Monday, November 22, 2004

Response to "The Computer Delusion" by Todd Oppenheimer

Where do I start?

This article takes what I consider to be the extremist view of technology (that technology will cure all ills with education) and proceeds to dissect it as though the view was worth the time. I understand somewhat where a reaction to all of the spending on technology might be warranted. I do understand that those outside of education may be more easily swayed to think along those lines. But most teachers, ones who are worth their salt, readily understand that no one tool is going to make the difference in education. It is the teacher that makes the difference. Any tool can be used in ways that was never intended and have a detrimental effect on the progress of children. Likewise, the same tools can be used in very effective ways and have a tremendous positive effect on the progress of children. The value of the tool is in the hands of the beholder.

I do not think, though, that it is helpful for discussion to take the opposite viewpoint. Why do educators tend to swing one way or the other? Why can't we see that balance is the key?

A statement in the article really stood out to me, ". . . computerized learning inevitably forces teachers to adjust their style - only sometimes for the better." I'm not exactly sure what was meant here by computerized learning but when teachers start to use technology as a tool for learning in their classroom teaching styles do tend to change. Any time a teacher brings into their "bag of tricks" a new tool, the teaching style changes to make way for the use of that tool. If that change doesn't occur, then the tool just gets dusty and it might as well not even be in the bag since all it is accomplishing is making the load heavier.

This article seems to be somewhat dated. It appears that it was written during the Clinton Presidency. Taking that into consideration I would guess that the attitudes presented by the author in the article might have softened somewhat over time. Technology is here to stay- in business and our personal lives. To not embrace the use of technology is akin to cutting off your own foot. But I agree with the notion that learning specific software/hardware is possibly a wrong approach. The technology my sixth grade students will end up using when they reach adulthood hasn't even been imagined.

So the question remains, how do we help our students understand that the importance is not in the tool itself but in the wise use of the tool?


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