Computers and Education

Discussion in 'General Education' started by pwhatley, Jun 12, 2008.

  1. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I receive a regular email entitled T.H.E. Smart Classroom. Generally, the articles & research have to do with the integration of technology into the classroom - and it's benefits. Today, however, I got my regular email, and the following is the title article: Are Underprivileged Students Better Off Without Computers? You can access the entire article here: http://www.thejournal.com/articles/22765. (The subscription to the e-newsletter is free, by the way.)

    Just a bit of background info about me -- I am a computer nerd. I am kind of regressing because I have not been "in the computer world" for several years. I have built computers myself, and trained many people in software uses.

    Anyway, throughout one of my certification courses (Educational Technology, lol), I had a running argument with the professor about whether or not we should expect every student (regardless of grade) to have a computer at home. He said yes, unequivocally. I think that there are still many students who do not have computers for various reasons, including that money has to go to rent, groceries, electricity, etc. you get my drift.

    This article has peaked my interest. What do you think? What is your school's/district's policy regarding computers? I'm looking forward to the discussion!



     
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  3. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I think its a bit far fetched to expect every student to have a computer at home. Even if they were lucky enough to have a computer, there might not be enough money to pay for the internet. Sometimes its hard to imagine students struggling to get three meals a day or enough clothes to wear throughout the week. Can we honestly require these students to have computer access at home?

    On the flip side you do have those students that say they don't have any parental help at home, they can't afford to eat dinner, etc, but mom shows up in a new car, nice clothes, or the student has a new playstation. These parents' priorities aren't where they should be.

    The schools that I have taught/subbed at have all had computer labs that allowed students to use the computers during a specific time.
     
  4. sundrop

    sundrop Cohort

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    I certainly wouldn't expect all students to have a computer at home. That is why I think it is so important to have computer classes in school, so all students have access to computers and software. Otherwise, the students who don't have access to a computer outside of school will be at a disadvantage as they go through school and out into the working world.
     
  5. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    I think about 20% of my students have computers at home. I don't think it's fair to expect students to rely on school webpages to access homework or forms. My principal recently asked if we send our parent newsletters out over the e-mail. 5 out of 24 parents had an e-mail address to give me and for 2 of them that was their work e-mail.

    Personally, I agree with Sundrop - I think it's even so much more important to expose these kids to technology at school. I always forget when the school year starts that I literally have to teach my Kinder kids how to use a mouse. It's so second nature to me, but they've never used one before.
     
  6. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I am really enjoying this discussion. I hope more teachers chime in!

    The school at which I student taught was built 20 years ago. What that means is that, while it is in great shape and follows all ADA regs, etc., it has no computer labs. The most computers I have seen in any classroom is 5 - and that's for the 4th grade "leap" class (those that might not pass without special help). How sad!
     
  7. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    We got a new reading program for the kids that had to be installed on our classroom computers. When our computer teacher came to do mine, one of my computers was so old he had to replace the hard drive to install the technology- it was from '95 - that's ancient for a world whose technology changes daily.

    pwhatley - I bet you would enjoy this bit from TeacherTube - it starts out talking about world statistics, but goes into some unbelievable facts about technology's impact. It's the one titled "Did You Know".

    http://http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=799aaa845e1c2e8a762b&page=1&viewtype=&category=
     
  8. MsMongoose

    MsMongoose Companion

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    Not only is there the initial cost of the computer, but the expense/trouble of working on it when something goes wrong. It is unrealistic in most schools to expect every student to have access to a computer at home. I believe all students should spend some time on a computer at school, both because it is an excellent learning tool for some tasks, and for the work place.

    Maybe it is like learning a foreign language --the five-year olds I have worked with (who had never worked at a computer before) sat down and used the computer as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Older kids sometimes had trouble with it at first.
     
  9. stavb

    stavb Rookie

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    But don't you think this will change and soon as computers at home become more and more ubiquitous?
     
