journal: toy

Why Computers Are Good For Schools

Does a calculator vastly improve your maths?

Computers, the tools to make our lives better. They’ll help us keep in touch, carry out business and learn more. So if that’s the case then how come some people aren’t so sure about computers benefits in education? Some people feel that programs putting computers into the hands of school children are just a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere. But I think that these people aren’t seeing computers the same way.

Sure, the best experience I’ve had with programs such as those giving laptops to all the children and teacher in an area has been in the news, my school is using computers in a positive way. We have can get data for coursework off the school’s website, there are interactive whiteboards which allow for teachers to use technology more in lessons. Our registration system for the 6th Form is now done completely on computer. We have have monitors round the school with Powerpoint presentations giving us important notices. It is this use of technology that’s benefiting people.

There are two big complaints with spending huge amounts of money on computers for education. One is that they will be abused by children, who will use them for entertainment purposes such as games and the other is that they don’t improve test scores. Well, let me put this to those people… if you were to give a class of children a pack of paper and a pen for use with school work, how many of those kids would use all that paper for school work? Next to none. Some will doodle on the paper, some will make paper aeroplanes. The fact is that you can’t stop kids playing. And I’m not talking about like 10 and 11 year olds. I’m almost 18 and yet people round my school do the same sort of things.

And then you have the test score argument. Does a calculator vastly improve your maths? Not really. It still allows for error, it merely speeds up the process. What about using a pen and paper instead of a block of stone and a chisel? Again, it doesn’t improve your grades, but it makes it a lot faster and easier to do. Yet these two tools are used widely in education with next to no complaints. Computers are different to these two tools. While they don’t improve test scores they do educate people. Take a computer such as an iBook. Sure it won’t help you much in an exam, but with a package such as iLife you can make movies and music which allows people to expand their creativity. It teaches them how to use a computer, which in todays world is an increasingly sought after skill. And it can also help them keep in touch or even make new friends on the internet.

Are these of any use in tests? No. Are these valuable skills that will help teach people more? Yes. Perhaps then, we shouldn’t be thinking about whether computers help in a test mad world, but whether those test need updating to take into account a technology based world.


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thinkback

1.

My daughter is currently in a kindergarten class where there are six computers. Being an advanced student in math and reading, she is able to get stimulation at her level without distracting the teacher from the rest of the students in her class.

2.

I appreciate you posting the positive article about the benefits of using technology in the classroom. My wife is a progressive teacher (http://www.my-classroom.org) who integrates the computer into her class activities giving students the chance to use it as an enabling device. She doesn’t present it’s use as a magical panacea for some of the problems in education, but demonstrates how it can be used to engage students - individually or collectively - in both problem solving and enhancing their creativity. Unfortunately, there are groups like the Orion Society (http:/www.oriononline.org/pages/om/05-5om/Monke _FT.html) who don’t see it that way. Your comments have provide her with the ‘fuel’ she needs to keep her creative fire alive…

3.

I think that computers aren’t good to integrate with school work, unless that’s what it is intended to teach.  Computers serve better as a resource.  If the child is learning about geography, he/she can type in “kansas map”, for instance, into google’s image search and find several maps of the state.

Wikipedia is also a great recource for gaining a basic understanding of any new topic, since many articles are clearly written.  Allowing students time to explore Wikipedia on a new topic is a great way of introducing it.

I think computers also give students intellectual stimulation even if they are playing.  I am pretty sure the reason I learned to read, and the reason I retain such a rich vocabulary is my daily access to a computer.

4.

Yes, Wikipedia just might be the best of encyclopedias.  And you need a computer to read it.

Remember when the Web was just getting going, when it was more informational than corporate, it was hailed as the next democratizer of knowledge?  I don’t think that potential was ever quite reached——until now.  Wikipedia is fulfilling the Web’s early promise.

5.

Give every child a laptop from the womb, I say.

If you don’t know how to use a computer, and I do mean use it - not just barely get by - you are far, far behind the folks who do.

And I’m sick to death of all the folks I run into who can’t even do the most basic things on a computer - but they sure know all about their sitcoms and who’s humping who on “Desperate Housewives.”

I see computers as the way to undo all the damage done by force-fed, short-attention-span broadcast and cable TV, but unfortunately more people still choose their TV over a good session reading and interacting on the Web…

*shrug*

My children will be computer literate and learn that along with reading. They go hand in hand, in my book, and my children will not be sent out into this world without the tools to succeed.

6.

I’m not in favor of simply substituting computers for textbooks. Books and paper and notebooks and writing by hand all have a permanence that words flashed on an LCD screen lack.

On the other hand, computers are fantastic for expanding our view of the world. You can edit movies and pictures to create in ways that are difficult without a computer. You can slow down videos and measure them frame by frame to expand time and explore motion. Charting and data analysis of all sorts of measurements are vastly enhanced by the use of a computer. Collecting data, putting it in a database and analyzing that data can give you new perspectives on the world. Unfortunately, I rarely see computers used this way in grade schools or high schools.

