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Do Home Computers Help Or Hinder Education?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the yes dept.

Education 305

theodp writes "The NY Times reports on economists' efforts to measure a home computer's educational impact on schoolchildren in low-income households. Taking widely varying routes, they are arriving at similar conclusions: little or no educational benefit is found. Worse, computers seem to have further separated children in low-income households, whose test scores often decline after the machine arrives, from their more privileged counterparts. Abroad, researchers found that children in Romanian households who won a $300 voucher to help them buy computers received significantly lower school grades in math, English and Romanian. Stateside, students in a North Carolina study posted significantly lower math test scores after the first broadband provider showed up in their neighborhood, and significantly lower reading scores as well when the number of broadband providers increased. And a Texas study found that 'there was no evidence linking technology immersion with student self-directed learning or their general satisfaction with schoolwork.'"

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A challenge to game designers (3, Interesting)

davide marney (231845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885438)

What struck me is that kids gained nothing _but_ computer skills. This ought to challenge computer game designers: can you come up with a game that kids will want to play AND increases math and reading scores? I'm not talking about an "educational" game, per se, just a game whose side effect is better reasoning and comprehension. Even kids who read silly novels are learning something that is useful for school. Why not gamers?

Re:A challenge to game designers (3, Interesting)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885500)

They did that back in 1987. Math Blaster was awesome! I just haven't seen developers going in that direction in a while.

Re:A challenge to game designers (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885660)

GCompris [gcompris.net] is in use by schools all over the world.

Re:A challenge to game designers (1)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885818)

GCompris [gcompris.net] is in use by schools all over the world.

What? Those look stupid, when I was a kid we ha- Number Muncher??

Awesome.

Re:A challenge to game designers (2)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885848)

They still make Math Blaster, though their current avatar looks a little too... modern [knowledgeadventure.com] ? I don't know, just keep it off of my lawn.

Re:A challenge to game designers (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885510)

Yeah, educational games! No one's tried that before, it's a veritable gold mine smacking us in the face!

Re:A challenge to game designers (3, Insightful)

nschubach (922175) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885550)

That would be cool... unfortunately, games have become very watered down. Even simple challenges in games are documented and detailed on sites like GameFAQs within the first few days of release. If a kid is stuck on a puzzle that would challenge their critical thinking skills they are more likely to alt-tab to read the answer on the web than the are to complete the objective on their own. It's not fun for them to have to think! ;)

If someone figures out a way to get past rudimentary math skills in a game (Inventory space / x bullets per y clips) then you'll have a winner but I can't think of any situation where you're going to challenge kids enough for them to do it in game and no so much that they feel frustrated with the game and look up the answer.

Re:A challenge to game designers (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885786)

If someone figures out a way to get past rudimentary math skills in a game (Inventory space / x bullets per y clips) then you'll have a winner but I can't think of any situation where you're going to challenge kids enough for them to do it in game and no so much that they feel frustrated with the game and look up the answer.

EVE online? Which is basically a spreadsheet with a fancy 3d screen saver? Its way too grindy for my taste, so impatient kids will not tolerate it. But something like it might do OK...

Re:A challenge to game designers (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885722)

There are a lot of educational games that are indeed fun. Before my kids were in preschool they had Sesame Street games (remember the Count?), and about the 1st grade I got them The Magic School Bus and Carmen Santiago, and some others I can't remember (my youngest is now 23 and managing a GameStop store). But a computer without educational games certainly won't help, and I can see how it can hinder.

However, why are economists studying this and why is anyone lending the study credence? It should be studied by psychologists, sociologists, or education specialists. If an astronomer does a study about the mating habits of blue finches, would you lend that study any credence? I wouldn't, and I won't take any study about education by economists seriously.

Actually I wouldn't take a study about anything by an economist seriously. If economics (and political "science") were anything more than mathematic snake oil, there would be no hunger or poverty.

Re:A challenge to game designers (1)

Macrat (638047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885800)

There are a lot of educational games that are indeed fun. Before my kids were in preschool they had Sesame Street games (remember the Count?), and about the 1st grade I got them The Magic School Bus and Carmen Santiago, and some others I can't remember (my youngest is now 23 and managing a GameStop store).

Those games didn't get them into college?

Re:A challenge to game designers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885806)

Hey McGrew,
Ask your kid if they have Battletoads, mkay?
Thanks,
moot

Re:A challenge to game designers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885878)

Actually I wouldn't take a study about anything by an economist seriously. If economics (and political "science") were anything more than mathematic snake oil, there would be no hunger or poverty.

You are so right, mcgrew. I've ranted about economists and economics as a discipline before.

Suffice it to say that as a science it makes sociology look like physics.

Re:A challenge to game designers (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885766)

Even kids who read silly novels are learning something that is useful for school.

Good interactive fiction aka text adventure games. You can't make a kid want to read, no different than an adult. But once they're reading you can get them very motivated / interested in what they're reading.

A much more interesting study would have been comparing hand/eye coordination before and after the computer arrived. My guess is aerobic fitness dropped but hand/eye coordination increased dramatically.

Re:A challenge to game designers (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885964)

I was going to say something similar. I grew up on text-based adventure games and I think they greatly improved my reading and reasoning skills. Sadly, they are obsolete now and even I have no patience for them. Modern point-and-click adventures are far too dumbed down.

Re:A challenge to game designers (3, Interesting)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#32886008)

After 3 years playing World of Warcraft I could recite the names of every zone and almost every significant town and city. Just imagine if the game was set in the real world and I was learning real geography. So yes, games can be educational without being "educational".

Here's some money for a crappy computer... (5, Insightful)

dwightk (415372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885452)

... why aren't you doing better?

Re:Here's some money for a crappy computer... (3, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885532)

Without parents that are involved with their children and are at least semi-computer literate, the kid will do nothing but Facebook or Half Life all day.

Re:Here's some money for a crappy computer... (2, Interesting)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885654)

People like to blame the parents. When I was a kid, I remember learning in school.

I do not get the impression from my child that the schools focus on anything that is not a social science. (The teacher flat out told us that no one teaches the multiplication table anymore nor phonetics.)

