning is a social activity, and some of the best teaching moments come from students teaching each other. But, if you put one student at each computer, you've just lost that opportunity. If you put multiple students at a computer, they're all focusing on the computer (and one is probably hogging the keyboard), so you lose that interaction that is so valuable.

    The best use so far has been in science curricula where a simulation can replace access to expensive equipment or let students do what would otherwise be a dangerous experiment. But, for basic skills such as reading and math, computers are simply a distraction.

  • by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:31PM (#11999986) Journal
    Another factor is that alot of kids today don't care to learn. They never will because they have it "handed to them on a plate". All we hear is "college will get you a great job! Theres more jobs then ever!". Maybe these kids are taking it to heart and just not caring to learn?
  • by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <> on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:32PM (#12000007)
    Parenting. Which do you think is more likely?

    A. Computers automatically have some sort of drain on student grades because children are compelled to waste time on them no matter what.

    B. Parents do not bother to properly monitor the time their children spend on the computer, even when it is at the expense of the childs educational responsibilities (homework, projects, etc).

    Duh. I guarentee you this same report could have been released in 1990 with the advent of home game consoles, 1960 with the advent of television, or in 1930 with the advent of radio. If you're a good parent, you make sure your child does their homework before they get any TV/game/computer time, you're child continues to get good grades and test scores, despite the presence of those "evil" computers in your house.
    • by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:04PM (#12000523)
      Even better - I have a 3-yr-old, and we already keep his computer time down. (It's scary how good he is a Need for Speed.) With another one on they way, I've started look ing for ideas on how to handle multiple kids on the computer, especially when they get older.

      The best solution was my sister's (she has four kids): No one, including parents, get to use the computer, or watch the TV until everyone's homework is done. It's amazing to see her 14-yr-old helping her 12-yr-old with her math because the older one wants to get in some gaming.
  • Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jakhel ( 808204 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:33PM (#12000014)
    You don't really need research to figure this one out. Have you seen some of the articles, blogs, etc. on the net recently? It's almost as if people care more about expressing phonetical when writing more than gramatical accuracy and correct spelling. That's one of the main reasons the SAT has been changed in the States. Kids graduate from High School and can't write for shit. If you want an easy part time job, I would suggest becoming a tutor for college remedial english classes.

    While I was in college, my sister was (and still is) a high school ballet teacher. She would bring home students' papers to grade over thanksgiving breaks. I would, occasionally, glance at some of the papers and be shocked at the terrible grammar and spelling. I swear it looked like an IRC chat log at times. It seems as though alot of kids don't realize that there is a difference between the way you speak to people (dialogue) and the way you write papers.

    I also remember, here in the states, when our teachers would groan everytime we begged them to use calculators on math tests. They said "you'll learn more without them". They were right. Doing simple to mid level arithmetic in your head keeps your mind sharp.

    On another note, look at the expression on the little girl's face who is sitting in front of the computer. Is that not classic a classic goatse reaction or what?
  • by eberry ( 84517 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:33PM (#12000022)
    In college we had a web-based program called Blackboard. Where teachers could put notes, the students could converse, etc. This made a great addition to class room learning. It's too bad only a few professors actually used it. And when I asked about it, most never even heard of it.

    Can we at least teach these people how to use the technology before we begin to blame it?
  • So they're bad a wrote memorization? Can we test them on understanding HOW to find things and HOW to categorize them? (Things that, presumably, they'd learn in a computer based environment.)

    Students were once taught how to use a slide rule too, we don't seem to be lamenting the loss of that skill now.
  • by pocari ( 32456 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:35PM (#12000053)
    At no point in the development of the PC did anyone ask, how does the human mind work? Certainly nobody ever asked, how do children learn and what forms of technology would best assist this? Now there is good research that shows that even teenagers' brains work differently than adults' brains, as if that's news to any adult who remembers being a teenager.

    So it's even worse than the 20 years it took for computers to be productive in the office. Not nearly enough R&D has gone into addressing the problem technology is supposed to solve, which is getting kids to learn academic subjects. There is no reason to think that a PC evolved to help already educated adult office workers is appropriate for students learning math in the first place.

    Sure, I learned typing in high school, and there's nothing wrong with learning computer basics while computers remain so difficult to figure out. But that doesn't count as an academic subject any more than driver's ed.

