Monday, July 12, 2010

Computers added to low-income homes do not magically produce education

Here's a New York Times article suggesting that giving computers to low-income families actually decreases math scores, and does not produce rosy educational outcomes....that we have some idealized hopes in this regard that don't actually happen. What actually seems to happen is that unsupervised kids mostly play games with the computers. A related article about the One Laptop Per Child program also addresses this idea that throwing laptops at children automatically produces good things. Both are worth a look, especially if you're attracted to projects like these (like I am).

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:47 AM

    I suspect that one of the biggest issues here is the lack of educational software geared toward rewarding the natural inquisitiveness of kids using a computer with actual knowledge about subjects like Math, English, and Science. Sure, there's tons of info out there in an amorphous blob, but (a) you need training in how to navigate it [the myth that kids who grow up with computers are somehow more savvy consumers of content is just that, a myth] and (b) it tends to promote looking up and copying an answer without understanding the reasons WHY it is the correct answer.

    We know more than ever before about how people learn and have more methods than ever before to communicate, but I don't think that we've made much progress at all in terms of how we teach.

    One key point that shows up again and again in studies of educational performance across cultures is that if education is highly valued in the home [which doesn't necessarily mean that other family members ARE highly educated, just that they stress the value of education], then kids perform better. Guidance and direction has to come from somewhere. Spreading laptops to every kid means the teachers can't supervise them all, and if their parents aren't computer savvy or motivated, they can't monitor the kids.

    So if you want self-directed results without changing those factors, you need educational software that channels kids' natural tendencies to play and explore into something functional. And developing that will surely cost more than the hardware itself.