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Is Technology Making Kids More Intelligent? 208

Faithful contributor Ant sent in this piece about the role of computers in educating children. It presents arguments both pro and con; one researcher argues that computer use can reduce creativity and create anti-social kids (never met any of these, no sir) while another researcher contends that kids who use computers and the internet grow up reading, inquiring, and generally brighter.
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Is Technology Making Kids More Intelligent?

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  • As noted in the survey i have three kids.

    11 years old lives with divorced mother. Plays handball, does a lot of fishing and other outdoors fooling around. Has a computer of his own running RedHat Linux only (no double boot because he has a Sega for games).

    8 years old plays basketball, his team has won every match played this year. Lots of friends and girlfriends. Has a Mac.

    4 years old reads and is beginning to write. Shares Mac with his brother and plays on my game PC. Has extaordinary hand/eye syncronization for his age.

    All three don't watch much television, get lots of exercise and get great grades at school (A B+ range)

    Computers are great for kids, so is sport and social activity.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Rubbish, the 70/80's spawned a generation of tech geek kids who now manage some of the largest corporations on the planet. Most kids with zx81 and spectrum and other hobby computers gained some level of programming skill from them. It was only the emergence console which limited the experience to simply playing games.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    from Sweden indicate students may get poorer overall grades in schools dedicated to "IT". In one recently inaugurated "it-school" (for students 13-15 year olds) they got poorer grades, after the it-programme had commenced.

    The reason for poorer grades was attributed to the complexity in using the internet for information search, among many other things.

    Strangely, they did not mention Q3A or UT.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have been on the internet and bbs's for about 9 years. Instead of going to college I went to work for a computer company and have been promoted twice. I would not be able to get very high scores in mental erithmetic tests but can do technical tests with out problems.... so... Because i can not do square root in my head does that make me unintelligent? I know how to key it into a calculator so why bother trying to learn how to :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2001 @07:24AM (#201441)
    Kirk Anderson created a very funny cartoon [] about this.
  • Ah, the incessant cry of psychologists: correlation does not imply causation.

    one researcher argues that computer use can reduce creativity and create anti-social kids (never met any of these, no sir) while another researcher contends that kids who use computers and the internet grow up reading, inquiring, and generally brighter.

    Oh really? I'd say it's just as likely, perhaps more likely, that it's the less-creative, anti-social, but better-reading, more-inquiring, and generally brighter kids who tend to use computers a lot, rather than it being the computers that produce those characteristics. "People who use computers" is a group whose demographics differ significantly from the average population, so any differences could very well be due to the self-selecting nature of the group, rather than computer themselves.
  • There are fewer people who can do simple arithmetic in their heads as a result of the availability of cheap calculators. Is that a problem? You be the judge. I can quickly make change for dollar in my head. A surprizing number of young cashiers don't seem to be able to do that.

    There are fewer good, fast typists around due to computers.

    Children are getting fatter. They play less outside. They do less hands-on stuff. Are kids today more intelligent? It all depends on how intelligence is defined and measured. By not doing the hands-on activities, they will not be exposed to many enriching experiences. For example, when I was a kid, we played with fire. We made super 8 movies where we squirted flaming gasoline on battalions plastic army men with green avenger water pistols. It was dangerous as hell but we learned things about flaming gasoline. I'll bet that kid who burned himself imitating the Jaskass stunt had little experience playing with fire. He probably figured his buddy could extinguish the fire on his legs before it burned him. Had he played with flaming gasoline prior to doing this, he would have known better. Instead, I'm betting he had spent all his time playing video games. Yeah, we could have ended up on fire but not deliberately because we knew better. We had learned by watching other stuff burn; he had not. Computers divert kids from first hand experience which is often more enteraining than any video game. Yessir.
  • When you reduce math to a sequence of key presses on the calculator, you don't teach any sort of problem solving.

    Besides the example I mentioned about kids not being able to do arithmetic in their heads to make change, young people who have only done their calculations with calculators do not have a good feel for the decimal point in a scientific calculation. If they make a key punch error in their computation will it not look right to them or will they blindly accept it? Using a slide rule, the operator was responsible for the decimal point.

    As for the calculator being a time saver, old electrical engineering texts used nice round numbers to simplify the calculations so that students could complete more problems and get more practice using their slide rules.

    Mathematics and science students would be better served by concentrating on the process by which one arrives at the answer. Your anecdote about points being taken off because a student showed her work is a prime example of the convoluted reasoning at work here. The problem solving methodology is the crux of the matter. We should be teaching them how to fish instead of tossing them a fish.
  • Just like any other kind of entertainment or hobby, whether computer use hurts or helps children learn and develop depends on what they do with them. If you sit around and play console games all day, you're not going to learn a whole heck of a lot. If you're obsessive about it, you might even become a bit of a social recluse. On the other hand, if you learn programming and start actually creating something with a computer, you're challenging yourself intellectually, reading, and learning new and useful skills. You might even join a user group or (gasp) get on IRC or Usenet where you'll at least be using the computer to interact with real people in some capacity.

    Computers, like any other tool, don't have an automatic inherent effect on their users' development or behavior. Like all other pieces of technology, they amplify the effort the user puts into them. If you want to waste time, a Playstation can help you waste a great deal of it really effectively. If on the other hand you want to learn and create, a computer is a wonderful tool to help you reach those goals.
  • I really, really like computers. Played on 'em as a kid endlessly, and learned a lot that way. And I really think schools should not be buying lots of computers.