    Graphing calculators, on the other hand, have evolved with the input of math teachers and have been geared to the math curriculum, and designed with students in mind from the start. Just as graphing calculators would be sort of out of place in an English class, why do we think a PC should be appropriate across the board?

    I can't imagine writing as much as I write nowadays without a computer and word processors and Emacs. But I can't work backward from there and say that means that I would have learned to write any better if everything was done on a computer.

  • PowerPoint (Score:5, Insightful)

    by psyklopz ( 412711 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @12:36PM (#12000073)
    Probably the worst thing ever adopted by the education system, IMHO, is PowerPoint.

    I don't know about you, but the moment a prof puts up a 'slideshow' and just reads it for the next hour, all education benefits go down the tubes.

    I am more a fan of writing information out on the board. This forces the intstructor to explain themselves while they are writing. I think writing slows them down enough on a particular subject to allow their brains to think about all the extras they wanted to get across to the students.
    • Re:PowerPoint (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cot ( 87677 )
      I've had bad teachers, before the days of power point, who would just copy notes verbatim onto the board, then get all confused trying to read their own notes, and give you a wholly disjointed and useless lecture.

      Microsoft hasn't invented the bad teacher. Hell, at least they can click next and keep moving, even if they don't explain or even understand the material. That's better than some profs I've had!

      I will say that most excellent teachers I've known used powerpoint sparingly at most. They were alwa
    • Re:PowerPoint (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MojoRilla ( 591502 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:11PM (#12000643)
      Probably the worst thing ever adopted by the education system, IMHO, is PowerPoint.

      I disagree. PowerPoint is a tool, like any other. It can be used to create great presentations or it can be used to create terrible presentations.

      I did a class in the late 1990'ies explaining internet ad and page statistics. I included pictures of an NBA game, to explain that counting pageviews was like counting basketball stats, and users were like players (each one has a unique numbers). Not only was this funny, but it made understanding the material easier.

      It all depends on how you use PowerPoint.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:02PM (#12000487) Homepage
    Worth noting that it took almost 20 years for PCs in the corporate environment to actually have a positive impact on productivity; might the same be true in education?

    Man, you really can't have been paying much attention. It might not look this way, but tons of productivity enhancements have happened. Entire classes of the workforce that used to do nothing but manage paper have been eliminated. It might not be a competitive advantage (I remember there was a controversial book on that), but you definately have to keep up with the Joneses.

    The reason education hasn't really worked out the same way is that one of the things computers do best is divisioning and reducing work. The average employee isn't doing things that are that much more complex than before, but the company does. If you buy a burger at McDonalds, their numbers are updated all the way up in an instant. People used to spend lots of time gathering numbers and adding them up. It's primary school algebra, but it took time.

    When it comes to learning, the only real measure is how much you've improved yourself. If I get asked to write a book report, I can find one online in no time, but what have I learned? You can only go that far by being an information chameleon, able to find and present the thoughts of others as your own. When you finally get asked to do things which hasn't been done before, you're SOL.

    Everything you learn in class has been done before, probably by someone smarter than you. But if we all were doing that, there'd be no progress. Only rehashes of the same time and time again. And the same lack of logic and reason also makes you a sucker for biased information, wrong information, religious indoctrination, scam artists, groupthink, racism, overall a push-over for anyone with an agenda.

    The world doesn't need people to be human text-to-speech translators. We've got computers to do that.

  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:08PM (#12000592)
    since sliced bread in schools? When I was growing up I was one of the first in the class with a computer at home, an IBM XT clone. We did start learning how to use APPLE IIe's in school I think in Kindergarten if not at least starting in the first grade, but mainly math and reading games eventually progressing to LOGO writer.

    This was all good an such, however there have been two things that have universally suffered: penmenship and spelling. I started typing reports and such at an early age and used it on everything but one report in the fifth grade which was mandated had to be hand written. Now my handwriting's been crap since day one, but I used to be able to spell worth a crap. Now I spell better in my second language (german) than I do in english primarily because I've been using spell check since MS Works 1.0 and anymore so long as I get close, office will automatically change the word.