  10. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    We are behind the times in terms of computer use at our school. This year we are getting projectors and document cameras for each classroom and a laptop for each teacher (instead of a desk top.) Every two classrooms share 4 computers, except mine, where I have two computers to use in my classroom. Our plan is to have a shared laptop cart for all the classrooms.

    I would say 100% of my students have at least one computer at home, but many have more than one, and some have their own laptop. BUT, I would also say at least 50% of the parents at our school work in tech... we live in a dense area for technology and many major tech companies are located here. I just checked my parent email list and 7 out of 13 have one parent who works for a certain big technology company, and 2 others work for other big technology companies.

    I send my newsletter home via email every week. I think technology needs to be dealt with carefully for kids. It needs to be supervised as does tv, movies, etc. If your kid is on myspace all day and not doing HW, this needs to be managed. My one kid who NEVER does HW told me he is on YouTube every day watching videos.. well, this is also my lowest student!
     
  11. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I work in the inner city. I have students who don't have beds (they sleep on a mattress or blanket on the floor), dressers, tv's, microwaves, or even shoes that fit and food in the fridge. Wouldn't you consider those items things that "everybody" has? Sort of like electricity or running water. The sad fact is that this is reality for many kids in the inner city. Until we figure out a way to "fix" these problems, the idea of putting a computer in every home is an impossible dream.
     
  12. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Oh, I forgot to add...

    I feel that all kids should have ACCESS to computers. That means reasonably recent technology in the schools and public libraries. These kids will be at a serious disadvantage if they're not familiar with technology, therefore, we need to provide them access, even if they don't have it in the home.
     
  13. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    That has been my argument all along, mmswm! And it's not just urban settings. We have equally poor and disadvantaged kids in rural settings. Some are lucky to have a floor made of anything other than dirt (literally).

    Let's take the utopic dream of giving computers to all of our students. Who will go to each child's home and make sure that 1) the computer isn't destroyed by family members or circumstances (bad electrical lines!) or even sold by family members for food/drugs/phone bill, etc.? I'm not trying to stay negative here, but that is the reality for some of these students!

    As far as the schools go. Yes, I honestly feel that each school (I'm talking elementary here - I have no clue about secondary) should have at least one well-equipped computer lab, and each classroom should be VERY well equipped with technological items, such as an ELMO, Smart board, a decent set of classroom computers AND printers AND a projector.

    Interestingly enough, around here it is either the VERY well-off schools (the kind with 100% participation in the PTA) or the VERY urban/poor schools that actually HAVE the technology needed. The well-off schools can either buy it themselves or ask a parent or two. The poor schools have stuff given/granted to them MUCH more often than the middle-of-the-road schools.

    Such is the situation with the school where I student taught. It is relatively new (20 years), and the AC works and there is no asbestos or lead paint, BUT it was constructed prior to the dawn of the technology age (or at least in it's infancy), and so needs to be retrofitted electronically to handle the equipment needed.

    Oh, and this dinosaur teacher has a laptop currently and prefers a desktop. I know they are bulky, but I can transfer files back & forth on a stick drive or web hosting site, and I still have a screen that is beautiful and a full-size keyboard and mouse!

    (I really am a computer dinosaur, lol! I had a computer that ran off of a cassette tape! Then there was the one with the 5.25" floppy disk -- that cost us $5,000!


     
  14. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    I have to say, in terms of computers at school, I feel we can do TOO much. There is something that happens when pencil touches paper that cannot happen on a computer. Neurons develop as they move their fingers, hands, bodies, etc. while writing, doing math, etc. It can't all be done on the computer.

    I think doing word processing, the occasional video, power point or webpage, etc. is great. I think sometimes computers can be used as a literacy and math center- but not for every child every day.

    I think technology can improve a person's life, but someone has to monitor it. I KNOW I am addicted to this forum!! I wouldn't want kids to be addicted to myspace or something and never play outside. I'm sure many kids are addicted to myspace. Anyway, I think a lot of these arguments will be null points in a few years. Technology isn't going anywhere.
     
  15. TeachnRox

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    Technology--long

    You make some good points Miss Froggy.

