High Tech Heretic: Chapters 1 & 2

Inspired to read on a rainy Friday morning, I picked up “High Tech Heretic” by Clifford Stoll and read the first two chapter of the book.  The focus of the first chapter “A Literate Luddite?” was on whether it is more important to be computer literate or literate.  One thing that stood out to me was the emphasis placed on using “bell & whistles” to compensate for the poor quality of content.  The example of word documents created in a word processor may look professional to the eye, but the contents of the document could use a little more thought and work.  One example I can think of where this occurs a lot is with Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.  There are so many different things you can add to a presentation with sound effects, transitions, etc. that overload the presentation and takes the focus away from the content.

Computer literacy is mistaken for a assumption of intelligence.  The example given in the book is of a student who has taken several different computer and multimedia courses, but failed to spell the word “school” correctly.  When the mother of child spoke with their teacher about possibly taken another multimedia course, the teacher suggested the students enroll in a Math, Science, or English course instead.  There is a level of literacy all students need to at least have as a foundation for all learning to bloom from.  Not to say that being computer literate is a bad thing, I wish I knew half of the stuff that a lot of computer programmers and graphic design professions knew.  But, the fact of the matter is that being computer literate is not everything and the people who are computer illiterate are not incompetent.  We need to focus on establish a common level of literacy for all students before we let them delve into the realm of computer literacy.

The second chapter “Make Learning Fun” focuses on the idea that technology does not necessarily make learning fun.  B.F. Skinner is mentioned in the chapter about how he can train pigeons with corn to complete whatever task dubbing it programed instruction.  He mentioned a program called NFL Math where users complete Math problems to score touchdowns by simply answering math problems for the entertainment purposes of viewing a 2 minute video.  Instead of looking for one answer, teachers should be asking questions with multiple answers.  I’m not a huge fan of Math drill software because all of it just seems so unappealing.  I can see it used as maybe a way of reviewing content and strengthening skills, but I don’t think the software would really be much of replacement for the teacher.  There was a statement made in Chapter 2 about software should not replace bad teachers, bad teachers should be replaced by good teachers.  Technology, no matter how well developed it is, cannot replace a creative mind with a will to see each child succeed in the classroom

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