    It's not that computers are bad, or good; it's a question of what they're bad or good compared to. Every dollar that goes to buying a computer and then maintaining that computer is a dollar that could have gone towards more textbooks or paying/training teachers better (hopefully attracting/producing better teachers). And if you're going to justify a large budget item for a school or for teaching a child at home, you'd better make sure your scarce dollars are going where they can do the most good.

    Computers and the internet can be great tools. There are really good pieces of educational software out there. Most are garbage, of course, but there are some good ones. And the internet can be a great reference, if you sit down and teach the kids actual research skills. (Yes, there are research skills beyond ``go to, type in what you want, and print out what you get.'') And besides using them as tools, you might reasonably want to teach a `computer skills' or even programming sort of class where the computers are an end in themselves.

    But to do this properly requires thinking the use of the computers through carefully; training the teachers both how to use them and how to teach the children to use them; and spending the money it takes to buy the computers and keep them maintained and useful. And this generally isn't done. Classrooms worth of computers are bought, used for a bit in not-horribly-useful ways, and frequently it never goes beyond that.

    Sure, even then, there will be kids who find the computers and start playing with them on their own and learn a lot; but those aren't the kids you have to worry about, they'll learn on their own pretty much no matter what you do. Buying labs of computers for a few kids isn't the way to go; set up a few in the library and in one or two classrooms.

    Certainly schools should have a few computers available. But the biggest problems in todays schools, and with the education of todays kids, are not that the kids don't have expensive computers on their desks.

  • I was being told that "these days, kids spend
    too much time inside on the computer. of course
    the kids who have antisocial tendencies have them
    caused by the computer. it's the new part of the
    I argued, and I believe I'm right, that kids with antisocial tendencies have been around forever. computers are simply putting them in the limelight, and the computers are not a cause, but there is merely a positive relationship between the two (computer usage and antisocial behavior). as any simple psych or stats class will teach you, there is NO way to "prove" a cause-and-effect relationship with a positive relationship between two things. I think these people are simply predisposed to this behavior, and in any other time and society they would have found something else to do.
    --------------------------------------------- -
    All that glitters has a high refractive index.
  • by JetJaguar ( 1539 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @08:25AM (#201448)
    A year ago I was part of a panel discussion about technology in education and this very issue came up. The consensus was that this should be turned into an opportunity to teach critical thinking skills. With all the junk that's out there, it is very important to be able to tell the difference between good materials and some random AOL user's UFO abduction story...and it's pretty easy to come up with examples to compare and contrast, the very thing you need to make it work.

    I think the internet provides the perfect opportunity to teach these skills, but the teachers have to be well versed in the technology themselves before it can be used effectively, and most teachers don't have the training yet.

  • I mean, it pretty obvious! We are all so 133t!!!

    But more seriously, not beeing an english native speaker, I am sure it helps to learn the language. It is a well known fact that learning while playing is the best way...
    I can see my little brother who at 7 was able to read english in videogames...
    There is also a logic in the use of technology that helps to develop a logical/mathematical approach to things.

    But to be honest, I am sure technology is far from being the most important factor, stimulation and encouragement from parents is THE thing that helps. Having your kids sitting in front of the TV is very unlikely to raise their IQ.
    So if you want your kids to be smart, you don't need to buy a PC, just get rid of the TV and get off your fat ass!!!

  • it has been my personal experience that the pros and cons originally outlined in the article both pertain to a 'split', if you will, in today's youth. There are those that are technically inclined and those that are not. This has been the trend over the past hundred years or so and the number of those technically inclined appears to be increasing, with 'con'ned effects. While this is both good and bad, it is difficult to say which way the trend will continue in the future.. while technology helps us out, it also hinders the younger generation in that they don't really learn about older things until later in life, thus creating a rather nasty 'gap' in learning curves.
  • by Chris Hiner ( 4273 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @08:30AM (#201451) Homepage
    I wasn't really fond of Oregon Trail. Lemonade Stand was my favorite. It was a neat way to learn the basics of supply and demand. It's also where I started to learn about programming. A few tweaks, and you'd be amazed how much people will pay for lemonade when it's 10 million degrees out.

    Another game I remember fondly and forgot the name of, had you put together a sequence of machines, that did various things to a square part. There were machines to rotate, punch holes, and paint stripes. One part of the game, it'd show you a finished part, and you had to figure out the sequence of machines to build it.

    Or another game, Omega, in which you built tanks, and wrote code to control them in battle against other tanks. Had a nice single step debugger in it too.

    Mainly it comes down to what you do with the computer. Is the computer the tool, or is the user the tool?
  • Give 'em Python. Great programming language, easy to learn.

    Although that doesn't resolve the big problem: there are no *small* problems left. When I was a kid, I was hacking on TRS-80 Model I in the school's office after hours.

    I'm not entirely sure what they used it for: no one did word processing back in those days. Perhaps they were handling accounting on it.

    Anyway, point is that this was the first year of the TRS-80, which means it was also pretty much the first year of publicly-sold computers, not counting Apple mail-order.

    Which, in turn, means that there was bugger all out there for software. A couple cheezy games, a couple business programs, and that's about all she wrote.

    So it was pretty damn easy to write up some cheezy-ass program and feel like a hero.

    These days, anything that's easy is already done. There's no point in writing the program: someone's already done it.

    Which rather takes away the desire to program. What's the point? It ain't gonna impress anyone.

  • We don't wish to be antisocial. It's just that society has put a stigma on us JUST FOR BEING DIFFERENT. I suppose everyone here has read JonKatz's series on the Hellmouth. They are the ones who ostracize us to begin with, and we wind up ostracizing them back. The vicious cycle needs to be broken.