7.

At my college, classes in the Electronics Building are often taught with the use of a computer.  My database instructor can simply sit down and type out a block of code, and run it right there, instead of using an overhead projector and assuming it will work.  Same for programming classes; it’s a lot easier to show the output of some source code from a command line window, whether it works or not, than from a transparency.

What we need in our primary and secondary schools, as well as in colleges, is better use of computers as repositories of information.  Like Pilky was describing, there should be terminals in various areas that students can use to look up classes, see a schedule of events, find out important dates, etc. without having access to other areas of information, like websites.  And computer labs should not be so heavily policed (except maybe for pornography); the Magic Lab at school is pretty free in terms of what we can do, and while there are a few of us who like to play games in there, most people just do their work anyway.  Anything saved to the computer is dealt with by the freeze state.

Naturally, computers shouldn’t become the only tool students use (afterall, they still crash and lose data).  But they should definitely be integrated as part of the educational experience, along with textbooks, binders, pens, pencils and paper.

8.

Every classrom at my college has a projector with a computer hooked up to it.  The most popular use is for powerpoint, though my pathetic COSC class does use it to show code in the IDE they use (which is also pathetic).  We also have computer labs in nearly every building, and we have wireless APs in every building but the dorm.

9.

In college, I’d say a laptop is necessary.  I use it for taking notes and programming in my courses (as a Computer Science major).

However, in high schools, i DO NOT believe children should have laptops.  Can you do math on a laptop?  Yes, with Maple or Matlab.  But kids need the SKILLS and PROBLEM SOLVING ABILITIES that computers do NOT offer.  Kids needs to learn math with a pencil and paper, they need to learn literature by reading a book, highlighting, and annotating it.  They need to be able to write coherent sentences on paper, as it is valuable in a real-world working environment.  Kids needs to be able to be shown a map and pin-point where Plymouth Rock is, where the original 13 colonies were, etc.

Computers are great for creative/technical classes in highschools, but that’s why schools should PROVIDE IN-CLASS COMPUTERS FOR THEM.  But you don’t waste tax-payers money by purchasing tons of computers just to save kids a little bit of effort in the note-taking process.

Here’s my solution: let PARENTS by the children laptops if they believe it will be beneficial to their learning experience.  If a teacher has coursework available on his/her website, then there should be open-access computers available at the school for students who can’t afford a computer.

Keep computers as an optional-tool, not a necessity in the learning environment.  Kids need to know HOW to use a computer, but don’t integrate it into every other task unnecessarily.

10.

One example of the use of computers in my education is with my Geography coursework. We have been given an Excel spreadsheet for entering in the data we collected from fieldwork and we can use that to perform statistical tests, produce graphs etc. When we did the mock general election in school we had a voting system where people could choose an option and we could see the results on the projected screen.

11.

Eric, you neglect how successful and well-received the one-to-one iBook programs have been.  I have heard nothing but good from all sides.  Classroom interaction is more engaging and productive.  Students are writing and creating at more advanced levels.

I think your objections are not based on fact.

12.

One problem I have with giving students computers nowadays is that GUI based computing doesn’t really stimulate learning the way command line computing does.  You have little pictures for every program, you don’t really need to know how to read to use it.  I think that the students should be provided with basic web stuff through a GUI, but they should learn the way of DOS if they want to play games.

13.

I disagree, Aaron.  The CLI is not even close to being the true way of interacting, or even the original way.  Remember, when Doug Engelbart conceived the GUI in the mid-1960s, the industry was still on punch cards.

The key to learning powerful interaction skills is called the “regime of competence” principle.  You know, of course, that things too easy are boring and things too hard are frustrating.  You learn most rapidly when the mode of interaction can challenge you right at the limit of your skill, even as your skill increases.  That is why computer games are so mentally enriching.  You progress in a game only as long as your skills improve, but the interface can drive that improvement.

Anyone who has played Zork or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Infocom knows that text interfaces can be fiendish but powerful problem-solving tools.  That description certainly applies to terminal computer interaction, and I believe that’s what you’re driving at, Aaron.

But likewise, anyone who has played Myst by Cyan can say exactly the same for graphical interfaces.  And I think graphical computer interaction has that same potential.  Point and click, click and drag, drag and drop:  they are terrific ways of interacting, no less than piping is.  I don’t think they inhibit learning at all.

14.

I’m not saying you don’t learn with a GUI, but you don’t learn things like reading and writing without a command line, simply because you don’t have to.  Use of a command line forces you to read, and it makes you use the keyboard as well.

15.

Reader Rabbit and Mavis Beacon?

16.

Tracked: loans for bad credit

Deep Thought: Why Computers Are Good For Schools

Tracked on: loans for bad credit at 06-Feb-13 20:05 PM

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