    I am sure that looking up information online has come in handy, but I can remember a couple years ago professors not allowing more than 1 internet resource per paper. And it was a good thing. Some went a step further and would allow no more than 2 electronic resources, which I found annoying because I often used Lexis-Nexis and EBSCOhost to find articles and frankly is there a difference if the New York Times article I found was on paper or electronic format if it says the same thing? Most of the students would grumble about having to actually go to the library and look up magazine articles or perodicals.

    Frankly I think computers, and the Internet, has only fed the "I want it now" culture. If people now can't find the answer within the first page of Google, many are too lazy to dig deeper.

    When it comes to computers in the classrooms, maybe we should hold off. Instead of having a shiny toy on every desk, anyone think we might should ensure that kids can actually read a book, spell, and do math without needing a machine to do it for them?

  • by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:10PM (#12000634) Homepage Journal
    This is about as stupid as the folks who are claiming that TV causes ADD []. It all comes down to how the computer is used by the student. If it's used to watch streaming media, listen to internet radio, IM all their friends and play the latest cool games, then yeah... I would ave to say it won't do much to help these kids academically. However, if it's used as a reference tool for the student to look up information online which they then have to vet against print references at their local library... Or, if they use it to write their papers, learn a programming language, or create original artwork/music, then I would have to say it probably increases their chances of being smarter.

    Get over it. The computer is not going to take a lazy kid and turn them into a genius. Only really attentive parents who actually spend time with their kids and teach them the correct way to use a computer deserve to have the kids with some chance of being a little smarter. The folks who want a "compuparent" or "videositter" deserve what they get.

  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:17PM (#12000760)
    ...this is about USING computers for CRAP.

    For every example you can give me of a kid who can't stay on task and get their standard work done because they are distracted by something other than real work, I can show you an example of students doing much better at some measure of success.

    Put a bunch of kids within reach of a playground, freely able to access it, and a pile of work and guess what...?

    This is why we organize what students do, in school (by teachers) and hopefully out of school (by parents).

    Of course if we don't, unintended results take over, as they clearly have.
  • by skintigh2 ( 456496 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:25PM (#12000873)
    Now, obviously you need computers to teach stuff like programming, but other than that I believe they are a HUGE waste of money.

    Cash-strapped schools blow hundred of thousands of dollars on computers, then have to hire multiple people to maintain them for hundreds of thousand more, then have to train the teachers probably also for hundreds of thousands more, all for what? So the time spent in creative writing class can be half writing and half finding a PC not infected with Michelangelo? And if the average school is anything like my HS was, you know ever single box has a DVD+/-RW, tape drive and optical ethernet that never get used but was sold to them by a now very happy salesman.

    And meanwhile the $35,000 salary for the music teacher is cut, and the art teacher, and there is no money for a can of paint or block of clay or roll of film. My school went from a Flag of Excelence school to a school with no arts/humanities and you had to pay to play sports. But we had COMPUTERS! LOTS OF EM! Burning eletricity 24/7.

    It is unbelievable how much my old school district spent on computers that were literally ONLY used to replace a pencil and paper in writing class, and maybe to teach a typing class. That and for games after hours, or during class. Programming was taught on a VAX system. Ok, I'm old. Maybe times have changed since then but I'd put money on it that it hasn't.
    • *Ding* we have a winner. You are right on. At least for primary (1-6) schools. When my daughter started her education in preschool, she went to a private school. She stayed there for 2 years until first grade. We left b/c the school was spending money on computers like a drunken sailor and then expected the PTA to pick up the slack for books and other "luxury" items. What a crock.

      In the public schools, we've been pretty happy with the level of access to computers - there's two in every classroom and
  • Business (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @01:44PM (#12001199)
    "Worth noting that it took almost 20 years for PCs in the corporate environment to actually have a positive impact on productivity; might the same be true in education?"

    The "productivity" gains in business are due to increased facility with less competence. This type of efficiency is a benefit for business, but I dare say it is not for education in general.
  • Context (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cgreuter ( 82182 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:03PM (#12001510)

    I notice that a lot of the discussion going on here is about whether or not computers help students learn. That's not really the point of the debate. Even the referenced article says (in passing) that having computers at home is a distraction. That puts it in exactly the same league as TV, radio or friends--it's just a matter of play time versus homework time.

