Education Aided or Replaced by Computers

People said that the horseless carriage would never amount to a thing. New ideas always undergo severe scrutiny, but sometimes they survive the cynical blows and begin a new road of innovations. David Gelernter, of Yale University, writes in his essay “Unplugged” that people should weigh the value of technology because it is not always as advantageous as it seems. He claims, for example, that the misuse of computers deprive students of a complete education which is the formal training and development of an individual’s knowledge.

Computers have already proved themselves as forward moving and beneficial, but their place in the schoolroom should be reconsidered. Rather than replace education, the computer should be used as an aid to strengthen the process of education. “We would not have an inferior education if it were the nineteenth century. Our problem is that we have been getting students who are the products of the twentieth century,” says Postman in “Order In the Classroom. ” Students, raised in an age of invention and innovation, surround themselves with technology and computers.

The educational system evolved with society by adding computers to the classroom. The following questions have been raised: are computers misused; are teachers allowing computers to become surrogate teachers; and who is teaching students basic skills–the teacher or the computer? These questions are just a sample of the concern expressed by parents today. Gelernter states that “while we worry about basic skills, we allow into the classroom software that will do a student’s arithmetic or correct his spelling. Elementary-aged students need to develop the ability to spell and do arithmetic without ependence on a spell-check or auto-calculation program. We need to carefully evaluate what programs children can access to prevent handicapping them later in life. One principal felt “drilling addition and subtraction in an age of calculators is a waste of time” (Gelernter). We are encouraging children to become dependent on technology instead of using their intellect. Another concern is that computers are used as baby-sitters instead of as an aide to teaching.

Gelernter explains that “when we saw a movie in class, everybody won: teachers didn’t have to teach, and upils didn’t have to learn. I suspect that classroom computers are popular today for the same reasons. ” In “Kids In the Mall,”Kowinski compares the mall to a baby-sitter that relieves a parent of the child-rearing responsibility. The computer is to the teacher as the mall is to the parent. Children are taught to take as many shortcuts as possible and surround themselves with “passivity and consumption. ” Although abuses of computer technology in the classroom are prevalent, proper use can be extremely beneficial.

The focus of the computer should be to maximize education through computer aided programs that help students to learn without giving away all the answers. Students need a solid background in the fundamentals before we can move on to the extra help of a computer. For example, after a student learns a concept, whether it be spelling or math, computers can assist in a tutorial or quizzing of what has already been learned. Entire classes can also benefit from them when used to “help make science tangible or teach neglected topics like art and music” (Gelernter).

In cience,computers can show molecules joining others and splitting in the blink of an eye. On-screen questions about art and music can help the student think through the message that the artist is trying to convey. Another example of programs used today is Daedelus in Dr. Airaudi’s English class. After reading the essay topic of the day, students use response prompts to stretch the thinkingprocess and acquire different meanings from the essay. Then in a group, we use interchange to help each other refine the skills needed to write a complete and coherent essay.

These computer programs do not take away from the skills that a student already knows but enables the student to practice them. In an age where information technology is the main driver of the economy, people are convinced that computers and the Internet are the answers to all of our problems. Our school systems must continually review the basics and fundamentals of education. These basics include reading, writing,mathematics, and learning to think individually as well as socially. Computers must not take the place of any of these fundamentals, but rather aid students in learning these


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