Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Computers Can't Replace Good Teachers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Computers Can't Replace Good Teachers

Article excerpt

Remember filmstrips? I used to look forward to Wednesday afternoons when our fifth-grade teacher would dim the lights, pull down the screen and advance the projector to an electronic beep.

All the pupils loved filmstrips. For the next hour, we didn't have to think. Teachers liked them too. With arms folded in the back of the class, they didn't have to teach. The principal approved. Filmstrips proved that Public School 61 in Buffalo was at the cutting edge of educational technology. Parents demanded filmstrips, the modern, multimedia way to bring the latest information into the classroom.wo But no learning took place.

h Name three filmstrips that had a lasting effect on your life. Now name three teachers who did.

Yesterday's filmstrip has morphed into today's school computer. Promoted as a solution to the crisis in the classroom, computers have been welcomed uncritically across the educational spectrum - so uncritically that, astonishingly, school libraries, art studios and music rooms are being replaced by computer labs. iswt Yet the value of these expensive gizmos to the classroom is unproved and rests on dubious assumptions.

What's most important in a classroom? A good teacher interacting with motivated students. Anything that separates them - such as filmstrips, multimedia displays, e-mail, TV sets, interactive computers - is of questionable education value.

Yes, kids love these high-tech devices and play happily with them for hours. But just because children do something willingly doesn't mean that it engages their minds. Indeed, most software for children turns lessons into games.

The popular arithmetic program "Math Blaster" simulates an arcade shoot-em-down, complete with enemy flying saucers. Such instant gratification keeps the kids clicking icons while discouraging any sense of studiousness or sustained mental effort.

Plop a kid down before such a program, and the message is, "You have to learn the math tables, so play with this computer." Teach the same lesson with flash cards and a different message comes through: "You're important to me and this subject is so useful that I'll spend an hour teaching you arithmetic."

Computers promise short cuts to higher grades and painless learning. Today's edutainment software comes shrink-wrapped in the magic mantra: "Makes learning fun."

Equating learning with fun says that if you don't enjoy yourself, you're not learning. I disagree. Most learning isn't fun. Learning takes work. Discipline. Responsibility. You have to do your homework. Commitment, from both teacher and student. There's no short cut to a quality education.Aao

Anyway, what good are these glitzy gadgets to a child who can't pay attention in class, won't read more than a paragraph and is unable to write analytically?

Still, isn't it great that the Internet brings the latest events into classrooms? …

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