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Teachers Union: Computers Can Negatively Impact Children's Ability To Learn 310

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "A teacher's union in Northern Ireland is asserting that children spending too much time on computers are impairing their ability to learn. The asserted excessive computer use is being blamed for an inability to concentrate or socialize. As one teacher puts it, '... these gadgets are really destroying their ability to learn.'" This has been a topic of debate for as long as kids have had computers.
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Teachers Union: Computers Can Negatively Impact Children's Ability To Learn

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  • Really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by simonbp ( 412489 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @12:31AM (#47072177) Homepage

    And sitting in a boring classroom for hours on end enhances their ability to learn?

  • Re:Really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @12:40AM (#47072193)


    A good teacher beats babysitware any day.

    The trouble is that teachers have been trying to replace themselves for years. You know how many "teacher prep" periods the average US teacher gets now? The vast majority of teachers don't "prep" shit during thier several breaks of PE, music, art, computer lab, library time, and various feedings. In these time blocks, "paraprofessionals" (read: everyone caring for and teaching kids who get paid half as much) take over another chunk of the day and the teacher can chill out for some much needed "prep" time.

    Ask anyone who has done IT or technical work in a school district. Technology is the coolest buzzword for driving a pedagogy of student idea synthesis or somesuch fucking bullshit. The real deal is all the grant money is in tech, and teachers LOVE another break. So plug the kids in, and tune the teachers out.

    People learn best from people. Computers are tools. But the trend is to drop 30 kids off for some babysitware time.

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @12:52AM (#47072225)
    Schools do not know how to use computers for primary school students. They simply don't have the curriculum and they're unwilling to take general-purpose PCs and turn them into specific-purpose PCs that don't let one get off-task. They're also addicting and kids that aren't using PCs but see PCs in front of them are jonesing for their next fix.

    I grew up in the tail-end of the era of the Apple II in schools, and the beginning of the Macintoshes, before wide-spread TCP/IP networks and before Internet connectivity. The Apple II was well-suited to educational use, as the student could only run the program that they were given the disk for. They couldn't distract themselves from the educational goal. They had one program and one program only, so they could either use that program or do nothing. PCs running DOS had a similar situation, though that was usually more because of DOS being hard enough to use that if one exited the game one generally didn't know how to go about distracting one's self.

    Then the Macintosh and early Windows came around. Now they could do some other things in addition to the assigned program, but admittedly there weren't a whole lot of other things to do, so it was fairly easy to keep students on-task.

    Then the local area computer networks came about, and if a campus had multiple tasks on their computers, then the students could often figure out how to do those other tasks not for the curriculum for the current class, and suddenly it became that much hard to keep on-task. It became possible to share things with other kids without the teachers catching on, or possible to mess with other kids. Proto cyberbullying if you will.

    Then the Internet came along with the browser and general-purpose computers with hundreds of preloaded programs and at least tens of thousands available through the Internet, and now it's almost impossible to keep kids on-task. They can do anything, and with 9,999 wrong choices but only one right choice, that one right choice simply gets drowned out.

    Primary school kids need to learn how to read, write, perform basic mathematics, and to learn how to find information the old-fashioned way. They need to learn what an index is, and how information can be sorted and archived, and how to sort the information that they want to present. Learning these skills manually will teach them how these skills work when they can do them electronically or with some other form of automation. Technology as classroom aids in elementary grades needs to be limited to special-purpose machines, like things that help present curriculum, or help in classroom discussion to let the teacher or the students aid their point, or if they're used for things like testing to make grading easier, they need to be locked down so that they only do the function that they're called upon to do at that time.

    Once the kids get to secondary school, then start introducing the general-purpose machine. Let them learn how to use a productivity suite, or how to do research electronically, or how to use programs to aid in science education. At least at that point it's possible for the skill to actually still apply to the person's life once they reach adulthood where it might have to be applied.
  • by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @12:54AM (#47072239) Homepage

    What is really important here is:

    us /. nerds, being geeks who are almost always involved with computer technology of some sort, in capacities professional, hobbyist, or both, immediately become defensive and insulting toward anyone who talks about technological devices in a negative way.

    Never mind the claim, immediately condescend and attack anyone suggesting that electronic devices may not be the optimal solution for every situation!

    Bonus: the teacher's union angle! The few right-wing of us (which is me, actually) can immediately jump on that one too. These fucks don't care about kids! There's no way professional teachers know anything about teaching kids! Because they are a teacher's union, they must be speaking on behalf of the anti-ipad wing of the Kremlin!

    There is no way that parking a kid in front of a screen for several hours a day can have any ill affects, you socialist pinko union teacher!

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @12:55AM (#47072241)

    You know how many "teacher prep" periods the average US teacher gets now?

    Nope. I don't know. And based on your insinuation without cites or numbers, I don't think you know either. At my high school, the teachers had 0-1 prep periods.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @12:57AM (#47072245)

    And sitting in a boring classroom for hours on end enhances their ability to learn?

    That's a false dichotomy and you know it. There are lots of teachers that can manage a classroom to make it interesting to those kids that are willing to pay even the littlest bit of attention, and there are far too many teachers that have to rely on electronic babysitters just to maintain enough order in the room to keep their jobs.

