Friday, January 07, 2005

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, PowerPoint.

The AP reports "U.S. Schools Behind in Use of Technology:"

Virtually all U.S. schools are connected to the Internet, with about one computer for every five students, according to an Education Department report on school technology.

"Education is the only business still debating the usefulness of technology,'' Paige said in the National Education Technology Plan, scheduled for release Friday. "Schools remain unchanged for the most part despite numerous reforms and increased investments in computers.''

Yet students of almost any age are far ahead of their teachers in computer literacy, according to the report, which is based on comments from thousands of students, teachers, administrators and education groups. Students say they see this knowledge gap daily.

"I think that teachers should be required to go to a technology course,'' the report quotes one student as saying.

With the cost of purchasing computers, installing networks, and training teachers, it's no wonder schools are having a hard time keeping up. I graduated high school in 1996 (just after Gore's invention of the Internet), and I don't remember using computers in school at all except in the school library (which means I didn't use them much!)

Apparently, schools have come a long way since then, averaging one computer per five students. (homeschoolers have a big advantage in this area I think)

Technology can be a powerful learning tool, but it's definitely not a cure all. Most of the important lessons to be learned in primary and secondary schools do not require a computer, and having them in most classrooms would just be a distraction.

Certainly computer classes would be a valuable part of the curriculum from a very early age - the article cites the 2-5 age group as the largest group of new Internet users - but I see computer use as more of a technical skill than a pillar of a solid education.