  • It's kinda apropriated to this discussion the fortune at the bottom of the page, to wit: "A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education. -- G. B. Shaw " - which was my take on the subject, that computers in education (a neverending debate it appears, like abortion in the Supreme Court) are beneficial to some students, while others might be better off learning how to punch a time clock on time, keep a clean uniform, operate a Msft desktop, and contact your network administrator for anything else ;)

  • It's well written, but it's pretty funny how dated it is:

    We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals.

    Those profiteering gluttons seem to have made it dirt cheap; in the year 2001, an Internet connection costs next to nothing, long distance costs next to nothing ... so what are you complaining about again?

    So if this guy's point is valid, why do we have more crackers than ever, and - for that matter - nastier ones than ever?

    I remember when most people who broke into systems did it because they were curious; now they want to stage DOS attacks. And in that context, I am in full agreement with 'The Konscience of the Kourier' (see Anonymous Coward's message "That's bs man").


  • You are, of course, absolutely right. I was quite surprised to do a few sums based on the figures you gave, and it looks like a middle class income in India is less than 10% (maybe way under 10% depending on how you define middle class) of what it is here. As a result, quite understandably, prices that are virtually identical here and India (you pay about US$42.54 a month for your cable modem access; we pay maybe US$39.95) are trivial here but prohibitive there.

    However, bear in mind that the person writing what I was replying to was American, and I was responding to his comments about greedy corporations.

    Unless things have changed radically in the last few years, India's phone company is still state-owned, and it suffers the plagues of state-owned enterprises everywhere: High prices and lousy service. My point was that "greedy corporations" do an awfully good job at getting prices of stuff like cable modems and the like down; I would say you have not disproved this theory; you have just shown that it hasn't happened in the third world. Understandably; you have state-owned enterprises, or - almost as bad - state-sanctioned monopolies.

    So let me be Clintonesque and say that I feel your pain; it must really be lousy to know that there is a world out there, and in that world Internet access costs about as much a month as a dinner for two in a decent but not especially fancy restaurant.

    But I would surely argue that my basic point stands, at least in my own country, and I was surely not claiming otherwise.


  • Another recent survey (reported in this BBC article []) suggests that while IT spending in schools aids children in their test results, book spending appears to help more. Twice as much, in fact!

    Good old analogue dead-tree technology.

  • I'll overlook the fact that online gaming requires plenty of social skills, ...

    Bullshit. Multiplayer FPSs are an absolute counter-example to this, and even in cooperative tactical games that I play (particularly Myth II: Soulblighter) there is a terrible amount of cheating and other antisocial behaviour.

  • I'm not arguing that. I'm just saying that the original poster's statement about online multiplayer games requiring social skills is generally a crock of shit.
  • Why the fuck does technological hype always take center stage in any of these sort of studies. You can set a computer in front of a monkey for years if you want but it isn't going to magically get smarter. You'll probably balk at my analogy but it is exactly the logic the Clinton administration was using when they decided to use "surplus" money to buy computers for schools all over the country. Fuck technology, what makes people more intelligent is access to information; once they have that access you can help them even more by helping them understand it. I'd much rather have a couple thousand dollars per classroom spent on up to date well written books and repairs to the classrooms which so many schools need. Computers are as much horse shit as the internet. While the web does hold a few gems these are few and far between and filtering through the 99.9998% bullshit of the WWW is an entire project within itself. The technology is useless without actual content for people to absorb. What they should do is split a high school class into three groups, a control and two test groups. The control you leave be. One test group you give a computer lab and internet access and the other group you give access to a university library system. If the group with the internet does better on whatever tests you want to give them all then I'll be wrong and technology DOES make a difference. But if the university group does well then it will prove that content is a thousand times more important than the medium the content is presented on. What the bajillions of dollars spent on computers ought to be spent on is a system which will convey masses of easily parsed, searched, and organized information to students. Technology of it aside, the content ought to be most important.
  • "Information is the lowest level of thinking, as opposed to higher levels like judgment, interpretation, evaluation, or mastering great ideas," Roszak explained. "Take an idea like 'All men are created equal.' That's not information - it's a moral assertion about human equality.

    Funny, I did a paper last semester on that very topic -- an interpretation of Jefferson's various assertions in the Declaration of Independence. That was one of my favorite classes, taught by one of my favorite professors at the University of Delaware, David Allmendinger. That was the second class I chose to take with him, because I had enjoyed his first class so much. Unlike other dull lecture-based multiple choice history classes, once you get up into the 300-400 level here, you are FORCED to begin analyzing and interpreting the material given. The professors do a wonderful job, IMHO, of introducing you to this way of thinking, and the best thing for any student to do is to take at least one workshop-sized class during their college career. I can't tell you how much I learned and how much my way of thinking expanded after taking these classes.

    So my contention is this -- it's not the fault of computers that kids are losing their analytical skills. It is the fault of the students themselves for not TAKING these classes that are so infinitely valuable (because *gasp* they have to THINK!) and to a lesser extent it is the fault of professors in that more of them don't teach in this way.

  • Technology may be making kids more intelligent, but more intelligence is not going to help them. The current state of the school system won't teach them how to live past 30 without debt and worry. It may seem an extremist view, but take a look at [], maybe buy Robert Kiyosaki's book, and you'll see that the education system is way the mark it needs to be on.

  • He calls himself the mentor because he's patronizing, predictable, and annoying?

  • At least they are letting their anger and agreesion out in the virtual world rather than in reality. Online gaming is a safe and harmless outlet for pent-up aggression.
  • Both sides of the article have interesting points,
    but I believe it is best summed up in the final few paragraphs where they question what the meaning of intelligence is anyway.