    How about holding parents accountable when they don't provide an environment at home that's conducive to their kids doing well in school? Most of the problems start in the home, and punishing the schools because the kids aren't taught by their parents that they need school in order to do well in life doesn't make the situation any better for those kids. I guess it's too much to ask parents to turn off the television and actually talk with their kids or to check over their homework, or to read to them before they go to bed...

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:04AM (#47072273)

    Computers are the new primary conduit of communication and learning for this generation.


    The primary conduit for learning, especially in the younger grades, is being shown a skill, being shown the particulars of how that skill works, and then practicing that skill until it's mastered. You don't need computers to learn how to add or divide or to solve for a variable. You don't need computers to learn how to form sentences in language. You don't need computers to learn how to interact with the same people day in, day out in a fashion similar to how one will interact in the workplace once out of school. And you'll learn a lot more about the natural world by actually observing the natural world as opposed to just reading about it or conducting fake virtual experiments though a poorly written educational "simulator".

    Ironically the one place that computers would be perfect is in social studies. History doesn't really change, only interpretation of it does, and computers as a conduit to access databases of historical information are perfect and would allow for one to read about differing positions on the reasions for historical events.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lsllll ( 830002 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:07AM (#47072289)

    Ummm, let me guess. Yes? Sitting in boring classrooms got us to the moon and got us the computers we're sitting in front of, so I think we must have been doing something right.

    I am not saying that we got it all right before computers. Sitting in boring classrooms may not be the optimal use of time, but it sure beats wasting the same amount of hours sitting behind the computer. I am a computer programmer and I spend much of my time behind the computer, but had I been in school I would have thought it would be better to attend classes, whether they were boring or not. What TFA is saying is that children have lost the ability to concentrate and that multitasking and online social media has robbed the kids of their ability to relate to their peers in the real world. I have raised two kids and always attempted to curb their use of computers, not harshly, but sensibly. In addition, they were not allowed to have televisions, game consoles and computers in their bedrooms. This was all an attempt to get them to spend time on the first floor with their parents or with their friends around the neighborhood. I am fairly certain that now that they're in college and looking at their peers, they appreciate the way they were raised.

    A part of life is actually learning to deal with the boring parts, since there are many instances in our lives that are spent doing things we really don't want to do. Calming down, taking a sip of coffee while looking outside the window and admiring the bird, passers by, and the clouds, is something today's kids do NOT understand.

  • Re:BASICally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lsllll ( 830002 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:11AM (#47072303)

    If computers actually impeded the ability to learn, I'd still be coding in BASIC.

    I hear you, but sitting behind the computer and doing Facebook and Trackmania is not the same as peeking and poking your Apple II in BASIC.

  • Re:BASICally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:15AM (#47072321) Journal

    This sounds like round 36 of "kids today and their rock-and-roll music." Teachers indulging in future-shock is just plain trite.

    I'd like to direct you to the following quote:

    "That a century of the younger men wished to confer with their elders on the question to which persons they should, by their vote, entrust a high command, should seem to us scarcely credible. This is due to the cheapened and diminished authority even of parents over their children in our day." - Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 26

    This was the earliest, but by far not the only example of "kids today and their rock-and-roll music", as you put it. Examples exist throughout the last century, especially around the turn of 1900, where long and boring essays were published on the subject. However, the above excert is from Livy's History of Rome, written around 25BC. So when you say it's trite, that's a bit of an understatement. 2000+ years we've been listening to this shit.

  • Re:Really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:20AM (#47072341) Journal

    I guess it's too much to ask parents to turn off the television and actually talk with their kids or to check over their homework, or to read to them before they go to bed...

    You're making assumptions about a family's situation that suggests a rather limited understanding of the world around you.
    So yes, it might be too much for a parent if they just worked two shifts and then spent an hour on the bus to get home.

    I mean shucks, everyone could have a beautiful nuclear family just like the 1950s, if a single blue collar salary could support a family of 4, like it did in the 1950s.

  • Re:Really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:21AM (#47072343)

    Sounds like someone works in IT, has a super cushy job -- but is too god damn entitled to realize how easy they have it.

    Or, you're a simpleton who has no idea what he's talking about. Hard to say.

  • Re:BASICally (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:24AM (#47072361)

    If the kids have trouble paying attention to something that isn't exciting, then, for the love of all that is good, be more engaging. The only way to stop boring people is to stop being boring.

    Just asked my 9 year old and he disagrees. Maths is boring. It just is, doesn't matter how it is taught. Maths is just boring.

    And English is boring too. Terraria, on the other hand, is fun.

    "I like Terraria, because it's the only thing I'm good at."

    Science, by the was, is boring. In case you didn't know. Playing with a ball, walking or even going outside is boring too.

    And when make him walk away from the PC or take the damn iPad off the kid, I'm boring too.

    "You said no computer. The iPad isn't a computer ... What the heck am I supposed to do if I'm not even allowed to play on the iPad?!!! Wahhhh."
    "Why don't you read a book?"
    "I HATE reading ... reading is BORING!!!! Wahhhh."

