Electronic School interviewed leaders in the field of education to garner thoughts about how technology will affect education back in 2000. The predictions of some of these leaders can be seen at http://www.electronic-school.com/2000/01/0100f1part1.html. Many education gurus are championing the possibilities of the new technologies, but we need to remain open to the caveat that Lowell Monke offers: “Our students have more information than they can deal with…we have to reverse the trend of teaching children to rely on high technology and start helping them understand the Faustian relationship we have with it.” I was intrigued by his concern and did a Google search which produced an article he wrote called “Charlotte’s Webpage: Why Children shouldn’t have the world at their fingertips” located at http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/159/. He believes computers isolate children and are so engaging they take kids away from the human and natural connections. He used a teacher’s statement that her students were so excited by a webpage assignment based on Charlotte’s Web that they stayed in from recess to work in the computer lab. He also says there is no research that shows computer use improves student performance and heavy computer use may be detrimental to kids academically and socially. I can see his concern; however, he seems to take the computers in education movement to the extreme. I do not see a future where schools will have students chained to a computer doing only simulated activities. Balance is the key. This is where educators have to place themselves as the guides for students into the Information Age. Let the kids have their unstructured, unsupervised lessons on the playground, but prepare them for the inevitable influx of the new and powerful technologies.
Unlike Monke, Frank B. Withrow compares advances of the digital technology to the printing press and speaks to my hopes for how computers will change education. He writes, “Learning in traditional schools has been effective for the top 15 percent of students, but far too many schools have wasted the potential of many learners... With technology we can provide individual learning plans and programs for every student.” As Sue replied in an earlier discussion, computer software is being developed that assesses a student’s learning style and progress and adjusts to the user. The student is not pushed through a lesson and the top 15% are not held back.