    I have read quite a bit of books on ADHD and ADD, and a lot of research says that too much tv and video games is one of the causes, children are being overly stimulated and are constantly looking for a need to be stimulated when not watching tv or video games which causes them not to pay attention. Question for ya'll out there...do you think this is true for computers (websites, games, message boards, software)? Do you think we are possibly adding to the problem? I do believe everything in moderation.....what do you guys think? ...

    I believe many people rely very heavily on technology (without even knowing it), even when typing this, I get spell checked. No more looking it up in the good old dictionary. Didn't they add a writing portion to the SAT, due to incoming freshman in college weren't writing on the level of expectancy for college?? This year, I had a parent tell me a funny story about her husband. My kids were addressing envelopes, to mail at the post office...anyway, my parent was telling me that her husband was filling out an envelope and switched the two addresses on the envelope. When she (wife) pointed it out to him, he argued with her! It had been a long time since he had use the snail mail that he forgot how to address an envelope! :blush:

    Not all my children have computers at home, I do my best to expose them in the classroom/computer lab, when I can. My school is very old (many of my parents were in the same classroom I use now, for 6th grade), it is currently being renovated, yeah! I only have 3 power plugs in my room. I am hoping they can mount the smartboard, others have been told they can't because of wiring and ac tubing up in the ceiling...keeping my fingers crossed. Oh, we are a MAC district, and many of the students at home have PCs, so that is a challenge as well. Something my district does is offers the community classes in technology free of charge, I think that is helpful.

    Even though according to the Did you know video...many of the technologies we are teaching will be obsolete, but we are giving a good foundation and at least exposing them to the skills. The technologies of today, will pave the way for tomorrows!

    There is just so much to say, what a great thread! I will try to turn my ADHD off now...sorry for rambling! :eek:
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2008
  16. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    My classroom is very well equiped only because my daddy is very well off. I make sure that anything I assign that requires computers has a due date far enough away that all of the kids will be able to get in during lunch or after school at least once in order to complete it.
     
  17. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I can see that with MS & HS, mmswm. At the elementary level, at least around here, the kids get exposure to/interaction with computers on center rotations, when the teacher has a projector & shows them United Streaming bits or PowerPoints, or, if they are lucky, when they have computer lab as a "special," or enrichment.
     
  18. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    MissFroggy...I agree with you. There's a balance that needs to be struck. Computers and technology aren't going anywhere, and kids need to be able to use them adequately in order to be competitive, but they also need to know how do do things the "old-fashioned" way.

    There is a very respected arts school with a world-renowned stage design and production department that doesn't let their students use computers for drafting until the third year. The idea here is that they get up close and personal with all the ins and outs and idosyncricies of designing sets, lighting and sound systems for the stage, so when they do get to use computers, they'll know how to "tweek" the designs to fit a particular stage better than if they just relied on the computer. There are some things about the human touch that computers just can't recreate.
     
  19. titansrst

    titansrst Rookie

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    True comments

    I agree with all the views taken here, but what I find sad is that computers companies and stores target inner city families as potential gold mines. Most families, inner city or not, don't have the savvy to fairly negotiate solid deals with these companies and wind up spending money for things and software they don't need, neglecting important concerns like virus and spam protection, better warranties and sound software. The computer gets to these houses and the families ho crazy messing up their computers with unsafe music and game downloads, etc. I published a detailed directory of education sites for K-8 teachers and students and could barely sell it (despite 2500 well-researched and highly detailed sites making it in), the families wanted games and music. I do have some believers, as families and teachers in my school no come to me to put together and order new computers. I also show them how to and where to order free or inexpensive software. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that computer dealers want buyers to know less so they can make more.
     
  20. SSA

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    I don't think that retail stores specifically target inner city folk as much as they target anybody who walks in the store who seems to be asking incredibly basic questions. Some of best IT clients are pretty wealthy, but they happen to know little about computers. It just made more sense to pay someone else to resolve their IT problems then for them to fiddle around to solve it themselves.