  • Re:BASICally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:37AM (#47072395) Homepage

    If I can direct you to this reference []. Are computers causing education problems, very bloody likely as computer geeks and nerds, a minority, are the only ones that really effectively thrive on that interaction and in that environment. For the rest, they very likely are not exploring that computer educational environment but doing the very same dopey social interactions over and over and over again, like wired up monkeys getting a jolt from a joy buzzer each time they get another like or make a 'friend' or what ever other socially manipulative interaction designed by some shit head doctorates in psychology, working for social network companies, to keep their victims seeing and clicking adds.

    All the older geeks and nerds should fully appreciate by now that computers on their own are not the best educational environment for the majority and that their use needs to be limited and properly implemented and logically adjusted to suit the psychology and personality as well as of course existing measured outcomes of each student.

    Stop thinking only about what works for you and demanding that everyone else aligns with you and start focusing about what works for each individual and how computers can be used to tailor the educational environment for each student and ensure human social interaction still remains dominant, we are humans after all not machines. Computers should augment the education of the majority not dominate. For us computer geeks and nerds, the story would be different, leave us in the computer lab with the other geeks and nerds and we'll be happy and thrive.

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:52AM (#47072431)
    The difference between all distractions before the Internet and the Internet-connected computer is that for the first time, one has absolutely limitless possibilities for getting distracted without end. The TV show ends and the credits roll. The comic book runs out of pages. The dancer gets tired and the dance hall closes.

    The limitless possibilities are addicting. It's almost impossible to stop. Hell, I'm a grown man with a good job and here I am arguing on the Internet in the middle of the night, I've got the defenses to fight this to a greater extent and I even struggle with it.
  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chrisje ( 471362 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @01:59AM (#47072453)

    You, as an individual, are not statistically relevant, even if what you describe is the actual truth. I say that last bit because infants, as soon as they are born, start sucking up language from their parents / caretakers, and I cannot really imagine you growing up in a total vacuum.

    I do tend to agree most people learn best from people, because of the simple reason that there is so much evidence all around us that supports that claim. It is wired into us to mimic and learn from the people in our environment.

  • Re:Really? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:22AM (#47072509)
    There's this thing, it's called Autism.

    It is NOT statistically irrelevant.


    posting anon because fragile minded mod-bombers sunk my battleship.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:31AM (#47072525)

    A "prep" is a period during the day where you grade/phone parents/work on individual education plans for sped students/make new assignments/grade/grade/grade/do endless paperwork for the district/&c. That stuff doesn't just do itself. And damn the teachers for wanting to get that stuff done during their work day and not all night long, amirite?

    You show an astonishing lack of knowledge about teaching. This would be analagous to "what is this debug time? You are a computer programmer. You have a degree. You should be able to type it once, and run the program."

    Don't degrade the people who really do work their asses of to try to teach kids.

    Parapros do a lot of great stuff. But they do get paid half as much for a reason. Professional development, building curriculum, pedagogical training, etc.

  • Re:BASICally (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:50AM (#47072575)

    No. The solution is the take the kids who are internally motivated and place them in a separate class where they can explore subjects to their full potential, instead of dumbing them down with games.

    You're right about the "no" part, but it's to your bullshit response not his.

    Your whole argument is flawed because you've made a single assumption, and that is that kids are bored because they're more advanced. They're not - kids can be bored for many reasons, so shut up and stop being a dick.

    You're not this great big brain just because you assume you are.

  • Used as a Crutch (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alzoron ( 210577 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:25AM (#47072655) Journal

    Computers aren't the problem. The problem is buying a bunch of computers and thinking your job is done. Before computers we didn't just throw a bunch of kids in a room with text books and lab equipment and expect them to emerge 6 months later with a deep understanding of Biology. Why do we essentially do that with computers and expect any meaningful result?

  • Re:BASICally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Geirzinho ( 1068316 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @04:53AM (#47072857)

    Around 400BC Socrates quipped:
    Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.

    And I think we have found some cuneiform tablets from Sumer with exasperated teacher comments way older than that:)

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @07:28AM (#47073173)

    There's this thing, it's called Autism.

    It is NOT statistically irrelevant.

    It is when you're talking about generalised teaching methods. You don't change the method of teaching 100 students because one of them has a problem with it, you put that 1 student in a special needs program. Now when Autism starts affecting 25% of the population then you talk about statistically relevant to a discussion on generalised teaching.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @09:17AM (#47073661) Homepage

    My wife is a teacher (well, was before our second son was born and she stayed home because daycare for our son would have cost more than her salary). She refers to this lack of bathroom breaks as "teacher bladder." Among other "fun" things that teachers need to deal with are after-hours work (grading papers after the kids go home, prepping the classroom before the kids arrive) and even working during vacation time (summer vacation = time spent prepping for next year's class). People have this misconception that teachers have an "easy" job, get summers off, etc. They don't. Some might phone it in, but that's pretty much true of any profession. The good teachers out there work their rears off for very little pay, very little gratitude, and lots of stress. All in an effort to spark a love of learning in their students. If the world was a fair place salary-wise, sports stars would work for $20,000 a year and teachers would get multi-million dollar contracts.

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