Kids can't read or do math, but they all know about global warning, the rape of the planet, BP and other evil corps, how this land was stolen from the natives, how we ALL used to have slaves... It is a disgrace. Then people wonder why people have no civic pride.

The guilt laid on our youth by our schools by focusing on only the bad in our history and current events is worse than any guilt I was taught by religion.

Re:Here's some money for a crappy computer... (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885784)

I concur.

There are three parts to this education equation...the teachers, the parents and the students. If the any one of them don't give a shit, then it's a complete failure.

The fact is that there many are children out there who do not have access to computers and the internet at home that can easily out perform children who do.

Re:Here's some money for a crappy computer... (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885874)

> When I was a kid, I remember learning in school.

Yeah, me too. But this article isn't about schools, or computers in schools. This article is about computers in homes.

Like any tool, it depends how you use it. If you use the computer as an educational tool, then it is one. If you use it as a babysitter, just plonk the kid down in front of it and say "use this thing and don't bother me", then very little education will ensue.

Re:Here's some money for a crappy computer... (4, Informative)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 4 years ago | (#32886080)

I have the exact opposite experience. I have kids aged 7 and 8. They left kindergarten reading fairly well and started writing stories in first grade. My oldest kid just finished second grade and she had to learn the multiplication tables up to 12 x 12.

I was in kindergarten in 1975 and I think our goal was to learn the colors and the alphabet. We didn't get serious about reading until second and third grade. Didn't do multiplication until fourth grade. My kids have a little homework every night, I never had daily homework until high school.

They have covered things like global warming, but in a more abstract way. Conserve energy, don't pollute, observe bugs, etc... They also spent quite a bit of time on the space program including a 3 month project where they were able to choose one area of study and prepare a report and presentation (my daughter chose Saturn and the Cassini mission). I never had the opportunity to do anything even remotely like this when I was 8.

How old is your kid?

Re:Here's some money for a crappy computer... (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885894)

>>>>the kid will do nothing but Facebook or Half Life all day.

Precisely. Back in the 70s and 80s having a computer meant learning to program, or learning basic office skills (word processing), otherwise it just sat there. But nowadays handing-out a computer is like having-out a television. It's used for entertainment not learning.

Re:Here's some money for a crappy computer... (4, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885572)

Here's some money for a crappy computer... why aren't you doing better?

What's your point? That giving them five times as much money for a loaded machine, complete with a dual GPU gaming video card and a glowing blue power supply will somehow make the kid's parents better at raising a kid? That a faster machine or more screen resolution will magically create critical thinking habits, creativity, or a longer attention span? That understanding causality, better parsing of complex sentences, abstract thinking using symbols in place of real numbers, and all of those other useful things either work, or don't, based on CPU speed, the amount of RAM you have, or how many USB ports?

Or is it possible that a kid living in a household that doesn't have the culture, or the inclination, or the time dedicated to being a thoughtful, inquisitive person sees being handed a computer (any computer) as getting just another form of distracting entertainment? It's not about how "crappy" the computer is, it's about how crappy the kid's household culture is.

Re:Here's some money for a crappy computer... (2, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32886006)

I think his point was nothing to do with how good the computer was, but rather that simply throwing money or equipment at a problem does nothing if you don't also provide some kind of training or direction. They could do something like provide a math/language based puzzle game and have the kids complete a puzzle each week as part of their homework.

I remember a demo of a text (kind of, it had pictures as well but it was command line driven) adventure game I had as a kid, it was a dungeon game with trolls etc, but it also had you complete simple math puzzles to get further in your quest, it was great.

Re:Here's some money for a crappy computer... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885628)

I doubt the crappiness of the computer is to blame(if anything, the opposite).

Taking "computer" to mean "x86 wintel", which is almost certainly the correct assumption in this case, you can't even buy a computer today(except possibly by making GoodWill an offer for their doorstop) that is within a factor of 10 of the suckiness of the computers that served entire universities and research institutes back in the day.

Darn Newfangled (3, Funny)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885458)

Kids are spending too much time on those darn newfangled computer thingys and it's rotting their brains. I say we ban them all!

Re:Darn Newfangled (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885506)

Seriously though, starting at a light source from short distance can't be good for your brain any more than it is for your eyes. The last time I went on vacation, I didn't even bring my laptop with me, and my mind felt a lot sharper at the end of the week. I've also started using a slide rule I inherited from my grandfather rather than a calculator and doing maths on paper again. I don't have to do a lot of math in my current position, so I forgot a lot and started doing a lot of review to get back up to speed, and honestly I'm not sure i learned a lot of the maths I took very well in the first place, 'cause I never got called out on using a TI-89.

Computers are great and all, but beyond JSTOR and making typing easier/faster, I'm not sure they really helped me in school.

Re:Darn Newfangled (3, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885554)

And giving the kid a computer and broadband won't make up for a crappy parent.

Re:Darn Newfangled (1)

Macrat (638047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885826)

And giving the kid a computer and broadband won't make up for a crappy parent.

Unless the kid has their own initiative to drive them.

Re:Darn Newfangled (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885980)

That initiative usually comes from culture (house-hold culture) or... let's call it peer pressure. The chances for a kid having initiative to learn on his own (but hasn't learned this things from someone in the family) are slim to none.

Re:Darn Newfangled (1)

unkiereamus (1061340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885844)

Seriously though, starting at a light source from short distance can't be good for your brain any more than it is for your eyes. The last time I went on vacation, I didn't even bring my laptop with me, and my mind felt a lot sharper at the end of the week.

Here's a thought, how about after your next vacation, you use some of your new found mental acuity to ponder the relationship between correlation and causation?

Re:Darn Newfangled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885556)

Yes, the evil of internets takes grip of them kids.

Re:Darn Newfangled (1)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885714)

Yeah! Let's ban these rotting brained children before they become mindless zombies!

Re:Darn Newfangled (1)

jrmcferren (935335) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885974)

When I was in school, my parents made sure I put my school work as a priority. But that being said technology has always caused problems with students, especially children and teens. The problem is that this distracting technology is now making it into the schools themselves. Here is what technology is doing to our students from earliest to latest:

Radio:
Radio brought the first non-reading type of entertainment into the home electronically. No longer did anybody even students have to leave their homes to get stories told to them either. Amateur radio on the other hand was an educational hobby. Radio actually comes up multiple times in this pseudo timeline.

