Thursday, March 13, 2003


Q. Our superintendent wants to hire a technology coordinator for the early primary grades. Is this OK?

No. Technology in the early grades has been shown to be expensive window dressing that can be counterproductive to the educational process. Young children need relationships with other humans, particularly caring adults, and hands-on, multisensory experience with the real world. Computers, video and other ed tech tend to stunt imagination and creativity, and raise concerns about children’s physical, emotional and cognitive well-being. Dangers: eyestrain, obesity, repetitive stress injuries, social isolation and more.

To the adult eye, it would seem to be a smart idea to fill classrooms with multimedia machines, Internet connections, word processing capabilities, digital cameras, spreadsheets, laptops . . . but the truth is, there is no learning advantage from trivial games, inappropriate adult activities and commercialized content, which is often what the ed tech is used for. Meanwhile, adding technology usually means cutting time for the things that young children really need from their schools: art, p.e., recess, nature walks and so forth.

The National Science Board reported in 1998 that costly educational strategies such as increased technology, smaller class sizes and other extras do not appear to enhance student achievement with any degree of cost-effectiveness that approaches good, old-fashioned, solid, traditional curriculum and instruction.

Researcher Larry Cuban, an expert on educational technology, also reports that more than 30 years of studies show only one sure benefit of computers in the classroom: a modest improvement in test scores from “drill and practice” type computer programs. Significantly, though, those improvements are not as great as the higher test scores that are attained when the students are given one-on-one tutoring, which is significantly cheaper than computers as well.

Homework: See the Alliance for Childhood for the report, “Fool’s Gold: A Critical Look at Computers and Childhood.”

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