From pencils to pixels, technologies won ’t fi x our schools
debaron at UIUC.EDU
Tue May 8 21:29:40 UTC 2007
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From pencils to pixels, technologies won’t fix our schools.
Schools that once saw laptop computers as the best thing to hit the
classroom since the invention of paper are starting to view laptops
as overpriced electronic pencils that can’t connect the educational
dots. According to the New York Times (“Seeing No Progress, Some
Schools Drop Laptops,” May 4, 2007), one school dropped its one-
laptop-per-student program after finding that, when they weren’t
crashing, computers didn’t raise students’ scores but instead offered
them new ways to cheat, download pornography, and hack into local
business sites. Other schools, finding little return on their
computer investment, are logging off as well. .... Earlier gee-whiz
technologies raised the same sorts of hopes and fears we see with
educational computing. Radio also promised to bring the world into
the classroom. In 1952, when I was in third grade, we listened to
educational radio once a week in class, but children used the hour to
daydream while the teacher worked at her desk. Film was going to
show us the educational world that radio couldn’t, but when the
lights went out and the projector flickered, students napped.
Television was the next agent of classroom change that changed
nothing. Of course radio, movies and TV remain vital for news and
entertainment, but so far as education is concerned, chalk and
pencils were just as effective, and a whole lot cheaper... Even the
now-all-but-extinct typewriter was going to boost learning. In the
1930s, two university researchers placed portable typewriters on
students’ desks in selected schools around the country and discovered
that typing all their schoolwork raised test scores by as much as
seven percent for children from kindergarten through sixth grade. ...
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