Private Line Telephones:
While private lines existed before radio, and didn't become common until after television, in the 40's and later they started to become common. With the Private Line (non party-line) telephone, people including students could use the telephone for hours on end only limited to by what they had to do (eat, sleep, and go to school) or by the people who actually paid for the line (parents). Private Line Telephones started early electronic social networking.

Television:
Television was the holy grail of distractions for students. Not only did you have radio bringing entertainment into the home you had television and this time with actual pictures. Television also makes another appearance in this pseudo timeline.

Transistor radio:
Radio again rears its head. This time with the portable transistor radios that made car radios very common and portable radios common. With the transistor radio a student of virtually any age could bring entertainment with them wherever they went.

Rock and Roll Music:
Rock and roll was the first type of music truly aimed at the teenage generation. This brought students namely teenagers out to socialize quite a bit, rock and roll also combined with the transistor radio brought a whole new distraction to our student population.

Citizens Band Radio:
Radio yet again, this time it comes to us as a social networking tool. Citizens band radio became cheap and allowed people of all age groups to communicate with each other over the air. Independent of the telephone network, CB radio allowed social networking on a whole new scale and even allowed you to meet new people.

Cable/Satellite Television:
Television gets an upgrade with public cable transmission systems becoming available to the masses and with satellite transmission of new channels. Of these channels MTV grabs the teenage generation with rock and roll, just like rock and roll grabbed them before.

Personal Computers and Game Consoles:
Personal computers and games consoles were a major step in electronic entertainment. While computers did have educational uses, games were and still are common. In the early days programming skills were learned on computers.

Data Communication:
While data communication has been around since the 60s, the personal computer, combined with modems and deregulation of the telephone system allowed the proliferation of online services and bulletin boards. This was yet another way to socially network with each other and send electronic messages.

Cellular Telephones:
While expensive at first like all of the other mentioned technologies, the cellular telephone moved the private line telephone from the house to the car and then to the pocket. By the early to mid 2000s cellular phones started becoming the primary lines for many younger people, especially students.

Internet:
The internet took data communication to a new level, combined with the world wide web and electronic mail, social communication took another revolutionary turn. Combine this with social networking that became very common in the mid to late 2000s.

Smartphones:
Combining the internet with the cellular telephone created the smartphone. The mid to late 2000s and the early 2010s look promising for smartphones which bring all of the above mentioned technologies (except CB radio) to the pocket and hands of our students of all levels distractions will only get worse.

The whole point is, computers are not the only distractions, but they are notable.

Sample Sizes (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885482)

The Texas study listed these numbers for sample sizes:

Three groups or cohorts of students were included in this study, with Cohort 1 followed for four years, Cohort 2 for three years, and Cohort 3 for two years (Table 2.2). Cohort 1 (ninth graders) included a total of 5,217 students, with 2,469 treatment students enrolled at high schools and 2,748 control students enrolled at high schools; Cohort 2 (eighth graders) included 5,436 students, with 2,578 at treatment middle schools and 2,858 at control middle schools; and Cohort 3 (seventh graders) included 5,392 students, with 2,547 students at treatment middle schools and 2,845 at control middle schools.

The Romanian study [uchicago.edu] apparently successfully interviewed 858 families in two Romanian counties (Valcea and Covasna). With 1,100 children interviewed and some 1,800 survey sets. Just to put some perspective on how comprehensive each of these reports are. Couldn't get access to the other reports.

Personally I think we're still in a transition period and now that those homes have computers starting when the child is born (and whose parents had computers) we will start to see better parenting skills and regulation with computer usage. It could become just another carrot for the kid or even a method to teach the child proper time management (similar to the classic homework before TV law).

Re:Sample Sizes (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885900)

Personally I think we're still in a transition period and now that those homes have computers starting when the child is born (and whose parents had computers) we will start to see better parenting skills and regulation with computer usage.

Like with TV, right?

Re:Sample Sizes (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 4 years ago | (#32886032)

Better parenting skills usually comes with the kid being brought up in a "social" environment (many kids of different ages). Due to age-segregated learning, this happens less and less. I'd say current parents are even worse than the parents of old, even though the information on how to be a good parent is easy to COME BY USING COMPUTERS (not to mention lots of literature in bookstores).
      Easy access to information doesn't make one a better parent (or a better child).

mod 30wn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885504)

be fun. It used BSDI is also dead, legitimIse doing the system clean

Do education hinder education? (5, Funny)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885516)

It seems on our culture learning is not a process, is a job for theachers. Theres no importance put on teaching people how to learn. About a 50%, maybe a 25% of teaching sould be training people how to learn things.

Re:Do education hinder education? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885764)

Please no. I'm not saying your point isn't valid - your first two sentences seem dead-on accurate, but I've been forced through a couple classes in 'how to learn' at new-thinking school[s], and for everyone involved the classes were a waste of time, except for one teacher who used the class as a sinecure. The good students who already knew how to learn were bored out of their skulls, the poor students who didn't care were bored out of their skulls, and the average kids were uninterested because the teacher had to cater to the lowest level of the class, as they were the ones who needed help.

On the other hand, many other classes accidentally taught students how to learn simply by being reasonably difficult. Exercises determining if students were auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners did absolutely nothing for them, but being in a fast-paced Chem class actually forced them to figure out some way to learn or else. Some students figured out how to take effective notes, spread their studying wisely, etc, but from my observations they were not the ones making color-coded time-tracking schedules as recommended in the "how to learn" class. They were the ones who looked at their grades and and decided "I'm going to sit down, reread the assignments, rework the problems, and ask people to explain things to me until the number in front of the percent sign goes up."

Re:Do education hinder education? (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885796)

It seems on our culture learning is not a process, is a job for theachers. Theres no importance put on teaching people how to learn. About a 50%, maybe a 25% of teaching sould be training people how to learn things.

