5.13.2008

technology and education

I am highly sympathetic to the argument advanced by "The Dumbest Generation", mentioned in the Wall Street Journal
Adults are so busy imagining the ways that technology can improve classroom learning or improve the public debate that they've blinded themselves to the collective dumbing down that is actually taking place. The kids are using their technological advantage to immerse themselves in a trivial, solipsistic, distracting online world at the expense of more enriching activities – like opening a book or writing complete sentences.

Mr. Bauerlein presents a wealth of data to show that young people, with the aid of digital media, are intensely focusing on themselves, their peers and the present moment. YouTube and MySpace, he says, are revealingly named: These and other top Web destinations are "peer to peer" environments in the sense that their juvenile users have populated them with predictably juvenile content. The sites where students spend most of their time "harden adolescent styles and thoughts, amplifying the discourse of the lunchroom and keg party, not spreading the works of the Old Masters."
Technology is not an unqualified good. A good conservative ought put their foot down and say something about this, eh?

4 comments:

Ol' Blue said...

Polls say that about 2/3 of American parents think schools are 1) better and 2) harder now than when they themselves were growing up. If the youngins are dumb, they're sure taking the older generation along for a ride.

I like reading books, don't get me wrong, but I wonder what sort of foot stomping you have in mind.

Zachary said...

I guess I'd argue a poll does not reveal anything about reality.

I'm under the impression that there is a large body of research that demonstrates educational performance in the U.S. has declined in the past 60 years. My own anecdotal evidence tends to confirm this, as I've had numerous professors and other academics tell me that as the years have gone by, their students can handle less and less material, that they read less and less, etc. (I'm included in this group of students btw) And this makes sense if you think about all the distractions we have now a days (XBOX, IPODS, etc.)

By stomping our feet, I mean warning people of the dangers of giving up on some of the traditional ways of educating people; and also noting that as we replace dinner conversation with online video gaming, we risk losing certain valuable things.

Even though I think we ought to do these things, I don't think they will be effective, human nature being the way it is.

Anonymous said...

Lisa205
I feel like much of this article is blaming the schools for using technology in the classroom to dumb down our youth. But what about the technologies that have a positive influence on student learning. To my knowledge, MySpace isn’t a subject taught in school. However, there are technologies that are being used in the classroom that, if you effectively, can increase student learning. What about the projection systems that allow teachers to display information and the students interact during a lesson? What about the ability of the internet to allow a teacher to present a virtual field trip to a place half a world away? There are numerous technologies that can be used in the classroom to enhance student learning, but it is how the teacher uses them that will make all of the difference. This is why it is important for us to ensure teachers are getting proper training in the uses of these technologies.
I also feel that we are putting a lot of the blame on the schools here, but where does parent responsibility come in? Ultimately, when the kids come home from school, it is the parents’ or caregivers’ responsibility to regulate the use of technology

Zachary said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for your comments!

I think you are largely right in pointing out that there can be great benefits to technology, used properly, in the classroom. I think the author of both the book referenced and the article in the WSJ would agree with you.

I think what they are worried about is the use of technology for technology's sake. That is, they are worried about using technology when it is clearly not needed, or at the expense of something elementary - like exposure to books, writing and basic arithmetic.

Perhaps the author does speak too broadly about educators; but I think he is trying to supply a warning - perhaps he goes a bit too far. His book is an indictment of sorts, but I don't think he means to say everyone is guilty - only some.

Then again, I'm not sure as I haven't read his book.

Do you think there are any risks associated with implementing technology in the classroom? If so, what are they?