Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Computers as band-aid remedies in classrooms

The Montessori school that my children attend has a minimal computer presence in the classroom (they're used for the teachers to generate worksheets) and strongly discourages parents from allowing their kids on the computer at home. In the Montessorian experience, computer use impairs the children's ability actually to learn the given subjects at issue. Now, from England, there comes support for this position:

The electronically challenged will chortle at the news that computers may contribute nothing to pupils' skills in maths and literacy. But in fact the study published today by the Royal Economic Society is more serious than that. It suggests that the vast sums of money spent on equipping state schools with computers - £2.5 billion so far, with £1.5 billion more promised in last week's Budget - are largely a waste of money. The Government believes that computers are the key to "personalised learning" and should be "embedded" in the teaching of every subject. The study, by contrast, concludes that the less pupils use them at home and school, the better they do in international maths and literacy tests. Moreover, familiarity with them at work has no more effect on employability or earning power than being able to use a telephone or a pencil. The Government should realise that academic learning is different from gazing at a computer screen in class, in much the same way as one would watch television at home. Information and communications technology is taking up too much of pupils' and teachers' time. New Labour's obsession with it is ripe for review.
As someone who is deeply suspicious of the teachers' unions, I will only add that I don't think that it is a coincidence that teachers are so often in favor of something that removes from them the obligation actually to teach their students. A computerized classroom has a teacher sitting at one end, passively, and students at the other end, playing games at a computer station that purport to educate, but do little more than teach the children how to manipulate the mouse.