    Is intelligence the knowledge of alot of facts and information in an instant, or is it knowing where to find this information and the ability to cipher through all of it, evaluate it and come up with your own conclusions.

    I'd say it's a combination of both.
    This difference is what should be emphasized in schools and children should be taught that they need to focus on all the various aspects of intelligence. In the end the net can be a valuable tool in retrieving information, but children need to be taught what to do with the information once they have it, whether to believe it without question, or whether to do further research and come up with their own conclusions.

    I believe that it's more a general problem with society and is not unique to technology and the internet.

    We now teach our kids that they are not to believe everything they see on television and other forms of media, but do we teach them not to believe everything they read on the net? I think we should.

  • I'm not sure anyone has good data on this. It's hard enough getting people to agree on what "more intelligent" means. I certainly can't agree that all home computers have always just been used for games, and I doubt there's ANY data supporting this contention. I've seen kids use computers very creatively when given proper guidance, but that's anecdotal.

    As my daughter gets older, I'm going to look hard for software that requires her to think, to create, and to write her own programs. The best tools for this sort of thing have been around for at least a generation: programming languages, word processors, and paint/draw tools.

    The article makes the point that this is the first generation to be raised with computers. The problems they have as a result are most probably the result of the previous generation's ignorance of computers. The first generation of anyhting is loaded with bugs. We have the chance now to learn from our mistakes and really use technology as a tool to make the educational process really hum, instead of as a glorifed pacifier.

  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:59AM (#201467)
    One parent I chatted with noted that instead of going out to play with other kids, they were much more likely to become self-absorbed in a computer game. While this may build up some good motor skills (OK expect neuro-surgeons with amazing kinestic coordination), the lack of social interaction (learning how to negotiate, compormise, etc) was distrubing. When it easier to copy (plagerise) than to think, to accept than to question, to spam/flame than to craft a reflective response, then extrapolate to wider society, it makes you think what the next generation will evolve. Already you see situations where people accept evidence of bank statements just because it comes out on a screen than if they went through the effort of checking the outcome. Where people ignore the fine print (e.g. prepaid mobile phone cards disguised as actually an unsecured loan) and outsource your memory (familiy photos hosted on external sites) or rely on hot stock tips instead of creating your own opportunities.

    Unfortunately education (aka school of hard knocks) is about learning from your mistakes. The computer is not a nnay, it is not a wise teacher, and it most certainly is not a magical fountain of wisdom. As with all technogical devices, people are finding new social interactions, from MUDs to chatrooms. Dabbling in the cocktail circuit is quit different from a formal acquisition of valuable skills (understanding regular expressions and finite state machines for pattern searching). Mental discipline, inner curiosity and creative energies are traits which can be enahnced, but never replaced by a computer. Any school that considers otherwise is only fooling themselves and their charges. If you really want to learn, go visit another country, ask your parents to read to you at night, volunteer for social programs, discuss world events over dinner, or just randomly select non-fiction books from your library.

    Never ever let formal schooling get in the way of an education.

  • by GroundBounce ( 20126 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @07:59AM (#201468)
    W have a 12 year old son who likes to use computers. At one point we decided that the amount of time spent playing computer video games had gotten out of hand.

    He is good in math and science, so I figured he was bright enough to learn programming. So, now the requirement is that for every hour he spends playing StarCraft, he must spend another hour of his time time learning programming and writing programs of his choice. His total computer time (outside of homework) is also limited.

    It has worked out great. He is learning Java (he heard that's what he'll need to use in high school and college), and has begun writing some simple but interesting programs.

    The end result is that he gets his recreation (games), but also comes away with some "real" computer skills that will be useful to him later in life.
  • by orcus ( 21207 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:31AM (#201469) Homepage Journal
    It actually would have surprised me if Microsoft (or any company that relies on income from computer using customers) had found that computers ARE retarding childrens intellectual growth.
    Somehow - I think that no matter what they found - this conclusion was pre-ordained.

    If children are actually really reading more (more than what? More than kids did when I was their age?) I'll only believe it when I see it.
    Car advertisements which show kids with their eyes glazed over, watching built in tv/vcrs does not bode well.
    Now - if car makers were installing more reading lights for kids who like to read during long trips,
    then I'd be more likely to agree.
    I'd like to see a company that does not have a vested interest in books OR computer generated revenues conduct the same survey.
  • I think I clicked the wrong button by mistake
  • by realkiwi ( 23584 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @07:14AM (#201471)
    Maybe having thought about this since I first posted it - intelligence is mesured how?

    I think anyone smart enough to use a computer and have a real life is more intelligent than the average hacker who spends more than 10 hours a day in front of his computer.

    Just because you dream in C++ doesn't make you a genius. I'm going to teach the kids about programming. I'll also teach them that it is not more important than goofing off on a sail boat or getting invited over to classmates birthday parties.

  • I'm dyslexic, maybe he was too. In my case I never had any trouble reading. In fact I was reading on the university level in 6th grade. My problem was with math, specifically with multi-column addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. Once I realized what the problem was I sat down one summer and went through my 8th grade math book and practiced until I could do it well. As a result my natural abilites were no longer hobbled by difficulty keeping the numbers straight on the paper. Unlike many others I know, I am not having a problem with high-level math in college. Rather than being a struggle it is nothing short of an adventure.

    If someone is having problems reading, it isn't always because they were taught poorly. I was taught to read phoentically but I only do that on words I've never seen. Once I've seen a word I remember what it looks like and switch over to the "whole word" method.

