Once upon a time all of us in education were told that computers in every classroom and in the backpacks of every kid would power a revolution in education and immeasurably improve teaching an learning. A quick look around American schools will tell you that hasn’t happened despite a huge investment of money and time over the past ten years.
That’s the view of the author of a new book called "The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom". I haven’t read the book yet (Amazon put it in the mail today) but some of the author’s observations in this article deserve a great deal of consideration.
"At this early stage of the personal computer’s history, the technology is far too complex and error prone to be smoothly integrated into most classrooms," Oppenheimer writes. "While the technology business is creatively frantic, financially strapped public schools cannot afford to keep up with the innovations."
Of course, this is not the first time US schools have been seduced by new technology, Oppenheimer points out. He summarizes the history of technological innovations in American schools and explains how each (TV among them) has been hailed as education’s savior. And yet, despite technology’s lack of success in US classrooms, many Americans still prefer to invest in computers rather than in teachers, Oppenheimer charges.
The most effective teachers, he argues, are those who know enough to ignore the latest technological products and rely on such hands-on technology as pens and paper, musical instruments, wooden blocks, and rulers.
Todd Oppenheimer, the author, is no stranger to this debate. His 1997 article The Computer Delusion in Atlantic Monthly magazine was one of the first major challenges to the concept that flooding schools with technology would automatically improve American education. It will be interesting to see what his more than six years of research has produced.