Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is Technology the Answer to our Education Problems?

In the 1980s and 1990s, we all thought that computers would bring in the new golden millennium, a millennium characterised by greater efficiency, greater productivity and fewer work hours.

We are now older and wiser. We’ve lived the IT paradox: the faster the computer, the longer the office hours. Instant communication (email, mobile phones) demands instant results, all of them spell-checked and cleverly formatted. Work pressures result in increased stress levels. Deadlines cost us our family life. Internet browsing can cost us our marriages.

So, the question that I’d like to pose is this: if computers are so fraught with danger, why do we still introduce them at the lowest possible age at school and at home? As parents, we still spend money on educational computer games, and we judge the local school by how many computers it has in its lab.

The proponents of computer-based education claim that:

- Computers stimulate young minds by making learning fun.
- The Internet allows students to explore whole new worlds in real time.
- Resources available on the Internet make researching new topics enjoyable.
- Tedious drills like times tables can be rehearsed on the tireless, patient computer.
- Technology makes it easy to communicate.

What do you think? Is it a good idea to teach a 3 year old how to use a mouse? Do computers stimulate or stifle creativity? Should a computer be doing a teacher’s job? Oh, and while we’re at it, what do you think a computer’s Teaching Style might be? (To find out more about Teaching Styles, visit us on

We look forward to reading your comments.


Anonymous said...

I'm struggling with the same question: how early should children be introduced to computers? There are numerous pros and cons to earlier vs. later, but I suspect it's the wrong question. I think we should rather be asking how much time in front of the computer is healthy at any age, and that depends on the actual activity...

bwtcf said...

Computers CAN (but don't neccessarily) stimulate young minds. When they do, this does not mean that they are the ONLY thing that can stimulate said minds.

No one thing is the answer to 'our Education Problems'. Those problems are, and always have been, multidimensional, complex and ever changing. Computers CAN help in some parts of the puzzle. However they are not the silver bullet. There is no Silver bullet.

Peter de Vocht said...

Computers are tools - and like any tool you should choose how to use it wisely.

The problem you refer to (increasing complexity) is coupled to Moore's law in my opinion. If the computers as introduced in the 80s ("the golden era" you refer to) had stayed the same and not further developed, we wouldn't have had to deal with these changes and things would have been different.

Problem is that computers and Moore's law in particular have remained constant (i.e. capacity has doubled every 18 months since the 1950s).

The only solution to keep up (keep up with the enormous 18 month rate of increase) is to engage in these systems.

The pedagogical age is best determined by experts in this era - just remember you've got a tool, a means to an end, not a magic bullet.

Sherry said...

Call me old fashioned, but I still think libraries have a place in schools.

Children learn to search on the catalog (computerised surely), find the books on the shelves, learn that unlike the computer the shelves are often unordered, and books are missing that should be there. (a chance to explain how you need to be considerate and not hide books, or steal books). Children are encouraged to ask questions to a 'real' person. For shy children this is a valuable experience - computers make it to easy to avoid face to face communication. (I love email this reason. Half hoping I can't catch up with that pesky colleague in person, haha)

Computers indeed have a place - but firmly alongside real live personal interaction and books.

Social skills are not high on the things computers improve, so my answer to the question is a no. Technology is not the answer to our education problems.

Yvonne Eve Walus said...

Sherry, you are so right. One of the biggest disadvantages of the Internet is the sheer volume of unverified information. We tend to forget that all too easily.

Peter de Vocht said...

You are now talking about a trade-off between availability/quantity of information and quality of information.

Public libraries are usually greatly out of date when it comes to science and technology vs. the Internet. Plus - which is easier? Finding information in a library or using something like google to search the web?

There are no guarantees either in a library that information is accurate - there are people paying attention to information in libraries though - which is not the case on the Internet.