    Many people who are particularly bright are dyslexic. Exactly why this is I don't know since I'm neither a psychologist nor a neurologist. Many of the so called disabilities that some people have, carry with them greater abilities in other areas. The human gene pool is large enough and our species social enough that specialization can and does occur. This is what things like dyslexia and ADD/ADHD represent, a specialization that leads to greater abilities in some areas with a corresponding decrease or difficulty in other areas. That doesn't mean those difficulties can't be overcome though.

    Lee Reynolds
  • by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @05:19AM (#201473) Homepage Journal
    There are some people who are naturally inquisitive and who will seek out information and knowlege. Then there are others who will not. The presence or abscence of a tool that might help someone do this has nothing to do with whether they actually will or not.

    When television first came out it was heralded as a tool for education. There were people who believed that it would be used by the masses to learn. They believed this because they were the type of people who seek to learn themselves, and so they interpreted the motivations of others through their own desire to learn. By and large television has not been a tool for education because most people simply don't want to learn. Their desire to not know is truly bizarre to me, but that is the only expanation I know that fits.

    It is true that today we've got things like TLC, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel, but how many years did it take after cable tv became popular that networks like these became a profitable enterprise?

    If you need further proof of what I'm saying just look at books. Books are educational, yet how many people out there actually read anything? Most people can read, but few actually choose to read anything past street signs and the occassional newspaper.

    If someone is intelligent and/or inquisitive, then they will use the tools available to them to learn. If they are not then the nature and usefullness of the tools available makes no difference because they aren't going to use them in the first place.

    Lee Reynolds
  • "Information is the lowest level of thinking, as opposed to higher levels like judgment, interpretation, evaluation, or mastering great ideas," --Roszak explained

    It seems to me that information is a fundamental building block to any form of thinking and being able to find information should be one of the first, as well as most important, skills we learn. Of course , this can be abused, like anything else. I'm not religious person in the least, but isn't there a quote that goes along the lines of "Moderation in all things" (I apologize in advance if I got that wrong, but I think you get the jist).

    I also believe that it is the lack of this skill that has allowed so many stupid laws to be passed, so many beliefs to be upheld, etc..

    I mean come take some responsibility!

    *My net connection is down for the next couple of weeks so I will not be able to receive E-mail, but I will be lurking*
  • Computers are only a small part of the equation here. The main purpose of a home PC is to provide convenience, productivity, and education. For adults, that is. Nothing on a computer is geared for a regular little kid. Yet over the last... oh, 6 years, there's been a crapload of 7-13 year olds getting online permanently, chatting over their instant messages, checking their email, and playing online games. I know some of you think that this is a good thing, but here's what I think... it SCARES me to think that there's a 9 year old out there, boy OR girl, who plays Diablo II for more than an hour a day and is pretty good at it. It's just shocking on so many levels... cause some 20 year olds can barely get the hang of it all.

    However, it's just one more thing that's thrown onto little kids in order to get them in the rat race sooner. High school and even grammar school are focusing less on education and more on achievement... some states with their mandatory standardized tests for high school graduation, the rise of magnet schools, the fierce competition for college admissions, etc. Basically, the more you know, and the younger you know it, the more amazing you are... and the pressure is on kids to excel tremendously in piddly-widdly knowledge categories at the expense of everything else that's healthy or vital to them. It's a nationwide spelling bee culture... how the hell does some seven year old kid who can spell "chaturnaliontics" get on the news? That's almost sad to me. Maybe I would prefer to watch a news program where kids run around outside and play dodgeball (whoops, can't do that either... don't even get me started).

    So all these kids are being pushed around to achieve, achieve, achieve. And for what? So they can become our future doctors, consultants, mathematicians, programmers, and the like... but not managers! Hahah, joke's on them, cause in the future, the upper management of every company will still be the CEO's frat buddies, and that will never change. For the rest of their lives, the achieving kids will be working for other people... that is, if the never stop and think about it. After slaving away in kindergarten, grammar school, middle school, high school, college, internships, and in the workforce... well, the business world actually wants them to do nothing else ever, since that's the best thing for the bottom line. Basically, it's a road to burnout... or suicide, which usually comes in the early teens when kids can't handle their shit and they're too stupid to think about the long term picture and how they can do better for themselves. Hey, if I were 14, and I got a C on a test, and everyone would be disappointed cause that would mean I can't go to Harvard... I'd kill myself too.

    Computers are just one more thing to throw at kids to force them to achieve. And then, even worse, it's another electronic babysitter. What's more dangerous to you... running around the local park every day and one day falling off the monkey bars and knocking out a few teeth, or sitting on a computer for your entire childhood talking to w@r3Z d00dz and pedophiles? This is only exacerbated by the lack of kids' champions in politics today... increasingly, no one gives a damn about kids cause kids don't vote at least for another 30 years. Kids have nothing to do anymore because all of their fun stuff has been getting phased out in the interests of "childrens safety". We generally can't afford to have a friendly police officer monitor the local playground to keep the crack dealers out, but we can afford metal detectors for grammar schools. We can also crack down hard on some kid who brings a nail clipper to school by accident, saying it's a deadly weapon.

    Oh, and it's not only the smart kids who are bored. EVERYONE is bored. The smart kids just find intelligent things to do. The dumb kids get into drugs. If smoking pot were an academic achievement, we'd have a nation of geniuses.
  • by Owen Lynn ( 46218 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @09:33AM (#201476) Homepage
    If you don't teach your kids to think for themselves, someone else is going to do their thinking for them. Granted, that someone may not hurt them, but you can be assured, they won't have their best interest at heart.

