September 26, 2005

One Computer, Two Computer, Three Computer, Four

I’ve had a go around or two with Todd Oppenheimer. Here we go again. His latest article calls for the advent of the one computer classroom. Not two or more but one.

Schools will get the most out of digital technology with students in junior high school and above. In the younger grades, computers usually mean lots of mechanical hassle and wasted time, often spent teaching students to do things on a screen they can more easily accomplish with paper, pencil, and crayons.

The “mechanical hassle and wasted time” is not as much linked to age as it is to the experience of the teacher and the level of school/district support. Having one computer or five in a classroom will not be the determining factor for good decision making on the part of the teacher. It simplies provides more choice.

Letting young children be captivated by the allure of the screen can distract them from the tactile, imaginative activities.

That’s the reality of the world we live in. I’m not sure why it has to be all or none. Having students experience both the “tactile, imaginative activities” and the digital activities go hand in hand.
Side note: My 6 year old daughter spent most of yesterday creating a book with crayons and markers based on a website she visited earlier in the day.

The issue here goes well beyond test scores. Consider Tom Snyder’s big fear: In time, he believes, employers will increasingly ask whether applicants have been computer trained or teacher trained. The machine-trained ones, he suspects, will be left out, because “they won’t be able to make sense of the world.”

I’m not sure if Mr. Oppenheimer is taking Tom Synder’s comments out of context but again, the point Oppenheimer seems to be making is an all or none arguement. This certainly goes against many of the initiatives to see one to one computing. I don’t think this will be the last time Mr. Oppenheimer and I disagree. I wonder what he’d think of David Warlick’s vision of the ideal classroom.