    Having sold computers in retail for a better part of two years and still doing IT work on the side I can say that negotiating the price on hardware is a waste of time in a lot of cases. Unless it is a customer return or a clearance item you typically aren't going to get very far haggling. Most of stuff typical end consumers buys for a desktop or laptop have thin profit margins(typically less than 10%). The only reason stores can afford to sell computers at razor thin margins or in some cases negative margins is because they can attach higher margin attachments to the transaction.

    In one year I sold well in excess of a $1 Million worth of computer hardware & accessories, but the profits on that ~$1 million were only $130-140K. While computers of some form made up a majority of the revenue they made up a tiny fraction of the profits. After credit card merchant fees, various profit losses incurred from customer returns and other overhead the profit I created for the company was less than half of that. If not for all of the profits off of the service plans and accessories I would have easily been an unprofitable employee. This is why most stores are loathsome to negotiate much on the price of a computer.

    The place where a lot of computer neophytes tend to get ripped off are in overspending on accessories or buying things they don't need at all. Best Buy the last time I checked was selling $32 6' no name USB cables. I can buy brand name 10' cables with a lifetime warranty for $25. Needless to say the BB's price is outrageous. I can buy the same length cable from a retail store from a reputable manufactor for easily $10 or less. I've also seen sleezy or stupid salespeople tell customers that they need a USB 2.0 cable because their "old" USB 1.1 cable wouldn't work nevermind that the copper cables inside the cable are the same.

    Another place to overspend is service plans. A lot of service plans tend to be overpriced for what they cover. A lot of people don't consider that much like there is more than one choice of where to buy a product there is more than one choice on where to buy a service plan as well. Much like buying a car the best deal on a service plan is usually not through the place that sold you the computer. On desktop computers I tend to consider service plans downright questionable because the failure rates beyond manufacturer warranties tend to be low and the failure rates don't tend to become a major factor until the computer is started to become dated.

    A lot of software that stores get spiffs to push is pretty bad stuff. I went to an Intel event where literally nobody wanted a copy of Norton AV for free. Needless to say it gets bundled either as a trial or sold as an addon item to the transaction in a lot of computer sales in retail, which is sad because most IT professionals don't use it and those that do are using the corporate edition, which isn't sold on retail shelves.

    There is little question that the more knowledgeable the customer the less you tend to make off of them. My general rule was the "dumber" the questions seemed to be the more effort I should put in upselling the service plan. The same could be said of certain printers that were free after MIR that we sold. They drank ink like no tomorrow and often broke after a year if not less time. In the short term they seemed cheap, but in the long run they were a ripoff. If the same store that sold you the printer sold you the ink even half the time there was a big profit potential in the seemingly "customer friendly" purchase. A lot of smarter customers wouldn't take the "free" printer because they knew even if they got the rebate that the printer would be expensive to operate.

    Customers should shop around for accessories and service plans. That is where you are most likely save money. The place that sold you the computer may not be the place to buy the other stuff(cables, printers, monitors, etc.)
     
  21. SSA

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    Anecdotally I can say that I knew first gen immigrants who not only had a computer, but had internet access 8 years ago because I chatted with them on AIM back in the day. Computer access isn't universal yet, but in a lot of places is is virtually universal already. If you have a population of large recent immigrants or you live on or near a Indian reservation that doesn't have a casino then I wouldn't expect all of the students to have internet access, but in a lot of places not having internet access at home is exceptionally rare.

    I know Nielsen Net Ratings and a few other surveys found that Internet access at home passed 75% four years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if we are near 90% penetration by now. Amongst homes with children most surveys have historically shown the numbers are even stronger because most parents don't want junior to be left behind. A lot of the people without computers are older adults who don't have a computer by choice not by inability to buy one. I remember working in retail and had plenty of first generation Mexican immigrants who barely spoke English at all if at all who were buying computers with cash that they had saved. It was undoubtedly a good chunk of their income, but they made the purchase anyways because they knew that their little ninos would need to have a computer to be competitive with other kids.