    But people who can think for themselves, tend not to buy as much, and they tend to be unpredictable. Why, who knows who an independent thinker will be voting for this election. So the system tends to discourage it. And for some families, critical thought has been missing for at least 2 generations already.

    Computers are only relevant, in that they amplify the state you're already in. If you're a critical thinker, a computer is just another sword in your armory. If you can't think, a computer is just another set of chains that bind you to the person(s) who is(are) thinking for you.
  • If I had not been bought that zx spectrum when I was about 9 years old, there is no way I would be employed as a programmer today - and I really mean that. I have had no formal computing education (frankly, it seemed boring as a school subject - I preferred maths and physics acadamically) and most of the basic knowledge that I built upon later came from experimenting with zx basic and z80 assembler.

    I have to say though that I certainly do not believe that computers made me more intelligent, but rather they provided something constructive and rewarding for me to apply my intelligence to. To the untrained eye, that could look very much like it increased my intelligence, but the two are very different.
  • As much as I hate to say it, spam has a use, after all. You should probably have an abundant supply of it by now, so you can use it to teach your kids about false advertising and netiquette.
  • by jmeadows ( 65098 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:37AM (#201484)
    The computer is just another tool that can be used or misused in the education process. It can be used to help children learn to be creative, questioning, skeptical, and independent.

    Or, it can be used to teach a kid to be passive, unquestioning, and accepting (in short, perfect fodder for today's society).

    Of course the same can be said about any other part of the educational process, e.g. textbooks, teachers, etc.
  • Most education done with computers is less effective and possibly more damaging than education in a classroom simply because of the incredibly reduced levels of interactivity. Most educational materials on the internet may have a very small level of local interactivity (choose a path or parameter), but they are disconnected from a larger social and informational context (even with hyperlinks).

    One online educational system which is a bit different is Oomind ( Oomind takes advantage of the Internet's inherent interactivity capabilities by providing multiple levels of feedback and multiple means to participate in the system itself (not just in the learning materials). Of course, it is still not nearly as interactive as a real classroom, and it could never replace a physical location for learning the practical aspects of drama, the arts, etc.

    But check it out. Oomind is pretty cool and is based on some principles familiar to the world of Open Source developers. It is still quite new, and personally funded so be patient with it!
  • If intelligence is encouraged by society (also creativity, curiosity), then _any_ tool will encourage intelligence (creativity, curiosity). If you want to learn, it will happen regardless of what tools you use.

  • by Maul ( 83993 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @05:59AM (#201492) Journal
    Parents often mistakingly think that if their child becomes "smarter", they will do well in school, and thus an "investment" like a computer will directly show up with higher grades.

    One of the kids I knew in high school didn't do so well in his classes. He didn't fail them, mind you, but he got a lot of C's because he wasn't doing his homework (he did excellent on the tests, IIRC).

    What was he doing? He was spending most of his time programming and learning various assembly languages. He had more logical thinking skills and practical technical knowledge than just about anyone his age because of all the programming he did, and in this respect it made him "smarter." However, according to our blatantly flawed education system, his grades said he merely "average."

  • uhh.. That's a lame analogy. If you're not going to make it as a basketball player then you're not.. No choices. You really don't need to "make it" as a programmer or get drafted into one of the major programming groups to make a living..

    If major league basketball had the same overall level as an average computer worker nobody would watch it. Yet you can be only a decent computer programmer and still get a job with good pay.

    Yes, programming takes dedication and is not suited for everyone but who knows, maybe that kid will actually get excited about programming instead of just wasting his time on games(you know, like basketball and stuff..).

  • I believe the kids of tomorrow are going to be heavily influenced by the new technology available. I don't think it will make them that much smarter though, and it certainly won't make them less lazy. There are alot of pit-traps to fall into, in for instance online gaming and chatting. These can be time-consuming activities that ruin the social life, spelling and even "the whole education" of the kid (*gasp!* *choke!*). However, they'll also learn to appreciate real life as they mature. When they start thinking about how much time they (and others) have "wasted". Therefore, I firmly believe the market is going to be satiated after a while. There's only that many cool games the industry can make, until most kids are fed up with the concept. Kids will want to socialize more, even outside the games. You can't turn whole nations into hardcore gamers you know.. (At least I hope so) Perhaps they will find a balance between gaming and other chores, just as kids have managed before. The key element here is that what we find stunning and addictive today, will be pretty ordinary in 5 years.

    Programming is perhaps one aspect of computers that will affect how kids think drastically. More and younger kids will think in vastly more complex and logical ways. They will learn sooner that the real world doesn't always operate that way though. Again, it'll be easier to find a balance than before. Because they'll start younger. Gaming often inspires new wanna-be programmers, and there are alot of new techno-toys even outside the realm of computers. Think Lego Mindstorms. I believe many of these can counter the death of creativity created by consuming media. Kids will always need an outlet for creativity, and the mind-dumbing of TV and games will have a counter-action.

    The Internet is going to make everyone more aware that we're all in this together. Kids growing up will not understand why we have international borders at all. To them, it will seem old-fashioned and irrational to segregate populations in such an unnatural way. They will feel less part of their nation, and more part of their online and local communities. As always, they won't understand why we have wars.

    So all in all, everything will pretty much remain the same.

    - Steeltoe
  • I was fortunate to be the first person in my school to turn in a project with URLs in the reference section.

    The topic was Buckminster Fullerenes, and with it being a fairly new subject (this was early '96) the school library was pretty short on info. The more enthusiastic students were arranging to visit local universities to use their libraries, but I just sat at home and did a few searches on Lycos.

