Friday, March 30, 2007

Once Again, I'm Glad We Got A Low Grade

The annual grades for use of computers in the classroom are out, and Utah got a C this time. One of the reasons cited is that there aren't computers in enough classrooms, even though 85% of students have access to a lab and minority and low-income students seem to have "enough" computer access. Also having between 5 and 6 students per computer is evidently too high a ratio.

This doesn't bother me. This is just the opinion of people who presuppose that computers are neat gadgets with hypnotic blinking lights... of course everyone wants one... everyone needs one... no, everyone needs two... I challenge that assumption. In fact, I'll go further. I challenge any of my readers to give me one good reason why children under the age of 10 need computers in their classrooms to learn.

Here are some half-baked arguments I expect people might try, and my responses in advance:
  • You're just a crazy neo-luddite who hates technology. Well, no actually. I'd be lost without my cell phone and my laptop. I dream of being able to afford an iPod. And I do use a calculator-- in fact used one yesterday doing my taxes. But I'm an adult. I have a hell of a lot more to schedule and keep track of. My seven-year-old doesn't need a powerful database to keep track of his Legos.
  • Today's global marketplace is fast-paced and students need computer training to keep up. I'll buy that, but the question of why students would benefit from computer training while they can't yet read or spell is still on the table. Also still on the table is why this would require computers to be in their classrooms and not, say, a school lab. Great use of buzzwords like "fast-paced" and "global marketplace," by the way. Are those the current ones, or are they being replaced soon?
  • Students need technology to learn. Funny, how up until the personal computer was invented, students learned absolutely nothing. However did they manage?
  • Educational software helps students learn. Odd, I thought we were paying teachers to do that. Maybe that's too old-fashioned though? Maybe we ought to just buy educational software instead of giving the teachers raises?
  • Students don't have computers at home. Students don't have pet ferrets at home, either. And the health benefits of stroking a furry pet have been proven in medical studies. Why aren't there groups giving out report cards for students' access to ferrets in the classroom?
  • Students can use computers when they're that young. I don't question the idea that kids under the age of 10 would want to use computers. I do have kids in that age range, after all. What I want to know is why they need them. A need is different than a want, after all, and computers at our house are a privilege, not a right. Why should it be different at school?
Once again, to sum up: Adults need computers. Teachers, as adults, need computers. Teenagers need computer training. So why do children under 5th or 6th grade need computers in their classrooms? Also, consider this: there's one computer for every 5.4 students. Assume the computer is in use between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a short lunch break. That's around an hour a day per student. What are they doing on those computers for which they need a full hour a day? Do you think children younger than 10 need a full hour every school day on a computer? Because evidently the people who give out these report cards think they ought to have one and a half full hours. Or better yet, more, since 1 1/2 hours a day is what the national average works out to be. Half the states have enough computers that students would spend more time than that.

Please bake all your arguments until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees, then post them in the comments.