Negative Effects of Computers in Classrooms

By Jessy Norman

Computers and other related technologies have become an enormous part of our daily lives. They have altered our sense of people, space, and time. From our living rooms, we can now talk to people, and watch ev ents unfold in far-off places. Shopping, banking, and game playing are just a few of the other daily activities that have also changed. So many aspects of the ways we communicate and handle information have been altered by technological development. Cellu l ar phones, answering machines, voice mail, fax machines, cable televisions, computer networks, satellite communications and e-mail are only some recent changes. Other manifestations of this change would be the location of where it is happening. Yes, it is everywhere, including the classrooms for the use of educating children. Technology is now becoming more popular in the presence of classrooms all around the world. Tomorrow's future is in the hands of today's students. So having computer technology in the classroom sounds like a good idea to me. As time goes by, these machines are being produced to compute at a faster rate, for a cheaper cost. These are the known facts. But, who funds these machines going into the classrooms for the children to learn? Are these computers really necessary? Who already has the education to teach others about this subject, and will that just cost more money? Are they efficient, and really worth it? What are some of the causes and effects of these machines?

Today, major compa nies are working with educators to support the use of new technology in the classroom. This includes laptops in the rooms for students also. School districts across the country, about seventy of them, are working with The Microsoft Corporation to create w h at they call a "Connected Learning Community". Together, Microsoft and the schools have developed the "Anytime, Anywhere Learning" program whose goal is for all students to have their own portable computer and to use these tools like pencils and paper. According to the program's promoters, the idea is to enable students to produce the work that would be acceptable in classrooms around the world (The Education Digest- pg58). The program also gives teachers access to the Internet, they can talk with other t e achers and put technology into the curriculum anytime, anywhere. Teachers in this program have stated that students are not just learning better and faster: they are also learning and doing things that were impossible without the new technology(59). The program is said to have boosted the students' problem-solving skills and intellectual autonomy. The mechanical processes of typing and retyping have been minimized; it is reported that these students can spend more time now on other things in the classrooms. Wendy Schwartz states three main reasons that computers should be a significant part of a students education (1)computer can make learning all subjects easier, and they are especially valuable in developing students' language and problem-solving skills( 2 ) Students can use computers to reach hundreds of telecommunications networks, these sources provide a huge amount of information that students cannot get from textbook and more traditional learning tools(3) Computer literacy, understanding computers tech n ology, is necessary for most good-paying and interesting careers(60). But there is also a downside, In contrast, the Atlantic Monthly published a cover story on the matter. Todd Oppenheimer stated that, for many decades, technology has challenged the way students are taught. Such influential people as inventor Thomas Edison, educator William Levenson and behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner proclaimed that new technology devices of their era would vastly increase student's interests in learning. In 1922, E dison predicted that the motion picture would replace textbooks in the classroom. In 1945, Levenson, director of the Cleveland public schools' radio stations, predicted that the radio receiver would be as common in classrooms as the blackboard. . In the e arly 1960s Skinner said that teaching machines and programmed instruction would increase student learning.

Those first-generation Apples and PC's often sat collecting dust in classroom corners, largely because teachers had little time or resources to learn more about them, even if they had the inclination. So, with more computers in classrooms now then ever, why is it that schools are not producing millions of Bill Gates clones? It seems that they have rushed this computers in with out having one k e y element-- training the teachers. Education Week Magazine has just completed a report on technology in school that shows teachers do not know what to do with all that RAM. Almost 50% don't use computers at all in teaching, and only 16 percent use the I nternet. The Educational software that's out there doesn't provide much promise:70% of high school teachers said finding useful products is nearly impossible (Teachers are Lagging off on Logging on).

Today, however schools and teacher education programs a re having to assist teachers in learning the technology skills they need in order to prepare for life in the future. The use of computer technology and the growing access to educational resources through the Internet are requiring educators to rethink ho w they teach and to help students to prepare for work in upcoming decades. Most teachers, though are not adequately prepared yet to make use of exciting new educational technologies because neither their teacher education programs nor their schools have provided sufficient time or incentives for them to learn.

Such advancement in today's technology has allowed now for students to learn from computers inside and also outside of the classroom. Distant learning has become popular throughout the world, allo wing more students to be educated with out even leaving the home. Technologies, such as satellite video conferences , Internet- based teleconferencing , and interactive multimedia classrooms, are giving schools the ability to reach and educate nontradit i onal students in numbers that will expand with American higher education. Giving another plus to why technology is so important and must be spread everywhere, including into schools. However, the problem being in the hands of the educator, entailing kno wledge of these subjects to be learned.