    The difference was significant - I could produce totally up to date info, and include screenshots of 3D graphics people had rendered of the molecules, where other people were hand-drawing stuff. Hell, I could even have given my Chem teacher's Harry Kroto's (who was largely involved in their discovery) phone number at Sussex Uni. In all, I put in about 8 hours research, had the best-presented project, and got the highest grade in the class (plus the teachers hadn't seen a URL in a bibliography before, so they were very impressed).

    My point is; you can't just bury your head in the sand, because although there may be negative side-effects to kids spending way too much time on computers, those who are familiar with computers will have an advantage over other kids when it comes to education.

    Keeping your kids away from the net might make it more difficult for them to get pr0n and lessen the chances of them becoming a 1337 h4X0r d00d, but it'll also affect their grades when kids like me screw up the curve.

  • since when is it "easier to get a rifle or a handgun than it is to get a fishing license"? I remember filling out a lot of paper, waiting for a database search to certify that I wasn't a felon, and then paying money. How is that any easier than getting a fishing license?

    Yes it's offtopic, but that sentance in the article jumped out at me. I suppose it's an indicator of the author's political views...


  • Average IQ has actually been rising about 3% per decade since 1900, mainly due to lower levels of lead content in the bloodstream. It strikes me that getting rid of the rest of the lead paint out there would be cheaper than buying everyone a computer, and would have more scientific evidence to back it up.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.
  • different kind of learning than the traditional "Three R's".
    Isn't even the concept of 'three R's' rather telling? Taking one of the three concepts, and altering it to match the other two....
  • You do realize that you can still write and run Basic programs on your Windoze? Or do you? I read my first Basic book that my !grandmother! bought for me at the age of 12 and I really liked it. I did not have a computer (living in Russia at that time, and all) so I wrote my first programs on paper and traced them in my head with pen and paper. I did not need a complex or a simple computer to do that at all. Once I got access to Atari 600 and later 800 at school, I tested my programs on built in Basic and they worked. That was 13 years ago. Today, building an insurance system on a cluster of BEA servers running on Solaris boxes, there is not much difference in approach, I still do design on paper, whiteboard or with some tools like Visio, Rational Rose and Together/J. The design does not get to the level of code but the problems are much more complicated these days.
    Anyway, all I want to say is that nothing has actually changed, in case you forgot, you can still run DOS or even Amiga emulator under your current OS.
  • I would tend to believe that these types of correlations between intelligence and computer use would be better attributed to the fact that "Smart kids" better understand computers and therefore use them more. Same goes for science. Kids that don't understand physics and chemistry don't want to grow up to be scientists.
  • I agree with you completely, but why does the PC age change anything? A huge majority of people do not have critical thinking skills and schools have never even attempted to teach this. I don't know where you went to school, but I remember being taught to memorize and recite facts thrown at me via immense books whos facts are often flawed. Schools have not changed... Kids will need to find somewhere else to gain critical thinking skills, as we have.


  • (My apologies for offtopic, mod away...)

    Near the top of the article, in a list of "who would have thunk it?" examples.

    Or that it would be easier to get a handgun or rifle than a fishing license?
    At the very least, you have to be 18 (or is it 21?) to buy a handgun, pass a criminal background check, and possibly sit through a waiting period. In some localities, forget are not going to legally buy a handgun at all.

    In my state of Kansas, you can fish without a license to age 16. After that, you walk into a sporting goods place and give your in-state address, pay your fee, and walk out with your license. What, you want them to bring it out to your house? How easy can it get?

    I know the author was just trying to draw interesting contrasts. But he should at least stick to subject on which he has half a clue.

  • No, my comment was not the most profound and original in the world. But I know I can use an occasional nudge to do what common sense tells me I should. Maybe others can too.

    Ick...I do hate to get linked with that "it takes a village" phrase. I would not completely disagree with the saying, but the truth is not quite as simple as it implies. It takes parents to raise a child, but they can sure use all the help they can get from the village.

    Unlike the author of It Takes a Village, I would not extend decision-making about the child's welfare to the village, except in clear cases of abuse and neglect.

    Also unlike that author, I would not force the village's help at the point of a gun. (If you think this is not what is happening, try not paying the taxes to fund programs "for the children.") Instead, I would urge folks to help those around them when they can, because it is the right thing to do.

  • Yes, in the end, each of us is responsible for himself. But parents can increase the odds a child will want to learn. One way to make it more likely a child will want to learn to read is to read to him, a lot, from the time he is very young.
  • offense taken...I think we can get along.

    Actually, I have a serious disagreement with this kind of logic. Whatever your feelings on the former first lady, no one's holding a gun to your head. The budget is not an a la carte affair, with tax payers selecting what they do and do not want to pay for. You affect the budget indirectly through your vote, and I for one like it this way. You are free to differ, but I disagree that the current system is coercive.
    Of course the system is coercive, in the sense that physical force will be used, if necessary, to compel you to pay your taxes. Do you disagree?

    No, I don't think I should have a line-item veto on the spending of my tax dollars. But I sure will holler, as well as vote, when anyone proposes taxing one person to transfer wealth to another, rather than for a clear public good. I don't want to be on the receiving end of this exchange either, because it gives the government a ready-made excuse to tell me how to conduct my affairs.

  • Hmm...this is getting pretty far afield, but probably most readers have abandoned this thread by now, so I'll go ahead.

