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Computers In Education Essay, Research Paper

Over the past ten years billions of dollars have been spent on computers for our nation?s schools. The goal was to improve and update our educational system but there is very little evidence of change through the years and taxpayers that have been paying for these upgrades in the schools want to know where the payoff is.

A small Belridge school district in Mckittrick, California was proud to be the first and only in the state to provide every student with two Apple IIg computers, one for school and one for home. It reshaped its curriculum to use computers in all subject areas and they thought it was working well. The parents were shocked to hear when the annual standardized test scores came in, that the entire first grade class, along with more than a third of the 64 member student body, had scored below their grade level for both reading and math. The school?s officials argued that students had scored even worse before the help of the computer program but in fact this was just one case where the computer program had failed. Many skeptics think schools should give up but educators and parents continue the fight to keep computers in the schools.

Research has proven that electronic drill and practice programs make children better spellers. Intensive preparation programs raise S.A.T. scores. So-called integrated learning systems, which deliver entire curriculums to student?s sittings at workstations in a learning laboratory, practically guarantee that grade point averages will go up. So why all the turmoil? Everyone is worried that too many tax dollars are being wasted on computers for kids when the old learning system worked just fine. They feel children do not need computers in school, that they can learn to use them at home, or in college, or even after they enter the work force.

New York University?s Neil Postman writes in his article ?The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School? that ?approximately 35 million people have already learned to use computers without the benefit of school instruction. If the schools do nothing, most of the population will know how to use computers in the next 10 years, just as most of the population learned how to drive cars without school instruction.? The argument isn?t against computers; it?s against the blind-faith rush to spend vast sums to pack schools with them. The same schools, often enough, where classroom size overwhelms any chance for learning, where programs for the arts and sports are the first to be cut.

For some schools this is a stumbling block, but for most the matter has been resolved. Parents want what is best for their children and often they are willing to chip in on the extra costs. If that means higher taxes or school fees then it?s a price they will pay to invest in their child?s education. Not only is there the argument of whether or not computers are necessary in the classroom, but which type of computers the children should use, the Mac or the PC.

Many parents argue that school should prepare children for the workplace, where Macs are a rarity. Parents also say that it?s more convenient if their children can come home from school and pop a disk in to their home PC. Michael Lorion, Apple computer?s Vice President for education says, ?there is a significant difference between how technology is used in schools and how it is used in business.? In the workplace, he argues, a computer is primarily used for word processing, e-mail, and access to databases, whereas in the classroom it can be a powerful tool for collaborative learning. Also, by the time today?s fifth grader enters the work force, windows may have given way to Java or maybe even an entirely different language that no one has yet begun to speak. Still, when PC salesmen whisper that children will ?fall behind? if they continue to use the Mac, the argument seems to work.

American schools have already spent more than five

Billion dollars this year on high-tech gadgets and training, and

many educators think laptops rank among the most promising of all. Laptops can be used by students in any class, at any time of day – a significant improvement over the typical computer lab. Unlike desktops, laptops are compact and portable making group work and field research more impelling and convenient. With all their students having computers with them at home, teachers say it gives them flexibility in assigning homework and the ability to answer student questions more readily through e-mail.

At New York City?s Mott Hall, 30 sixth-graders have been given laptops instead of textbooks. The Toshiba laptops, bought by the school district earlier this year, are leased to the students for $30 a month. The school district is satisfied with the program and has decided to expand it to 200 students. A program launched by Toshiba and Microsoft, that offers software-loaded laptops to schools at discount rates, has grown from 52 schools in 1996 to more than 170 this year. Not long ago, laptops were a luxury even school administrators could not afford. But now this district wants to make them as common in their classrooms as spiral notebooks. Several other school districts across the nation have mirrored Mott Hall?s model. Though the schools are asking parents to pay part of the cost of these computers, they don?t seem to mind so far. Many feel it will give their children a leg up or at least equal footing in class.

Skeptics say that there is little evidence that suggests computers, educational software, or the Internet prove to enhance student learning. Stanford University?s Larry Cuban states, ?Better technology doesn?t necessarily make kids better students; good teachers and smart curriculums do.? He adds, ?Schools that bought into the earlier generation of technology are stuck. The capital investment in desktops makes it difficult to buy this new thing called laptops.?

Computers of all varieties can improve education, but not without careful planning from schools and teachers. First of all, teachers must know how to use the computers so they can make up lesson plans and guide their students. Schools must know how to integrate them into the curriculum. Second, computer labs were acceptable for initial introduction to computers, but the focus today is on using them in day to day

learning. Children do better when they everyone has a computer. Adults don?t share computers in offices if they want maximum productivity and neither should children in classrooms. Each student must use his own computer if he is to benefit the most.

Finally, computers are a tool not a subject. Most students

develop computer skills if they use them in regular classes, such as math or English. Children love computers and they are fascinated and motivated by them. That alone is a positive step in the future of education.

Bjerklie, David and Robert W. Hollis. ?Education: The

revolution that fizzled computers have not lived up to their promise to transform America?s struggling schools, but it?s not to late to redeem the failure.? TIME, (May 1991), 48-49.

McArthy, Colman. ?Beware a rush to high-tech education // A

caring teacher is more vital than access to internet.? Star Tribune, (August 1996), 13A.

Ratnesar, Romesh. ?Education: Learning by laptop in elementary

schools, portable computers are the hottest things since books. But are the lessons learned justifying the extra cost?? TIME, (March 1998), 62-63.

Rudolph,Barbara. ?Techno file/info tech: Cutting into Apple?s

core.? Fortune, (March 1998), 150.

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