Can Computers Help Schools?

Jay Matthews:

But I can’t help it. My focus has always been on what is going on in the classroom, rather than the principal’s office or the school board meeting room or the exhibition floors of all those education conferences that look like software fairs. In the classes I visit, plenty of students are working on computers. I am happy they are mastering the essential tools of modern life. But I wish there were more evidence that those hours tapping keyboards are making them better at reading, writing and math.
I used to get considerable pleasure from debunking school computer miracle stories. One of my proudest moments in the 1990s was a story about a New Jersey middle school hailed by President Clinton for its sharp increase in achievement scores after computers were installed. I visited the school, talked to the teachers, checked the arrival date of the new technology and discovered that the test scores had gone up before the computers got there. The real heroes were a very energetic principal, a great faculty and an innovative curriculum.

4 thoughts on “Can Computers Help Schools?”

  1. What you are implying is that Computers have less to do with learning than what the educators are teaching the students. Computers and other technologies that are involved with learning in the classroom have a lot to do with the way students learn and how they want to learn. If I were to teach a class using a powerpoint than more students would pay attention to what is being taught vs. if I were to lecture for the entire class with out any media.

  2. Computers have been oversold as routes to making students better in subjects such as reading and math. The computer is not a medium that allows one to read and comprehend complex information comfortably for any length of time.
    Mathematicians that I’ve talked to say the best way to learn basic math is through pencil and paper.
    Computers do provide teachers with another tool to hold student attention. And they do provide quick reference to a wide array of subjects, which make them good for broadening out subjects in history and science.

  3. There are also negatives to the computer. Kids think math as a game, and when they have to do paper and pencil work, it is too boring. I wonder with all of our media know days if this isn’t a reason for all the kids labeled ADD/ADHD. Think about it, kids and society is bored much more easily now. If the screens are constantly changing, we fine the show or activity boring.
    Kids don’t know how to look up things in books anymore, with it is an encyclopedia or dictionary. They rely on spell check instead of editing their own papers.
    And power point is overly used in classes by both teachers and students.
    Don’t get me wrong, computers are great, but I feel are relied on by too many people. They should be an aide with teaching not the main focus.

  4. Computers in themselves are not the panacea for students who need better early preparation to learn. If used instead of teachers to try to teach the core subjects, my sense is that a computer can’t compete. As an adjunct to do the tasks that teachers can not perform as efficiently or effectively, it can be great. Technology for schools is quickly catching up, with very powerful educational software being developed that does offer an alternative to straight lectures, which are often very difficult for struggling learners. When the 15-20% of any class group misses out on lectures because their cognitive development lags behind their classmates, they and the rest of the class suffer. Research has shown that we can help those students become more effective learners, but it will require $ to implement. What is more expensive, I contend, is turning out ineffective learners who will struggle to make it after they either drop out or leave with a diploma that can’t buy a good job.

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