Although, doing so for these districts is not as easy as it sounds. A challenge in American schools has been the in-service training for teachers in any subject, Unlike college professors,primary and secondary teac hers have little available time during the workday for practicing technology. While children are in class, teachers spend their time teaching and supervising them. At the end of the day, few have the energy to attend workshops. Trying to get them to gi ve up a Saturday is even more of a struggle.(The Future of Technology in Teaching).

The educating of these professionals may be a large obstacle to overcome. However, there is still the funding for schools to keep up with the pace of technological change s. Until school boards and administrations begin to budget adequately for technology's equipment and ongoing staff development, educators will still be losing the battle. Most schools, including colleges and universities, do not have budget models yet t h at take into account equipment and software upgrades that have become routine in most business environment. School boards should be seeking the aid of local corporate leaders to help their administrators learn the ropes of budget for technology needs. ( The Future of Technology in Teaching). Although if they do find the money, how beneficial will it be? \par \tab This year, American schools will invest $5.2 billion in technology, out pacing last years $4.3 billion. Politicians, business leaders and educators cl amor to get the latest hardware into every school. Ten years ago there was one computer for every 37 students, now there is one for every seven, and 70% of American schools are on-line.(The Great Technology Mania). The nations that regularly leave us in the dust on academic tests, like Korea, have focused on good teaching, not in technology . There is no evidence that use of computers or the Internet improves student achievement. Yet the billions spent on technology represents money not spent on music, art, libraries, maintenance, and other essential functions.(The Great Technology Mania)

So, does this all make sense? A high school teacher interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, said that students' favorite sites on the Internet were about cars, sports, and movies. The New York Times identified dozens of Internet sites that sell term papers. One student of a New York City high school said "A lot of people download papers and just change the names. There aren't a lot of original papers that get writte n anymore".

It can be argued that Internet learning is fun for students, helping them to learn. Astrophysicist Clifford Stoll responds: " Most learning isn't fun. Learning takes work. Discipline. Responsibility. " He would rather see a youngster lea rn "how Shakespeare processed words than how Microsoft does." ( The Great Technology Mania.) Clifford Stoll loves computers. Even though he does not want kids anywhere near them, at least not in the classroom. In " High Tech Heretic" (Doubleday) Stol l writes that he'd "rather see a child push a pencil or a high schooler do a chemistry lab than tackle a similar tackel the virtual way." His reasoning is, Students will be actively thinking about the task at hand. As Stoll argues, kids will always figu re out computers, as they should \par \tab There are many uses for these tools. But since teachers lack the knowledge needed, students may get stuck doing meaningless exercises. Apparently, these machines can become a waste of time, if not in the hands of the right user. This time could be spent doing more educational things. Maybe even trying to catch up to those countries ahead of us.

In conclusion, teachers are lacking the knowledge to log -on to this new advancement, making this learning experience usel ess to students. There is the smallest student to computer ratio ever, and little is being done about this. Some schools have began to educate on this new trend, having positive and negative effects to go along with it. A majority of this country has not jumped on the band-wagon due to the lack of education on the teachers' behalf. The ancient Chinese Philosopher Lao-tzu pointed out that " a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step." Large Corporations and school districts are spending billions of dollars along this walk. Although it seems to be moving at a slow pace. Something must be done for students to be able to run into tomorrow's future.

For Further Reading:

Should We Regulate Childrens' Use of the Internet? By Courtney Strohm

works Cited

Donnelly, Sally. "Teachers are Lagging off in Logging On". Time 28 September 1999:13

Newcomb, Amelia. "What? A school Without Computers." Christian Science Monitor. 2 December 1999:91

Ravitch, Diane "The Great Technology Mania". Forbes 23 March 1999:16

Smith, Lawrence."The Future of Technology in Teaching." USA Today 16 March 1999:B26

Higgins, Jon. Calculators, Computers, and Classrooms Columbus, Ohio, Eric Clearing House Ohio State University. 1981 Pg145-53

Wisheingrad, Ruth. Paper Textbooks. The Education Digest. Feburary, 1999 pg58-63

Assessing The Role of Teaching in Education Phi Kappa Delta. 1994 pg. 1-18.

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