    Furthermore, the expense of not only buying a computer, but owning a computer have dropped quite a bit in not only nominal, but in real dollars. Failure rates on computers have fallen quite a bit. I have built several computers for people and often go months without a support call. Provided that a machine survives the initial burnin test it will typically last for years with little or no problems.
     
  22. titansrst

    titansrst Rookie

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    Your reply was educational and thorough. I do know people in the industry who claim the aforementioned targeting does take place by the more sleazy operators, I do believe a big problem of the inner city folks is the lack of learning about what they're purchasing. They must do their homework and monitor what their children download. So much of the downloadable goods leave themselves wide open to bad surprises. My brother repairs computers and has reported dealing with machines that have hundreds, even thousands, of bad surprises including Trojan Horses and viruses. Same with the software, because so much of it can be purchased cheaper or without cost...and much of this discounted material is solid, especially the educational disks.
     
  23. titansrst

    titansrst Rookie

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    You obviously haven't hit cities like Newark, Paterson or Camden, NJ., where Internet access is said to be in less than 50 percent of homes and may be in as little as 25 percent. In addition, too many of these homes will subscribe to AOL and the slower phone or DSL lines, which hampers their ability to utilize the best sites, especially those involving education. Computers have come down in price and the savvy purchaser can get a great machine for a fairly low price, but savvy is the key.
     
  24. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    What you say is true. However, we cannot limit that warning to inner city families. No matter the geographic location OR yearly household income, ALL parents should monitor what their children are doing on the computer, period. They don't have to download anything to be approached by a predator. There are sites on which, with one click, the computer can be infected with virii or trojans, or worse. Parents MUST remember that the word PARENT is an ACTION VERB, and not just an honorary title. It takes work and good judgment to successfully raise a child in any economic or geographic sector. :2cents:
     
  25. MsMongoose

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    People--kids and adults-- get careless about what they click on, and are either careless or don't know about firewalls, etc., their computers get viruses and trojans, and then the computer doesn't work well anymore.

    I know, because friends then ask my DH to "fix" their computer for them. The computer hardware still works, it's the software and viruses, trojans and miscellaneous malware that are the problem. Your computer can even become a "zombie"--sending out viruses to other computers without your even being aware of it. This is what I meant when I said it requires effort/expense to keep a computer system running.
     
  26. SSA

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    I agree, especially in the purchase stage of a home computer. Parents with higher income who don't know what they are getting themselves into I think are even better targets for a salesperson. Of all the objections to a purchase the hardest to overcome is that I can't afford it. If the customer's price ceiling is high, the sleazy salesperson will try to scam you into lining their pocket with the most money possible.

    I get really annoyed at all the parents who expect the private sector is supposed to come up with products to replace parenting.

    Going back to the original topic, which I sortof got us sidetracked from, I think that computers have a place, but I think that often times we magically expect technology to change things. Especially in elementary school I think that they have limited value. Kids in ES are still spending a good amount of their time on basic literacy and basic math.

    One area where technology doesn't help a lot is the fact that a lot of instructors don't know how to take advantage of it. I can anecdotally say that over the years I have seen a lot of functional computers that sit gathering dust or underused in classrooms. Computers can't improve instruction through their mere presence.

    There was another thread a while back on the topic of certain instructors that were resistant to adopting new technology. While I don't want to stereotype, a lot of older individuals tend to be more resistant to adopting technology and America's classrooms are led by quite a few older adults. We are only starting to see the first wave of teachers who grew up with computers in the last several years. As this new generation of instructors takes over the reins from the previous generations I expect that we will see technology not only more extensively, but more innovatively.

    Another issue is that a lot of that of how computers and other technology are used. I know PC World did a story probably 8-9 years ago where they looked at computers in education. They found that poorer schools like Title I schools tended to use computers more in "kill and drill" type exercises. Beyond doing such drills on a computer there is nothing novel about that. I guess the students get instant recognition that they got the right answer, but that is about it. Especially in the higher grades there are a lot of things that computers can help illustrate to students like complex math equations that are difficult to do justice to in a static medium like paper. In past generations if the student didn't have a good imagination to visualize a 3D figure they probably wouldn't understand it.

