14.0285 computers and children

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 10/03/00

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 285.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
             Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2000 07:43:52 +0100
             From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi <tripathi@statistik.uni-dortmund.de>
             Subject: [pn] Computers for children?
    dear humanists,
    [Hi, here is a feedback --thought might interest you --a counter-response
    written by Ferdi Serim --to the latest report of "Alliance for Childhood"
    Initiative and concerns raised by _Alliance for Childhood_ on the use of
    computers by children --a hot ongoing debate in USA amongst educators,
    technologists, psychologists, cognitive scientists and philosophers --is
    forwarded via Papyrusnews. Thanks.-Arun]
    Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2000 03:22:41 -1000
    From: Mark Warschauer <markw@hawaii.edu>
    To: papyrus-news@hawaii.edu
    This message was distributed by Papyrus News, a free e-mail
    distribution list on the global impact of information technology on
    language, literacy, and education. Feel free to forward this message
    to others, preferably with this introduction. For information on
    Papyrus News, including how to (un)subscribe or access archives, see
    An issue being debated in the US is to what extent young children should
    use computers in school.  Ferdi Serim, drawing on the work of Hank Becker
    and Margaret Riel,  has written this response to an earlier call for a
    moratorium on use of computers by young children....mark
    From: Ferdi Serim [mailto:ferdi@LEARNING.CENTRINITY.COM]
    Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2000 12:38 PM
    Subject: Spinning Gold into Straw: Alliance for Childhood Misses the Point
    Hi folks,
    Last week's report by the Alliance for Childhood caused quite a stir in
    the media and inside the Beltway...I drafted this response on behalf of
    the Consortium for School Networking, which I'd like to share with you.
    Please feel free to forward to anyone who may benefit from balance in
    considering the place of technology in the development of
    Spinning Gold into Straw: Alliance for Childhood Misses the Point
    By Ferdi Serim
    The adage "the older I get, the better I was" now extends from personal
    recollection to collective judgement of earlier eras, if one accepts the
    Alliance for Childhood's recent report "Fools Gold: A Critical Look At
    Computers and Childhood."
    Once again, the public is served up conclusions based on research and
    quotations from laudable, notable people, all of whom share two important
    characteristics: they are neither children, nor educators who actually use
    technology as a tool to improve learning. The underlying assumption seems
    to be that once an educator embraces technology, the love of children is
    replaced by the love for machines. All we have to do to improve education
    is change our attitude about the sanctity of childhood, banish elementary
    school computers and all will be well. I believe that rather than focusing
    on Good Old Days that never were, we can build bright new days that
    incorporate the Alliance's goals, without ignoring what the past decade
    has taught us about how technology can improve student learning.
    Fool's Gold is the perfect snooze alarm for people who are yet to wake up
    to the idea that educational improvement requires change. And change is
    about more than velocity, it is also about direction. The debate today is
    about more than technology, choice or vouchers: it centers on whether your
    model for learning is based on transmission or construction of knowledge.
    Instead, the report implies that corporate strategies are leading
    educators like lemmings to the abyss, and that we're willing to sacrifice
    our children at the altar of the new economy. These concerns mask a more
    fundamental struggle about which model of learning will guide our
    classrooms and homes, and who will teach.
    Common sense is replaced by attacks on strawmen built from misconceptions
    and distortions that no experienced technology using educator would
    endorse or repeat. For example:
    "Either/Or" Strawman
    "What's wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of
    technology will make a dent." - Steve Jobs
    Since both technology friends and foes agree that the most important
    person in education is the teacher, isn't the most critical goal to
    provide the most effective, best prepared teachers possible? Data from the
    1998 Teaching, Learning and Computing (TLC) Survey
    (http://www.crito.uci.edu/tlc), involving more than 4,000 teachers in over
    1,100 schools across the US, provides substantive insights about what is
    required to do so.
    One of their dramatic findings is that that teachers who have been
    identified as teacher leaders in their schools, in their district and in
    their fields were 10 times more likely to be teachers who used computers
    themselves and have integrated the use of computers with their classroom
    instruction.  These teacher leaders, teachers with a high degree of
    professional engagement and respect, contrasted with a group of teachers
    that Riel and Becker refer to as private practice teachers.  This group of
    teachers had much lower investment in their own learning in pre-service
    education and in later years. When the private practice teachers did use
    computers, they did so in ways that supported drill and practice games.
    The evidence shows that teachers who invest highly in their own learning
    are discovering how to teach effectively with computers, using them for
