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DT: come reap

RantRantRant

Posted on 2003.06.12 at 09:29
How I feel about it all: crankycranky
Soundtrack: NPR - Weekend Edition
[rant] Weekend Edition this morning has a story on a program which would give a laptop to every sixth-grade student in Michigan public schools. There's a part of a story that mentions how one teacher doesn't write her lessons on the board, she types them on her Palm Pilot and then beams them to several students who are also holding Palm Pilots, who in turn share the lessons with others.

I'm not denying that computers in the classroom can be a powerful teaching tool if used properly. I also think they can be abused, becoming a crutch for teachers who either don't know how or simply don't want to teach their classes--plug in a program, sit back, relax.

However, that's not my complaint about this Palm Pilot thing. I wonder, if classes like this one become the norm, if students will lose out. Not by lower test scores; studies seem to show that computers enhance test scored in many cases. No, these kids could suffer by actually losing the ability to write. If all you have to do is type on a keyboard or point with a stylus, where's the need to use a pen or pencil? I think it takes away from the teacher-student relationship, as well. With this kind of learning, everybody could stay at home and do their lessons online. It's the high-tech equivalent of phoning it in.

It seems that the laptop for every child program is suffering from lack of funding in Michigan, causing much woe and angst among the populace. Here's a solution; why not take some of this money, and instead of buying all this technology, use it for field trips to a marshland or a forest? Who needs a computer program about how an ecosystem works when you've got your hands wrist-deep in one?

Why not take a tour of the State House, whatever state you live in? In-your=face learning about our political system in action, right? How about a trip to Washington, DC when Congress/the Supreme Court is in session? How about performing/watching Shakespeare instead of just reading it? Want to learn about poverty for Social Studies? Take the kids and work in a soup kitchen. Math? Real Textbooks. Remember them? US History? Hmm. Museums are all over the place. How about learning to bake bread? What about, if instead of staring at a monitor most of the day, the students learn to build a computer? To teach the importance of books, maybe the kids could make one of their own? (My older son actually did this in second grade; it was v. cool).

Computers are wonderful things. They've enhanced life in countless, wonderful ways. They've helped in innovation, creativity, art, science, medicine forensics. They can be aids to kids who can't use pen and paper. But. They also have downsides, one of the biggest being the atrophy of skills that have been basic to humans for thousands of years, like putting pen to paper, or interrelating with others. It just ain't right, IMO. [/rant]

Bleh. Now I have to do Much Driving in the Snow. See y'all at midnight or so.

Comments:


(Deleted comment)
devulgari
devulgari at 2003-12-09 21:33 (UTC) ()
It may not hurt the students themselves, but here's something to consider-- in a local school, many of the classes cannot even be trusted to carry the computers from one room to another without roughhousing around, much less take them home. Teachers have to monitor them just doing that, and these aren't special needs kids either, just your average "normal" seventh grade kids. Kids who have a computer in the home just let the laptop rot, in my experience, and those who don't are expected to share it with other family members-- oh, the joys of opening computer ownership to the underfunded masses-- but if that computer sustains damage over the next five years, it's the family who will have to deal with it somehow.

Meanwhile, while this program was rolling out, I was working in social services for children and I saw one program after another cut. I worked in a group home for young teenagers who were wards of the state, several of whom were technically seventh graders. Did we get laptops? Ha ha ha ha. No, we just got told that one case worker after another was being eliminated and the cases being consolidated onto other people. Budget shortage, ya know.

Franzi
franzeska at 2003-12-06 10:08 (UTC) ()
Hum. Well, it's good to have computers available, especially for the students with fine motor problems (there are a number of kids with dysgraphia at the place I work right now, for example). However, yes, this one computer per child thing does sound like an expensive crutch that will distract from real lessons.
just dance
karabou at 2003-12-06 11:42 (UTC) ()
I totally agree... I mean, as it is, kids don't like to have to write, they don't like to have to read. They don't like to have to do a lot of major, basic, everyday things. Things that will enrich their lives. It's all been taken over by computers and video games and so on. Computers are great, sure, but everything needs to be used in moderation.. and I think there are some things that just don't need to be changed.
sunshine superman
animated_vixen at 2003-12-06 12:57 (UTC) ()
*grins* As someone who lives in Michigan, I completely agree with you and would go further to say that the idea is absolutely ridiculous. I haven't heard one person at my school (and the topic has been discussed substantially) who doesn't think it's ludicrous to hand Palm Pilots or laptops to sixth graders. It undermines teaching methods that WORK and ventures off into this mindless abyss of technology where kids really don't LEARN anything more besides how to make letters out of their little pointer thing. My English teacher complains a lot, but one of her main complaints is that students don't KNOW how to research without the internet. They don't know that books hold much more credible information than the internet, and would giving sixth graders laptops help that? No.

The only good thing that came out of my school losing 200,000 dollars yesterday was that we can hardly afford to go to school five days a week, much less give 60 or 70 kids Palm Pilots.

One damn minute, Admiral.
trempnvt at 2003-12-07 04:17 (UTC) ()
Wow, so word. What a waste of money.
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