    It's obvious that computers can be used to help students learn if used properly. That's also true of TV and pencils. Even the harshest critics of computers in education concede that one.

    The real questions is whether the advantages of putting computers in schools justify their cost. A previous study (funded by a bunch of hardware and software companies--no bias there) said that yes, it was. The study TFA talks about counters that by saying, basically, that the study fails to take into account the fact that schools with computers can usually also afford more books, teachers and special programs and it's those things that are making the students better.

    This whole computerization push is really good for politicians because it makes them look like they're doing something and it's really good for the hardware and software vendors because they can pocket a big chunk of the education budget. What it's bad for is the education system, because it diverts money that could be spent on useful things, and that's bad for all of us.

    So in conclusion: computers are good for education but only if they're free.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:21PM (#12001783)
    The topic of depth of information and the internet has been thought of before. When you interact with people, you get more than just information; you also get facial expressions, nuances, tone of voice, and actually quite a bit more information on the particular topic you're interested in. Additionally, learning when interacting with people imposes structure on the presentation of knowledge. When dealing with the web, it's random, poorly structured, and completely lacks any of the human element.

    The internet is a useful source of information, but those who use it as their exclusive resource don't get a rich experience that's good for learning efficiently or being creative.

    (I know about this stuff, because my wife just did a paper on it.)
  • by MagikSlinger ( 259969 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:24PM (#12001848) Homepage Journal
    I've never found grades any great indicator of how good someone is at their job. Why all this push for straight A students? The smartest people I ever met in University and work life did well (B's and such) but were never the elite, especially in fields they weren't interested in (English was usually C's).
  • by Capt. Dick Jackman ( 806898 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:46PM (#12002164)
    They only serve to distract students. Don't give me the crap about computer skills being useful for the workforce. If you don't know basic math, reading, and writing, you're a moron and no one needs to read whatever the hell you are typing up in Word or Powerpoint.

    The same thing goes on with textbooks. You don't need the 200th edition of the traditional subjects whose material hasn't changed at this level for 500 years. They load each textbook with distracting diversity crap about how some idiot halfway across the country uses math to distribute produce from their growing coop. Especially in the case of math texts. I use old school texts by the masters such as Gelfand, Spivak, Courant, etc. that are 30-100 years old and teach circles around today's math ed texts.

    The whole thing is a plundering of resources that began at the administrative level. (Who deserves a several hundred thousand dollar salary for being a school district superintendant?)

    Granted, there are problems with teachers and parents as well. Each of these groups of people need to get the kids to concentrate on learning and minimizing distractions. In addition, there needs to be increased discipline to get rid of people that don't want to be there and serve to be a distraction.

  • by phuturephunk ( 617641 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @02:49PM (#12002201)
    The more we substitute machines in for what we used top practice and do on our own, the duller our sense will become.

    In certain circumstances, computers can help, but overall, its not training the mind to do anything, just taking the workload off the mind so it atrophies.
  • by ziegast ( 168305 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @03:21PM (#12002587) Homepage
    When I was young (early 80s), I was poor enough that my single working mom couldn't afford to buy me a computer or video game console (Atari and Coleco were what the trendy kids had). I still had an interest and went to the libraries to read books on BASIC programming. My favorite book was some insider's guide to the Commodore 64 where they taught you Peeks and Pokes and interrupts. I could figure out all the things I could do with that computer other than just stick a cartridge in it to play a game. I had other friends with C64s, and used their computers at their house to try things, from moving graphics to playing with the sound chips. Their amazement was my geek pride. I once borrowed a Timex Sinclair from someone and entered some games from a library book. When I got to high school, they had original IBM PCs in a lab, and the back room had the "IBM Technical Reference Manual". Talk about open source! I could read the assembly code and comments for the IBM BIOS! I learned assembly without having an assembler to play with. After a summer working at a gift shop for $3.50 an hour, I earned $1500 and could buy my very own IBM PC. I upgraded the RAM to 640K for an additional $250, and bought Borland Turbo Pascal/C. I was elite! I could write anything! I made a simple CAD program for a high school project.

    Fast forward to college - they taught us an imaginary turing-complete Pascal-like language that no one practically used and made us do proofs and other tasks, mostly without the help of a computer. It wasn't fun, but it taught us to check our code. We'd read Knuth books, where most of the exercises were pseudo-code. We didn't just get on PCs and start coding.