    problem solving, analysis and presentation.
    Becker finds that  computers are more likely to be a valuable and
    effective instructional tool  when certain conditions are met.  Teachers
    need to be personally comfortable and at least moderately skilled in using
    computers themselves.  There needs to be regular and easy student access
    to computers "to permit computer activities to flow seamlessly alongside
    other learning tasks." And, perhaps most importantly, a teachers' personal
    philosophy needs to be consistent with student-centered, constructivist
    pedagogy that incorporates collaborative projects defined partly by
    student interest.
    "Technology is Dehumanizing" Strawman
    The power of the Internet is people, not machines. I've personally
    witnessed a group of 5th graders in NJ take on the US Immigration Service,
    to prevent a classmate (who was 2 years old in the Ukraine when Chernobyl
    exploded) from being deported. (see http://oii.org/html/chernobyl.html)
    They used the Internet to conduct a public information campaign that
    resulted in the state legislature passing a unanimous resolution to allow
    him to say. Being sent back would have represented a death sentence for
    this child, who is in remission from leukemia and who would be unable to
    find proper medical care should his illness return.
    Dizzy Gillespie once told me "it will take you ten years to learn to play
    your instrument, and it will take you twenty to learn what *not* to play!"
    The arguments being made about technology's role in learning might have
    held water a decade ago, but we who've been working in this field have
    moved beyond infatuation. We know how and when to use technology, but more
    importantly, we know when not to use it. We have experienced in our own
    lives that technology and rich human relationships need not be mutually
    exclusive. Used in a healthy way, technologies can enrich what happens in
    real life. That's why we use them in the first place.
    "They're Too Young to Play" Strawman
    While concerns about physical injury to young children are legitimate, the
    risk is a defined domain, similar to sports injuries or the realizations
    that led very young children to use quarter-size violins in the Suzuki
    method. The research shows that students are lucky if they get to a school
    computer once a week, and that the average number of computers in
    classrooms lucky enough to have them is 2. If children are using computers
    4-5 hours a day, they're doing so at home, which argues for better
    school/home communication on how to partner in shaping appropriate
    computer use.
    Perhaps we're not arguing about technology, but common sense. Young
    children can benefit when caring, competent teachers use these machines to
    enhance their learning landscape. For example, by using the computer to
    track information over time, 1st grade students who were studying a small
    pond discovered that there were fewer ducks each year. This graphing of
    observational data inspired them to action and 6 classes of first graders,
    the population of one small school, got the attention of city planners and
    now the pond has been restored and preserved by the actions of
    computer-using first graders.
    Every Child Deserves a Qualified Teacher
    In The Beliefs, Practices, and Computer Use of Teacher Leaders, Margaret
    Riel and Hank Becker (University of California, Irvine) describe Teacher
    Leaders  "who place a high value on sharing their knowledge with their
    teaching colleagues. At the opposite end of the continuum are Private
    Practice Teachers who report little or no engagement in professional
    dialog or activities beyond those mandated...(who) engage in a form of
    "private practice" behind closed doors. Closed classroom doors open
    concerns about maintaining high standards for both teaching and learning."
    They continue, "The findings are consistent and strong--Teacher Leaders
    are better educated teachers, continuous learners, computer users, and
    promote constructive problem-based learning over direct instruction. They
    use computers to help their students achieve the same level of respect and
    voice that these teachers have achieved within their professional
    educational community."
    That's the good news. Although the students of the best educated, most
    professionally involved, most skilled educators are ten times more likely
    to use computers in powerful ways, the bad news is the distribution:
    Teacher Leaders are 2%, Teacher Professionals are 10%, Interactive
    Teachers are 29%, and Private Practice Teachers are 58% of the teaching
    population. Literacy has expanded beyond Ozzie and Harriet days, yet we
    have allowed acquisition of these new skills remain optional for our
    teaching force.
    Rather than perpetuate drama, we could choose to dialogue. Those of us
    using technology to improve learning have more in common with the Alliance
    for Childhood than either group suspects. How will the next version of
    this report  look once we engage each other in purposeful, action oriented
    (This essay will be published as a column in the November issue of
    eSchoolNews. see http://www.eschoolnews.com/ )
    Ferdi Serim                  phone/fax: 505 466-1901; cell: 505 577-1580
    email: ferdi@oii.org
    Online Internet Institute, Director http://oii.org
    Santa Fe, NM 87505
    ECP Ring Leader <http://www.Edu-CyberPG.com>
    co-author: NetLearning: Why Teachers Use the Internet
    "We are more than the sum of our knowledge,
          we are the products of our imagination." - Ferdi

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