If you'd actually learned how to construct a sentence or two, the rest of us might understand what you are trying to say.

Re:Do education hinder education? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885808)

Incorrect, the problem is that they spend too much time trying to force students to conform to their way of learning rather than figuring out the best solution for that students learning. Some people learn best by memorization(which is what greatly promoted currently), some people, like me, prefer to remember as little information as possible due to semi-poor memory capacity and rely on our derivation/reasoning abilities to get us to the information. The problem is the current system has been in place so long that those at the top are more of the folks that are good at memorization and not much else. As a result their understanding of new concepts that go contrary to what they have already memorized is shit.

Non Sequitur (4, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885520)

The computer is just a tool. I'd think it has no direct effect on education whatsoever. Smart kids with supportive parents will gain a great deal from having a computer. Dumb kids with dumber parents will spend hours on Youtube, twitter etc and learn nothing of consequence.

The UK has just announced a program to get everyone online. However, 20% of school leavers in the UK are functionally illiterate and innumerate. Getting those people online isn't going to benefit anyone, in fact it'll just increase the amount of crap that's already on the Internet.

Re:Non Sequitur (5, Insightful)

cyber0ne (640846) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885622)

The computer is just a tool. I'd think it has no direct effect on education whatsoever. Smart kids with supportive parents will gain a great deal from having a computer. Dumb kids with dumber parents will spend hours on Youtube, twitter etc and learn nothing of consequence.

Exactly. If the parents are buying the computer as a teacher in the same sense that they bought the TV as a babysitter then they're doing it wrong. Kids who want to learn and grow will see it as a tool to help them perform that task, whereas kids who want to play Farmville and watch YouTube will see it as a tool to help them perform _that_ task. Perhaps the presence of the computer in the home strengthens the divide, but the divide has already been there. The student has to want to learn. There are exceptions, but generally (at least in American culture) low-income households and neighborhoods don't place a very high social value on education, and kids pick up on that at a much earlier age than a home PC can affect.

Re:Non Sequitur (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885700)

> The computer is just a tool.

Take out the word `just`. With a tool you can practice playing music, carving wood, running, swimming, climbing etc. To say that unlimited free practicing an activity at home isn't a help is laughable.

Better routers (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885718)

Why does it have to be broken down by intelligence? There are plenty of "smart" kids who waste their day away on Facebook and I'm sure there are plenty of smart people wasting their day here.

It's all about limits.

When the kid is on the computer he should be doing his school work or real research. Parents need to block websites for certain hours. Or, here's a way for Linksys to get more revenue, a home router with unlimited URL blocking and a filter that actually filters based upon content - my content filter doesn't work at all.

Have a list for timed access: ex. facebook - 8pm-9pm or what ever the parent sets. I think it's unreasonable and even a bit creepy for the parent to just stand over the kid all night.

Re:Better routers (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885938)

Timed lists are great in theory, but that still requires people to understand them and set them up properly. I suspect that most people's reaction will be "do what with what, now?", "that sounds like too much effort" and "don't go talking all techno-babble at me" when you say "go to this site (the router interface), add the website address and add the time that you want it to be available".

Worse, they'll probably also then blame the router when the kid finds ways round it or finds other sites, even though they only added five sites to the list and then never actually enabled the blocking.

Re:Non Sequitur (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885724)

Well, when I remember my own youth, pretty much everything was more fun than school work. Reading, climbing trees, cobbling stuff together with cardboard and tape, drawing, ... I could go on forever. Computers have made playtime even more fun, but at the same time they are hardly used effectively for education and that is not set to change in the near future. That said, I think the negative effect of computers on education is insignificant compared to the negative effects of the generally abysmal state of education everywhere, including many supposedly civilised countries.

Re:Non Sequitur (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885832)

Dumb kids with dumber parents will spend hours on Youtube, twitter etc and learn nothing of consequence.

Nothing of consequence? How can watching videos of idiots doing stupid things and getting the latest updates from your friends like "I just took a huge dump" be considered nothing of consequence.

Re:Non Sequitur (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885890)

The computer is just a tool. I'd think it has no direct effect on education whatsoever. Smart kids with supportive parents will gain a great deal from having a computer. Dumb kids with dumber parents will spend hours on Youtube, twitter etc and learn nothing of consequence.

Ding ding ding ding! Exactly what I was going to type. Same goes with having an encyclopedia in the house or any other kind of books. Kids who have an interest will make use of the tools and get some learnin' in their heads. Books aren't a magic teaching machine that instill knowledge through osmosis.

The same kinds of kids who improve themselves with books will take to computers; the same kinds of kids who aren't interested in books won't be interested in computers, or at least not in learning with the computers.

Re:Non Sequitur (1)

colmore (56499) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885992)

20% of school leavers in the UK are functionally illiterate

You mean graduates?

Dupe (3, Informative)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885522)

This was posted [slashdot.org] last month.

Re:Dupe (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885782)

That was the Duke University study. This article, published July 9th in the New York Times, includes a study from the University of Chicago that looked at Romanian school children. So no, not Dupe.

Re:Dupe (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885856)

Don't argue! kdawson gets to post something inflammatory and controversial again, and we wouldn't want him to miss out on his daily dose of smug for once again trolling Slashdot's front page.

Seriously, start supporting the "Author" element in RSS feeds. He's already filtered from my front page, now all I need is this crap stripped from my feed aggregator.

Re:Dupe (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885864)

I'm disabling advertising until you do it. I've no other way of making my point clear enough.

Re:Dupe (1)

CmdrPorno (115048) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885960)

That can only mean one thing: /. editors are low-income middle school students.

as with anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885524)

As with anything like this, the answer entirely depends on how it's used.

Like most tools... (2, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885528)

Like most tools computers, or the internet, can both help or harm education. The problem our generation has is that we've decided we can use technology as a substitute for things which that technology is poorly equipped to substitute. Take for example the "smart whiteboards" - outside of TED I have never once in a teaching context seen one of them used well. The fact that even lecturers within technology still use a whiteboard or blackboard should hint to other subject teachers that these aren't magic bullets for improving education.

The funny thing is that in my experience technology is used the worst the more further removed you are from subjects that really understand that technology. For example, in Science, Engineering, and IT you might actually find less computer usage than some classes in English or History which have no place using computers at all. What we essentially have is teachers swinging the technology magic wand like it is a black box that good grades come out of on their own... Very few people that know technology would believe this "black box" magic bull. But naturally there are companies lined up to sell schools software and hardware that might give students great grades just by the school spending money.

Basically people want to "buy" grades and technology is the latest trend in that vein. The old trend was buying teachers silly short courses on various vodo tricks.

Parents just want someone else to raise their kid and they feel less guilty about a computer than a TV or games console. Bad parenting will result in more time spent on 4chan and worse grades.

A tool does not bring skill and wisdom (1)

MeNeXT (200840) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885536)

it requires instruction and practice. A hammer and a saw do not create the carpenter. A carpenter can create with a hammer and a saw. A computer is just a tool and requires instruction on its use and operation. I don't need a study to tell me this, it's just common sense.

They're like guns. (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885546)

Computers don't hinder education, people do.

Clearly, it's about how you use it. I don't know about kids, but I do all my learning online. Anything I want to know is at my fingertips.

Every modern home has a computer. Those households that didn't have them clearly have parents who don't know how to instruct or guide their child's use of computers. Of course they won't study on it. They're probably surfing p0rn all day. No, seriously.

Re:They're like guns. (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885906)

They're like guns. Computers don't hinder education, people do.

So people are concerned about guns hindering education as well as computers hindering education? Sounds like we should ban them both!

On the more serious side of that phrase, it may be the people killing people with guns and not the guns themselves, but guns make it easier to kill people while not making it easier to keep them alive (anyone successfully tried surgery with a rifle that wasn't of the "removing self from gene pool" variety?). Computers, on the other hand, make it easier to improve education as well as being a distraction if incorrectly used.

Do Home Computers Help Or Hinder Education? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885548)

Yes.

Re: Do Home Computers Help Or Hinder Education? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885788)

DHome Computers Help Or Hinder Education?
Posted by kdawson on Tuesday July 13, @08:10AM
from the yes dept.

So now you're stealing jokes from kdawson?

Unsurprising (2, Interesting)

s-whs (959229) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885558)

Carolina study posted significantly lower math test scores after the first broadband provider showed up in their neighborhood,

Unsurprising, and for language skills too as children just spend more time doing stuff on the computer, than properly doing their homework.

What surpises me about todays school education (in the Netherlands) is that programmable graphing calculators are allowed everywhere. If I were a teacher I'd only allow those in perhaps 1 test per year. All else to be done on paper, manually.

When I see my niece who's quite intelligent, she's nowhere near as good at calculating stuff on paper or in her head as she should be. For what I consider te be trivial stuff that I do in my head, she picks up a calculator. And those skills of doing it yourself are important, e.g. to make estimates so you don't blindly trust what the calculator spews out. And those results can be wrong, if you say enter a wrong number somewhere...

In my schooldays, I liked to calculate stuff in my head even though I was a programmable calculator nut (remember the great Casio FX-602P? The excellent but slow HP-41CX?). I did the following trick for example: Someone gave me a calculation that I would then try to give a close estimate to. E.g. 14.6 ^ 2.7. Using various methods I usually got within a few percent. Useless? No, those skills are useful to check calculations. If the outcome is completely different from a manual estimate, somewhere there's a problem...

I remember estimating skills being taught in primary school. At that point they didn't make sense to me, because for me they were too easy, e.g. calculate 125*43. I would just calculate the exact answer, quicker than making an estimate. So estimating needs to be explained too which wasn't done properly then. Only many years later did I see the use of it...

Make of all that what you will, I see no suprises in any event, in the results of the article.

Re:Unsurprising (1)

asoduk (1348187) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885656)

I wonder what happened to the days of proofs and showing your work. Even in my college calculus classes the work part was more important than the right answer. Thinking back, it had to be a real pain to grade but at least when you got the work back you knew where you goofed it up. As for language, I think texting, e-mailing, IM, twitter, etc have ruined languages.

Blaming the computer (2, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885560)

Blaming the computer for Internet distraction isn't correct.

I would be interested to see the effects of putting a computer with educational tools in the home, but WITHOUT INTERNET.

Electronic babysitters (1)

matria (157464) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885562)

If parents were not using these for electronic babysitters this wouldn't happen. Any parent who's paid any attention at all can tell you that children will use anything to keep from the boring old task of "studying". As long as parents think they can shirk their responsibility to force the children to sit down and study, and at least do their homework, children won't study, and they won't learn, and their grades will go down. Thirty years ago I knew young parents who were totally shocked at their younger children's poor performance in kindergarten and first grade. "But, but..." they'd all stammer, "Johnny has watched Sesame Street three times a day since he was six months old!" He can sing the MacDonald's song just fine, but he doesn't even know how to hold a pencil, let alone write any letters or numbers with it.

Not wildly surprising... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885564)

I remember, back in my elementary/middle school days, computers(Apple IIs, at the time, went very well with the onion on your belt) were just getting cheap enough for the district I was in to get some, with the assistance of the more enthusiastic parents.

There was a great deal of excitement about them; but much of it seemed to be on the part of people who didn't grasp that "information" and "knowledge" are, in fact, distinct things. Since kids are fairly quick on the uptake, we quickly realized that, if we turned down the difficultly level of the "educational" portion of the educational games(RIP MECC), we could get to the "game" part more quickly and easily. I'm assuming that access to youtube and myspace, had they existed at the time, would not have improved our results.

I am, therefore, completely unsurprised to hear that computer access basically just reinforces whatever trajectory the student was already on(which, don't get me wrong, is hardly 100% poor kids screwed, wealthy ones fine. There are some very motivated poor kids, and some monied but heavily slacktastic ones. Trouble is, though, that among children without much internal motivation, wealth almost certainly does strongly correlate with external motivation, supplied by parents/tutors/etc.) . The internet is basically the best thing ever to happen to the self motivated(yes, public libraries were/are good as well; but having easy access to things like software, communication with fellow enthusiasts, and inexpensive supplies of esoteric hardware, in addition to information, arguably make the internet even better). It is slightly less good; but still pretty good, for the externally motivated. However, it also offers untold lifetimes of easily accessible distraction to the unmotivated and/or unsupervised. It probably still beats TV; because you have to be vaguely literate to move from one video to another; but that isn't saying much.

it's the parents, stupid (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885568)

i just moved to a decent elementary school district from a crappy one since my son is a few years away from going to school. in this school the kids are expected to know how to read by the time they go to 1st grade. i know someone who moved to one of the best school districts in the US where parents pay crazy property taxes to pay for two teachers per class etc. same story, kids are expected to know a lot of things that in crappy school districts they would spend time learning since the parents are lazy. in the good public schools the regular classes are like the top classes in the crappy schools.

my kid starts daycare soon and the one he's going to they teach kids to read and write by the time they hit 4. you can buy all the tech you want and pay all your money in taxes, but if the parents ignore the kid and expect everyone else to teach their kid then don't expect any spectacular results. if you buy technology for your kids make sure they use it right. in my day you had to go to the library a mile away to look at an encyclopedia. today it's on a cell phone and organized better than Britannica could ever dream of

The question is wrong (1)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885576)

Unless all of these computers were bought SPECIFICALLY for educational use, it's a poor/loaded question.

It's like asking whether or not a family's car is hindering or helping education. Yes it gets them to school, but they can also take time off of school and drive to the rocky mountains for vacation.

They have multiple purposes, I don't see how an inanimate object can be seen in pro or anti educational light.

This is a surprise? (1)

indytx (825419) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885580)

I read a study ages ago about how many fewer words children of lower income households hear spoken in their homes over the course of growing up. (No, I have no link to the study, but I recall it's millions.) Is it any surprise that you put another electronic distraction in a home where there's not a good track record for parent-child interaction that the interaction will decrease further and fewer words be spoken again? I think a lot of people, kids in particular, are already socialized to consume a lot of television, and I doubt that in financially stressed households the parents are going to make a conscious decision to reduce kids' television consumption or at least keep the consumption steady for all electronic devices. If you replace "my kids are LEARNING to use the computer" with "my kids are LEARNING to surf the internet" or "my kids are LEARNING to play their Xbox," the problem becomes obvious.

Re:This is a surprise? -- here is the article (2, Interesting)

InterGuru (50986) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885910)

The artiicle is The Early Catastrophe [aft.org]

Like any tool, it can be used or misused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885584)

My parents were pretty forward thinking and bought me the first family computer at age four. It was a Packard Bell (being a nerd now I kind of wish I had learned more about the hardware in it), and it was a blast. We didn't get internet until 1997, and we didn't get broadband until 2001.

I'd say the computer was great for education myself- especially with my parents encouraging me to play educational games, learn word processing , etc.- and my handwriting was (and is) atrocious and slow, so having a computer is a godsend for me. It really helped me out, and the internet is a tremendous resource for research. You'd be surprised at how much you could learn.

At the same time, it's easy for the computer to be more of a distraction. If you just buy the computer and throw the kid on it it's not likely to go well. More likely than not the kid is just going to find all sorts of interesting but ultimately unhelpful stuff (educationally) on the web. I think there are two big reasons for this:
  1. In a low income family, it's more likely that Mom, Dad, or both parents are out for a good portion of the day. This leads to the kid never being supervised on the computer, and kids will do anything to get around parental control software (which isn't a substitute for parenting
  2. You're less likely to get training on how to use the skills you need. My Dad was into computers before many of his colleagues and was highly proficient in Word and Excel, and he made sure to educate me on how to use these tools well.

    Beyond putting computers in classrooms and slapping on web filters (more for liability than anything else) I think schools are doing less to educate students on how to properly use the computer. I had a computer proficiency class in 6th grade. Everyone hated it, and it was taught by the home economics teacher. We all did Type to Learn, and at the end of that class only one person had bothered to learn how to touch type instead of looking at the keyboard (can you guess who it was)? Additionally, we were taught on how to use the Office Suite, use the library databases, and how to find information on the web.

    So I can believe the story is credible instead of an attack on technology. Having a portal to all sorts of wonderful distractions and terrible time wasters is bound to end up well if you have a situation where the kids are less likely to get guidance. Like a scalpel - a surgeon can save your life with it, or end it prematurely if he makes a mistake.

Old man ranting (1)

psergiu (67614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885592)

Back in my day i had a Romanian Sinclair Spectrum clone (Cip 03) and a bad russian cassette recorder who could not load any games from my friend's tapes.

So i had to learn to make games myself (in BASIC). I had higher grades in math, as all the graphs on my homework were perfect (plotted with the computer and copied from the tv screen :) )

Other old men here care to share their stories ? :)

Replace "computer" with "TV"... (4, Insightful)

bfwebster (90513) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885602)

...and ask yourself if you'd be surprised by these results. Most home computers (like TVs) are entertainment devices that are occasionally educational, rather than educational devices that are occasionally entertaining.

Beyond that, fundamental education (language, math, reasoning, general and specific knowledge) is hard and involves study, memorization, drill, and test. People have been hoping for 40 years or so that computers would somehow magically make that go away. Or to paraphrase South Park:

1) Computers in classrooms and homes
2) ?
3) Smart, well-educated kids!

Sorry, doesn't work that way. ..bruce..

Cliffor Stoll, High-tech heretic, called it. (2, Interesting)

dannycim (442761) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885608)

18 minutes TED talk video Clifford Stoll where he touches on computers in the classrooms (and many many many other things): http://www.ted.com/talks/clifford_stoll_on_everything.html [ted.com]

He's a fun watch.

Computers are not magic (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885620)

Yes. Computer's aren't magical education transmitters.

It used to be, that if you had a computer you had to work to get it to do anything fun/useful. Constructing a dos bootdisk to play Wing Commander that would load all the necessary modules (HIMEM.SYS!) without going over the limit started me, or at least continued to push me, down the technical career path. That doesn't mean that those computers magically turned me into a computer geek, just that only geeks played computer videogames.

Nowadays, computers can be simple devices no more interactive than a television. After setting up the Internet and a browser you can stop thinking and just veg out on youtube, facebook, flash game sites, etc. The great thing about computers is that they are generic devices, they can do just about anything that you want.

Buying kids art supplies doesn't magically make artists. Buying kids dictionaries doesn't magically confer a large vocabulary. Buying kids TVs doesn't magically transmit every educational documentary into their brains.

Silly. (1)

Edward_Colgate (1264706) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885626)

I think we have to pretty sure that causation is not correlation here, It seems to be just kind of insinuating rubbish.

Jury is still out (2, Informative)

retroworks (652802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885638)

Another report this week from BBC showed the opposite. See:

BBC coverage of one laptop per child [bbc.co.uk] in Uruguay

I think it has to do with the age of the child (NYTimes article describes research experience with teenagers in North Carolina, BBC covers internet give to primary school age children at the schools in Uruguay). The research NYTimes profiles also shows an apparent difference according to the race of the teenager who gets broadband. Could it be that test scores have anything to do with anything else other than computer access? They need a control group, e.g. a country the size of Uruguay where they distribute Nintendo's and "Grand Theft Auto" instead of computers. My theory: prepubescents who get their online access at a public school (Uruguay) spend time accessing different educational websites than teenagers given broadband access in their rooms (NC).

myfacespacemessengerchat usage ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885642)

Did they measure how much study time VS myfacespacemessengerchat time, I bet that would of provided useful information.

In Other News... (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885646)

The level of skills in computing logarithms has fallen dramatically since the introduction of the slide rule.

Computers and multi-media edutainment (3, Funny)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885648)

I am fond of the idea of using computers and modern tools to teach. To this end, I wanted to write an educational film short to help teach children about chemistry. Though I don't necessarily feel that educators should be entertainers, I do feel that "stealth learning" has its benefits. One approach is to use film and modern media to instruct:

In this screenplay, the Starship Voyager is critically low on dilithium crystals. They discover an arctic planet with Tundra-like conditions. Seven-of-Nine is dispatched to fix the extractor in an old mine near an acidic beach that contains tons of dilithium (thought to be a waste product from a previous civilization). There is an explosion and the mine collapses. Racing against time, they rush a small tunnel to Seven-of-Nine to provide air. The soils are highly acidic, however and poses a threat. The good doctor proposes that they use calcium hydroxide to counteract the dangerous acidity in the soils. Janeway demands that, as the Captain, she should do this task. They race against time because the advance welcoming party is starting to fall victim to the frozen conditions. The captain transports down to the surface to begin. One could say that Captain Janeway's on shore, all the greeters are cold, and she's liming the airway to Seven.

Re:Computers and multi-media edutainment (1)

unkiereamus (1061340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885916)

I don't know whether to applaud the effort you put into that, or thwap you over the head for the rather bad pun.

I take that back, I do know.

Com'ere, I have my thwaping hand ready.

It depends... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32885650)

It depends on how they are used. A computer with an internet connection can be used just like a huge library, or it can be just a tool for chatting with friends all day long, or play games.
It is up to the parents to make sure their children use the computers for a positive purpose.

Multiplicative, not additive. (2, Insightful)

matthiasvegh (1800634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885652)

So TFA is looking for the sign of the effect of PCs, assuming it's additive. Well, it's not. IF I _want_ to learn, a pc helps me at that. if I _don't want_ to, a pc helps me at that.

Technology != Education (1)

soupforare (542403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885688)

We've been throwing money at computing technology in, and in recent years out, of the schools for thirty years. Imagine if even a fraction of that went to more and/or better educators, support staff or repairing aging buildings. My high school had the math 'wing' closed for months while they tore moldy carpets out and sanitized the walls. The library was closed for almost two years because of structural integrity issues.
The math wing contained the "language lab" which was a little over a quarter million dollar computer lab with AV interaction at all stations with the master station. It was supposed to be used for the foreign language department but even before the wing was closed it sat mostly unused. After the mold problem was taken care of, the lab was rebuilt for general purpose.
The library closing wasn't as big a deal. There weren't many articles published after ~1981, no big loss. However, they had just spent near $100k on rebuilding most of the library space as another (fifth) computer lab. Then, installing another $70k worth of gear inside.

It's cool though, they made up for the losses by laying off two art teachers and outright killing the metal/wood shop and drafting programs. Last I heard, the shops have been converted to computer labs.

It hinders education (1)

AtomicJake (795218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885708)

If computers are bought by the school, they hinder education, because this money (for the purchase of those computers but also their continued maintenance and the training of the teachers) could have spent better (e.g. in laboratory equipment to let pupils experiment first-hand; in books; in an invitation of some outside speakers etc.).

If the question is whether the pure existence of a computer in a household hinders or helps the education, the answer is "doesn't matter".

Not surprising (1)

NorbrookC (674063) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885732)

Very little about studies like this surprise me. I'm of the age where I went to school before computers - or even calculators - were used in schools. Amazingly enough, somehow I managed to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic (and later on advanced mathematics) without them. Are they handy, and useful? Yes, absolutely. The advent of relatively cheap calculators made my college years a lot easier than it would have been otherwise. Computers have made a lot of what used to be very onerous and time-consuming tasks simpler, easier, and faster. I know that because I had to do them by hand at one time.

That said, what I have noticed is that a lot of people have become totally helpless when the technology fails or isn't available. I've watched people struggle to add a simple column of numbers or make change when a calculator wasn't available. Something I consider trivially simple - even do in my head - they can't without technological help. GPS navigation systems seem to have caused many to have forgotten how to read a map or follow directions. What appears to have happened is that the technology isn't teaching them anything except which buttons to push. It's not teaching them the actual skill.

Re:Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32886056)

They are still having the skill. Only technology has abstracted it now.

computer games helped me learn (1)

raphael75 (1544521) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885754)

I started playing computer games back in the mid-80's. I can say with confidence that games like Balance of Power, Pirates!, Europa Universalis, and the Total War series taught me as much if not more about history and/or geography than I learned in school. If they didn't directly teach me, they at least got my interest up in those subjects and inspired me to learn more about the subject through reading/studying. If parents pick the right games their kids can learn without realizing it.

I was even inspired to learn how to make Italian food after playing Mafia. :)

Missing from Summary but in TFA (3, Insightful)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885756)

In all cases, the kids in homes with computers improved their ...

... wait for it ...

... computer skills.

One would almost think that the main purposed of giving poor kids access to computers at home should be to increase their computer skills (given that in today's and future society one can pretty much forget about any kind of specialized non-physical work if one doesn't have computer skills).

That said, what these studies seem to indicate is how important some form of supervision is for limiting the negative impact of computers (i.e. increase in time wasted on leisure activities) for kids.

I bet if a study was done involving getting TVs for TV-less poor families with kids, we would get the same negative results without the positive one.

Giving solutions, but the problem was..? (2, Interesting)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885762)

Computing as a field is rife with spectacularly good examples of where solutions keep on being developed without any consideration of how they're going to solve a problem - or indeed if there is a problem, or if the problem lends itself to being solved with a computer.

I can't help but feel this is similar. I'm sure I remember hearing about studies years ago when they first started putting computers in classrooms - if you just put the computer in the classroom it was a distraction, but if you invested in appropriate software and built structured lessons around it it was a very capable tool.

It's the parents, stupid. (1)

jleosack (1556555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885822)

Learning tools can't make up for indifferent, underskilled, and unintelligent parents. No amount of money is going to change the bell curve.

bra (1)

brkara (1854966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885842)

thanks Küçük Srlar [blogspot.com]

Maybe it's the Internet. (4, Interesting)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885866)

With kids being expected to learn typing in elementary school these days, we did provide a computer (even in the bedroom!), but it was loaded with a locked down version of FreeBSD, and had no Internet/e-mail/etc access. Daily typing drills resulted in a fantastic improvement in typing (according to the technology teacher), and Tux Math, a math drill game, seems to be more attractive than flash cards or printed math sheets, especially since getting a high score involves having to do the work more quickly, and our insistence on home row means that it's effectively also typing drill for the numbers row.

Perhaps the real problem here is that a computer is of limited usefulness, and that if it isn't thoughtfully and carefully deployed and monitored, then the benefits become more questionable. The tech teacher implied that we're very different than most families in that we've not provided Internet access or e-mail, but quite frankly that's going to be delayed for as long as possible precisely because we don't see a huge amount of value in Internet access for kids in elementary school, and "requirements" that homework be "e-mailed" in isn't going to change that.

There are significant negative aspects to uncontrolled access to computers and the Internet, ranging from benign time-wasting to dangerous predators. As a tech-aware parent, it's difficult to find suitable and relevant things to use the computer for, especially without Internet access, and so it comes as no shock to me that placing a computer into a random family's educational mix has limited effectiveness.

Missing from TFA... (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#32885950)

Missing from TFA is any information on what the schools were doing to encourage self-directed learning - by (e.g.) setting interesting homework that could be done on computer, making good use of computers in lessons and possibly (gasp) shifting the curriculum towards understanding subjects rather than memorising bite-size factoids for multiple-choice tests.

When the math curriculum is dominated by learning by rote to perform routine, tedious bits of math gruntwork that anybody not stranded on a desert island would leave to the computer, all a home computer is good for in math is cheating. Throw in a bit of (e.g.) spreadsheet modelling (you'll have to teach them to use formulae - I've even seen *adults* with IT proficiency certificates using a pocket calculator to work out values to type into Excel) and more activities about formulating expressions and equations which can be solved or plotted on computer (rather than laboriously drawing graphs by hand or only ever meeting the tiny subset of equations that can be solved analytically) and maybe things would start to change.

If you just dole out free computers without pro-actively ensuring that they're used for education (just blocking pr0n and Tw@tter doesn't cut it) then the result reported in TFA really is one for the department of Urso-sylvanian scatology.

What about OLPC? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32886014)

OLPC's are made for education and not mindless repetitive head full of zombie gaming. They self report glowing results. So it is highly frustrating that these studies neglected to look at OLPC and made a bunch of over generalizing sensational absolutist statements without specifying which computers were used. etc etc.

What do you expect from Micro$oft Windoze? (0)

linuxiac (1831824) | more than 4 years ago | (#32886034)

What do you expect from Micro$oft Windoze? What did you think children would do, whose parents know less than them, about computers? Also, the very few Windoze software applications that are available, are only at great expense! What can Micro$oft Windoze even offer, for education? Put Linux and BSD into schools! My biggest beef is that the Micro$oft contracts with the 50 State School Boards is for a Micro$oft TAX of $1,000.00 per student, no matter how few computers are in the schools, and that many of those computers are MacIntosh, Linux, BSD systems! In a recession, with school tax collections reduced due to the hight foreclosure rates, parents in my district are tasked to provide all paper, crayons, printer supplies, markers, chalk, and even toilet paper to the schools for the coming year! The MICRO$OFT SCHOOL TAX really SUCK$!!!

My guess: nothing on average (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#32886038)

Like any tool (TV, books, toys...) it all depends on how it is used. The one most significant factor in a kid's learning is the involvement of his parents, both as motivators and as teaching assistants. Kids need to be helped and motivated all the time, but the payback on all that effort is tremendous. My 4yr old nephew called a tomato "spherical" a while back, that cracked us up big time. I'm a bit at a loss on how to proceed though, it's very hard to figure out when a how, when and what to try and teach kids.

This does not mesh with my personal experience... (5, Interesting)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32886084)

I grew up dirt poor. One of the places we lived in had a dirt floor and no insulation in Great Falls, Montana.

I got to eat meat year round because my father poached deer out of season.

I got to eat bread because my parents bought hogs feed at 5 cents/lb to grind to flour.

I got to eat vegetables because we would gleen the fields of industrial farms of low growing fruit/veggies after the harvester machines passed through.

My parents were to religiously conservative to teach me anything at home that didn't come from the bible.

When we got a computer, it opened up the world for me.

From that point on, I never learned anything in school until I started working on my second college degree.

This was because I had already learned it from exploring on my own by the time school had gotten around to teaching it.

My experience may be far from common, but it was invaluable for me that I had access to a computer.

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