Keep computers out of the classroom?

I look for situations where someone I like and trust has a radically different view from me on any particular subject. Because I think I can learn from it.

Here’s a recent example. Michael Schrage, someone I’ve never met, but whose works I have enjoyed reading, wrote recently in the Financial Times: The “edutainers” merit a failing grade. Now this is a guy who wrote Serious Play, a researcher in innovation at MIT, someone who has been active at all levels of education for a quarter of a century.

So I take notice. He says “What better way to breed cognitively spoilt children than sparkly tools that cater to their impatience and short attention spans?” He goes on to say “Classroom computing offers less of a bold vision than a cowardly cheat by technocrats counting on technical innovation to shield themselves from hard questions about what schools should be.”

I believe he makes three important points.

  • One, misguided early adoption could have resulted in painful write-offs: a timing issue
  • Two,  most educational software has nothing to do with cultivating character: a process issue
  • Three, technology could be used as a medium to redefine relationships between schools and communities creatively

I agree with all three points. I also agree with him that we shouldn’t make the hyperactive short-attention-span problem worse.

I infer from his article that he does not believe in Taylorist assembly-line cookie cutter approaches to  education, and that we should celebrate the rich diversity present in student humanity. My words, not his. And I agree wholeheartedly.
But despite all these agreements, I believe there is room for computers in the classroom and in the school. For the social aspect of education, for cooking-pot approaches to learning. Blogs and wikis. Networks of networks. Letting our children do things we wouldn’t have dreamt of. Let them have their magic and wonder, and let us do everything we can to protect them from hypnos and mesmer.
I guess what I’m trying to say, Michael, is I agree with pretty much everything you say about this subject bar the use of social software. In fact I think it is imperative that social software is used to reconnect the child to the teacher and the school and the community. It’s not about gadgets and glitz. It’s about connectedness and belonging and sharing and bonding. That’s what we need in schools so that learning can take place.

5 thoughts on “Keep computers out of the classroom?”

  1. Having recently “retaliated” to JP’s advocacy of Henry Jenkins view of media literacy:

    I feel I now have to emphasize that those observations are important because they go beyond the scope of media literacy. That “beyond” involves questions of “social literacy.” It is bad enough that those questions are ignored by the media literacy camp, that seems to lose touch with what it is that media are mediating. It is more serious that they should be ignored by the social software camp; but what is “social literacy” if not an intuitive awareness of and sensitivity to concepts like “connectedness,” “belonging,” “sharing,” and “bonding?” Unfortunately, there seems to be no place for social literacy in today’s classrooms (at least in the public school system in the United States), since that is just not part of the accountability equation that the government has forced on those classrooms. Thus, the question of whether or not those classrooms have computers is ultimately a distraction from the real issue, which concerns how the next generation of pupils will be conducive to having relationships at all, whether or not those relationships are mediated by computer technology.

  2. Computers are a wonderful part of the classroom. I believe that these new technologies help students learn in a new way, a way that caters to their thinking style. I also think that the use of computers in the classroom is going to help our students learn how to use these technologies in the future, since computers are becoming so prevelent in our communities and careers.

Let me know what you think

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