    Not having a computer in front of me made me THINK more about what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. As I later started programming tasks, I found that aside from typos caught by the compiler, my code normally worked the first time.

    Moral: You don't need a computer to learn to be a coder.

    PS: For those older than me... yes, I've heard the horror stories about having to rerun punch card decks. I don't envy having to punch all of my cards before I had a chance to run my code.
  • by clickster ( 669168 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @04:12PM (#12003217)
    It all depends on the school board, administrators, and teachers. For example, they are great in libraries. But in the normal classroom environment, they are often jsut a distraction. Take my high school experience for example (1993-1997):

    My school had the highest student-computer ratio in our state, and made a big deal of that. They spent a ton of money puting together computer labs. But aside from typing reports, no one ever used them. So then they started MAKING teachers use them. For example, all foreign language classes were required to spend one day per week in the lab. What did we do? We played Tres en Raya. A damn Spanish grammar game. I learned nothing, NOTHING from that. But I managed to waste away 20% of my learning time. Other classes had similar rules. Computers are great tools when needed, but most of the time in schools, they're not needed. The problem comes when those who signed the purchase orders for the computers try to cram them down the faculty's throat in an attempt to justify their purchase. There simply aren't a lot of places that they come in handy in schools. A few of the places that they do are:

    1. Typing papers (for any class)
    2. Internet research (school-related, not porn)
    3. Advanced math classes (trig, calc, etc where you do a lot of complex graphing)
    4. Computer classes (obviously)
    5. Some science classes (interactive disection, etc)

    So, if properly used, and if only used when needed, computers can be beneficial. But when used improperly, they can definitely harm and education. I won't even get into the whole "let the students run the network" issue.
  • by chris_sawtell ( 10326 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:04PM (#12005447) Journal
    ... could be really useful educational tools.
    No message sent until the spelling is correct.

    That might just work to keep the half-witted perverts out of the kids' channels by making message reception subject to correct spelling.

    Who's going to get that out first? Slashdot? :-)

  • by johnrpenner ( 40054 ) on Monday March 21, 2005 @08:38PM (#12006457) Homepage

    who's going to do better - a kid using a calculator
    to give him the answer, or the kid doing sums with
    a pencil and paper? the point being, you don't need
    a computer to invent a computer. the more you do things
    manually, the more you are forced to develop your thinking.
    once you've learned it the hard way, then the benefits
    of automation become all the more apparent than the
    person that has never had to do the work under the hood.
    the same thing applies to programming - someone
    who knows how to compile their own kernal
    will have better insight into knowing things
    are behaving the way they are.

    there are many skills in the world,
    one of them is computer fluency,
    and because of the saturation in our environment
    of them, you can almost pick them up along the way
    for many things without ever having to explicitly
    take a 'computer' course in school, just like you
    can become taxi driver without ever having to
    become a mechinic.

    you want to live in the world before modelling it.
    before i see formal database entries for different kinds
    of fish and plants, i would think its better to experience
    these things first hand (if possible - are there frogs
    and milkweeds out in the creek beside the school -
    why should i use a CD-ROM about them first? --first
    i see the frogs, then i become curious, and i may even later
    do a web search about these things to find out their history
    and what other people have said. but simulation
    never replaces first-hand real-world experience.
    it amazes me last time i went to the museum
    that they had an actual dinosaur skeleton RIGHT THERE --
    first hand data from which everything is derived. and there
    was nobody actually LOOKING at it - they were all too busy
    watching a screen with a computer model of the artifact
    in question --i.e. information ABOUT the artifact,
    instead of studiously contemplating the actual thing itself.
    this seems very typical of learning these days.

    kids should run around, climb trees and play in the mud.
    its all very good for them. then later on when they're
    tired in the evening, settle donw and play a videogame,
    and when they're curious enough, then maybe they'll
    decide to go further, and try and learn how to programme
    one themselves. but running and playing is more
    important for kids then pointing and clicking.
    they're already going to have loads of computers
    in their life, but they're never going to have
    time to play and run and climb trees again
    like they do when they're young - let them. :D

    the secret to staying young
    in to never stop climbing trees.

    j [].

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky