A recent report provides a scathing look at the use of computers in today’s elementary school classroomsand it’s drawn some high-profile supporters.
“Fool’s Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood,” prepared by the Alliance for Childhood, calls for a prompt, national moratorium on the use of computers in elementary schools, except for aiding children with learning disabilities. The Alliance says that a reliance on computers is pulling students and teachers away from an understanding and sensitivity to the natural and physical world and exposing youngsters to the harmful effects of technology and consumerism.
Among the experts who’ve endorsed the report: Diane Ravitch, former assistant U.S. secretary of education in the Bush administration; Larry Cuban, an education professor at Stanford University; Jane Goodall, renowned researcher on primates; Harvard professor of psychiatry Alvin Poussaint; and child and adolescent psychiatrist Marilyn Benoit.
The report’s author said the Alliance came to its negative conclusions about early exposure to computers by starting from a neutral point, rather than the assumption inherent in most ed-tech studies that computers are providing valuable services. When starting with the neutral point of view, the Alliance found the experiences necessary for healthy development”hands-on experiences, face-to-face conversation with adults, strong bonds with caring, reliable, consistently available adults, and spending lots of time in personal interaction”can be undermined by relying on computers for education.
Critics of the report note that it makes a strange assumption of its own: that children use computers all day in school, to the exclusion of traditional forms of learning and play.