Be Smart: Blow Up Your PC

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For a solid decade now it has been taken on faith that if you put computers in classrooms, students somehow wind up smarter. Now comes an actual look at the influence of computer use on student achievement and it is exactly what any thoughtful person could surmise. Computers, in and of themselves, do not teach kids.

A three-year study by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency found "no consistent relationship between computer use and pupil achievement in any subject at any age." In fact, some of the greatest educational gains were made by students who used PCs the least.

But those responsible for spending huge sums on computer learning say the study proves nothing. In other words, the UK also has remedial education issues to solve.

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  1. Duh.

    No one “took it on faith” that putting computers in classrooms would make children learn better, lazy teachers (not all teachers, lazy ones) were behind it because they thought it meant less work for them.

    School administrators were behind it because it ballooned budgets and either (a) made the school look modern, or (b) allowed them to grovel for more funds because the school was so far behind.

    Certain VARs loved it because they could sell “educational” packages at higher margins.

    Parents bought into it because, after all, the teachers and administrators said it was good.

    Once again, the kids suffer. Of course, it’s good for kids to suffer. Builds character.

  2. That’s the problem with the left’s educational policies. Their solution to everything is to throw more and more money into education. Money is simply not the problem, nor the solution. Continuing to throw chunk of money after chunk of money into a system that is clearly broken is sort of like using a sledge hammer to do the job of a screwdriver.

  3. Having graduated from HS in the mid 90s, when the whole putting computers in school thing was picking up steam, it seemed at the time that the biggest problem was that no one in the school really understood computers. There were only a few classes that used them to their potentional, the computer programing classes, and the vocational classes dealing with autos. The rest of them mainly gathered dust, or were used for canned make-work assignments. Nothing was worse than sitting through the class where a teacher had to read through a list of instructions that told you every step of what to do, beginning with turning on the computer.

    Hopefully, now that teachers are more likely to have them in their homes, and training is becomeing more widespread, educators will see them for what they are — tools.

  4. Great final point, Madog. I hope so too. And Billy O, while I agree that some character built through “suffering” is good for kids, I just don’t think school is the place, or the reason, it should happen. It’s too important.

  5. if you are going to throw money at the school system, pay teachers who are recognized as the best and brightest MORE. if teachers made anywhere near what physicians or attorneys make we would see a dramatic improvement in our educational system. until we make teaching K-12 an attractive, competitive, and lucrative profession that it deserves to be, i’m afraid we’ll continue to suffer in mediocrity. of course with this money would come added responsibility and rigorous accountability, peer review, and formal reporting would be done on all teachers to ensure the performance was commensurate with the pay. as for computers, i agree that i’d take a great teacher with chalk and a blackboard over a high-powered pc with a broadband connection everytime.

  6. Increasing the salaries of teachers to the level of physicians or attorneys is a cargo cult approach to improving education. Paying the same people more money won’t improve education, nor is offering more money for new recruits the answer because the people hiring for the newly lucrative teacher positions will have no incentive to find the best teachers.

    The reason high salaries and competence go together in the private sector is because people are paid on the basis of their contributions to the bottom line of businesses; they do not become fantastic producers because of the large paychecks, the large paychecks are because of the production.

  7. I agree with SJ that high salaries and competence go together in the private sector. I see nothing wrong with taking that lesson from the private sector and implementing it in the schools.

    Teachers should be paid based on their “contributions to the bottom line of their businesses”. In the case of the schools that would be student improvement, achievement, and success based on test scores, evaluations, and tracking. If we made education a priority in our budget and granted it the financial prestige that professions such as medicine and law receive, I have little doubt that schools, teachers, and students would all benefit.

    For decades, medicine and law have attracted the best and brightest students because of the challenge, prestige, and standard of living that those professions have offered. If we made teaching our kids just as important, we would see rapid and dramatic results. I’m not talking about paying teachers millions of dollars, just raising the bar a bit in how much we value good ones.

    The reason why this is not a “cargo cult” approach is that I’m neither suggesting that we pay the same people more money nor that we not reward recruiters of top new teachers. I’m suggesting that we make teachers more accountable for the success/failure of their students and hold them to a higher standard. This would weed out the lazy, unqualified, and incompetent and reward the motivated, capable, and gifted people we need to enter this struggling profession.

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