    Finally, I think that despite all of the talk about teaching kids about computers we spend too much time teaching kids skills that become obsolete quickly and not enough on knowledge that is more future proof. For example, I subbed for a class that was doing powerpoint presentation in elementary school and I honestly joked that it didn't matter much whether they remembered most of the commands for everything because they were taught to use Powerpoint '03 and the UI is vastly different in the next version. Until about HS I wouldn't invest a virtually any instructional time teaching them specific applications because things change so quickly that by the time they get in the real world few people are going to care. We should instead teach kids more conceptual ideas using actual terminology of how say a computer works and how it works with other computers. Specific applications come and go, but a lot of concepts don't change much.

    Since a Nation at Risk turned 25 this year I figured I would mention that 25 years ago that educational professionals across the country wrote a report about education that suggested having a semester of Computer Science as a graduation requirement. AFAIK no state requires this and most schools I have ever seen that had a computer competency requirement were little more than over glorified typing classes. Typing still matters for the foreseeable future, but there is more to using a computer than knowing how to type. When a lot of high schools don't even offer a comp sci course for those kids who are interested is it any wonder that the US is importing so many tech workers? When we pretend that poor kids have no interest in the field we may be closing one possible door to thousands of kids interested in that career path.
     
  27. titansrst

    titansrst Rookie

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    GREAT POST

    You bring up many points that I didn't consider, and I think you're quite right. By the time the schools begin using many programs, they are toa certain extent obsolete. I also agree that there is a reluctance among many educators to devote much time to tech ed.
    One reason, is the fear of learning something new and adopting skills and strategies different from what they know. This seems to be especially true of veteran educators, who have experienced great success without computers and their cousins. I, for one, cannot discount their feelings, because so many of these people are gifted educators.
    You're right when you say that tech ed doesn't improve by the mere presence of the computers in the classroom. Your major point to about the private sector being expected to replace parenting is quite true, too. Computers must be seen almost like the new doggie in the family: it has to be cared for and fed the necessary materials to benefit the household. Ignore certain things and viruses and Trojan Horses are the least if your problems.
    I mix technology into my normal curriculum, hitting sites that do more than ask a child to pick and click. But this comes with much research and work. I also refrain from using the computer too much. A recent geography project my Grade 2 kids performed had to be completed using books, atlases and encyclopedias. I want my kids to never forget the importance and joy of turning a real page to gather info.
    Lastly, I think you're correct about a wealthy family being targeted by unscrupulous dealers if they don't show computer savvy.I still believe the less wealthy family carries the bigger bullseye for a variety of reasons, but to discount a rich family as a target is incorrect.
     
  28. MsMongoose

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    Jun 15, 2008

    Computers are just silicon chips wired together. It is the software that has the potential for education, and, like a book, it has to be well-written--not in the computer programming sense, but in the sense of putting words and images together to convey meaning. Some subjects can be taught very well by computer (i.e., software), especially to visual learners.

    As SSA said above, some concepts in math can be shown much better on a computer. A computer screen is ideal for showing maps, and how boundaries change, or how choice of crops varies with climate and rainfall. Any subject that needs to illustrate changes due to an action, or over time--Viking raids in Europe, plate tectonics, virtual dissection of a frog--might be illustrated on a computer.

    ES does involve a certain amount of rote memorization. It is less dreary w/ a clever computer program, and the computer is infinitely patient, discreet, cannot be cajoled, does not lose its temper, can be highly individualized, is non-judgmental, and can be set for competition (You Won! 23.59 seconds!) or non-competition (it does not say, "you finally got it right"). Because the answers are given immediately, there is no chance of "learning it wrong". Why not give Johnny every help we can in learning the 7 times tables, or how to conjugate irregular French verbs?

    Computers definitely have their limitations, but why not use them for what they are really good at?
     
  29. New3rdTeacher

    New3rdTeacher Comrade

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    Jun 16, 2008

    I agre with MM
     

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