Computers in schools
Without a shred of doubt, we can say that computers have literally taken over our lives. This ubiquitous machine has replaced most manual tasks thus easing off some pressures of manual work. But while we may incorporate computers on the pretext that their adoption has allowed us to invest more time on other suitable activities, the truth is that there are no such activities left.
After assigning computer all the important tasks, we are doing nothing other than throwing ourselves in front of television or eating at fast foods. And what is the most disturbing aspect of increased dependence on computers is the sudden replacement of dialectics with computer-aided arguments. These are precisely the reasons why we must not advocate early use of computers in schools.
Advocates of early computers use argue that: “Work with computers – particularly using the Internet – brings students valuable connections with teachers, other schools and students, and a wide network of professionals around the globe. Those connections spice the school day with a sense of real-world relevance, and broaden the educational community.” Such theories abound and have supported quick adoption of computers in schools. But sadly, these theorists fail to focus on the developmental aspect of dependence on computers. Not only students fail to exercise their dialectic powers because of the presence of computers, they may even perform poorly at mathematics and other such subject because their minds become too lazy to do the required computations without the aid of computers.
Interestingly the nations, which are progressing rapidly and where students have demonstrated exceptional math skills, such as Japan, some schools still support the use of abacus and not even calculators let alone computers. This use of abacus trains the mind for rapid calculations and computations. It is heartening to see that despite rapid proliferation of computers, some developed nations have the courage to resist its adoption and application at school level. We need the courage to be able to resist the appeal of computer-aided education. It is the right of our future generations to learn everything manually because sooner or later, they will learn and adopt computers like we did. But having the foundational education, traditionally imparted, trains the mind for dialectics and mental computations. That will prepare our students to argue logically and to understand the implication and impact of things.
Even if computers are adopted, their use must be restricted but our teachers are inadequately trained for that. As one head of the school points out: “If computers make a difference, it has yet to show up in achievement. We must have the courage to resist the public enthusiasm for sexy hardware and argue for the funds necessary to train our teachers.” When teachers are properly trained and they can restrict use of computers, we might incorporate computers in moderation. But until that time, computers must either stay out of schools or they should be restricted to labs alone where computers are taught. In all other areas of learning, computers must not be allowed so our children are learn things the traditional way. In the last few years, there has been a massive explosion of studies criticizing the math score of American children on achievements tests. Some have tried to apologize of this by finding faults in the test structures. However what these apologists fail to see is the poor teaching methods that are causing learning deficiencies in our students. Bring in computers and you have complicated the picture even further. Machine can never replace critical thinking that requires problem dialectic process and these skills can never be learned through computers. Our younger generation cannot argue and is more influenced by persuasive acts they witness on television and through the Internet. The inability of computers to think critically is what promoted Neil Postman to cite this as “the end of education.” Clements and Sarama (2002) intelligently sum up the argument when they say, “Research has moved beyond the simple question of whether computers can help young children learn–we know that they can. We now need to understand how best to use computers to aid learning and what types of learning we should facilitate with computers. Obviously, we do not believe that every use of technology is appropriate or beneficial. The design of the curriculum and that of the social setting are two of many important components in learning.” (p. 341).
Therefore, inn order to produce a smarter generation, we must forfeit excessive use of technology in schools. It is beyond question that computers are important but till we learn to better handle technology, we must resort to traditional ways of argumentation and computation to polish our students’ critical thinking skills.
Neil Postman, The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School (New York: Knopf, 1995).
Clements, D., & Sarama, J. (2002). The role of technology in early childhood learning. Teaching Children Mathematics, 8(6), 340-345.
Oppenheimer, T. “The computer delusion.” The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 280, N. 1, July 1997, pp. 45-62.
 Oppenheimer, T. July 1997
 Quoted in Tamara Henry, “Questioning Computers,” USA Today, 25 July 1997, p. 4-D.