    Government is at its most basic level, the "legitimate" use of force. Government must be coercive, or it is not government. I am not troubled by this in itself, and I am not against government. The more interesting question for me is how and when is it OK for government to coerce a person.

    There are some obvious cases on which we could get almost universal agreement. If one person, with no provocation or reason, walks up and kills another, then any sane person would recognize that as murder, and agree that force should be used on the killer, at least to restrain him from further killing.

    But many other cases are not so clear. In particular, I have a hard time ethically justifying using force to implement taxation. I want to justify it, because I want to pay for very basic public goods. But I haven't really come up with a good reason why someone should be able to come take some of my stuff to pay for whatever the government thinks is a good idea at the time.

    Until I settle on a better answer to this question, my position is that taxes should be as limited as possible, and that they should pay for clear public goods. They should never be used to transfer wealth from one person to another.

    My point is that if you and enough citizens don't like a law, you can elect those with like minds and have it repealed. If coercion can be eliminated through the same system that put it in place, then I wouldn't call it coercive in an oppressive way. It in fact is the will of the people that such coercion exists; nay, we demand it! We're masochists, not prisoners.
    Democracy does not help your argument here. 51% of a group deciding to force me to obey a law does not make the law just, and does not keep it from being oppressive. If you think it does, ask the black slaves from pre-Civil-War America, or the Japanese-Americans interred during World War II.

    The beauty of the US system is not that it is a democracy (though that is good too). Rather it is that it is a constitutionally limited government. And, it is a pretty good Constituion. To the extent that we have followed what is in the Constitution during our history, we have had a more just government.

  • by clary ( 141424 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:54AM (#201524)
    A child needs to learn to read, write, do math, and think clearly. Teaching these things requires books, writing materials, and a motivated person to do the teaching.

    A child needs to learn morals, wisdom, and how to get along with his fellow man. Teaching these requires continuing attention, role-modeling, and exposing the child to life experiences as appropriate.

    If a child gets this good foundation, then how much he uses technology and whether it makes him smarter will be a much less important concern.

    Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, family friends, please get in the faces of the kids you care about! Listen to them talk about what goes on in their lives. Play with them. Work with them. Answer their questions. Talk to them about your experiences. Challenge them to think. You can make a difference that will last the rest of their lives.

  • I was going through middle/high school during the "lets buy all the computers we can so us teachers dont have to do our jobs" phase.

    Now dont get me wrong, I LOVE computers. Im a verified geek. I have been ever since my parents sat me in front of the old Apple IIe at the age of six. (And gave be a BASIC book at the age of 7)

    Computers arent the savior of education that everybody was hoping they would be. Computers are a tool and nothing more. You will always have the children who choose not to use the tools available to them, as well as the children who have no tools available to them.

    I remember one time in elementary school we were in the computer lab of Apple IIe s and I decided to have a little bit of fun with the people in there - so I wrote a little program to show just how 3eet I was:

    20 GOTO 10
    You wouldnt believe how much trouble I almost got in for that little stunt. I distinctly remember sitting in the hallway for the remainder of the class - with a large smile on my face. (This only got worse when I started going into Radio Shack Stores - Some of the messsages I came up with there probably affected sales quite a bit :-)

    Anyway - I remember in highschool (around 1995) when they built the computer lab full of older IBM 486 Lan Manager machines. We spent a large amount of time there (to my great surprise) - but it was only to waste time on substandard "education" games and work on composing some research presentation using some Powerpoint wannabe called "Linkway" or something.

    The point is: Most of those kids learned absolutely nothing. Most of them just goofed off in the computer lab. The teacher didnt even really know what the heck she was doing in there.

    The morale of the story kiddies: Computers are like an encyclopedia - they are only useful if you are willing to open the cover and explore. Until then - they are useless.

  • Salters A Level Chemistry Paper 3?

    I did that too, the internet was *damn* helpful since C60 had only been discovered about a year before there was virtually no information on it outside the major university libraries - which in my case was a 30 mile drive and a real hassle to get any info atall. God knows how people in Scotland did it.

    I used the internet as a source and I got a stunning mark for it, not because I copied it but because it was a high quality reference source with real uptodate information that wasn't available to anyone outside of a major university.
  • by WillRobinson ( 159226 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:22AM (#201532) Journal
    My house has 6 computers, with 5 kids. They are on the net all the time. Usually playing games. When they first got started, I believe it did help. Even the multiplayer games, which we watched them learn about team work. But now we cant get their lazy tails up half the time to do their chores, its always "just a minuite". In general I believe it helps, but only if there is a limited time. If they are on it all the time, it detracts from the normal functions of interaction with other people.
  • Computers are great, kids have to learn using them at an early stage to get a feeling for them. That will help since they are growing up in an age where computers are everywhere.

    Although, concider the human brain. It's got two parts. One logic side and one creative side. Computers mostly aid/develop the logic side. The creativitiy must be supported by fysical activity, working with hands, running, climbing etc.

    Computers are great, but we need to make sure kids doenst ONLY use them. As always, something in the middle is the best way to go.

  • Computers and the internet do not have to make a child more intelligent. The situation is much larger than seen at first glance.

    What it does do is change the quantity, quality, and content of the education. Quantity because they see more from around the world. Quality because of the diversity, although the quality of that diversity can be argued. And of course, the actual content is greatly expanded.

    Now this is interesting because it tends to cut across the social agendas of the powers that be. Obvious examples include China, Iran, France, and the US. Different powers have different agendas, and tend to push their agendas by various means.

    All want to maintain control of their bit of the monopoly on the public mind, and none have found a completely effective form of mind control. There is a whole other aspect to this as far as how the opponents of mind control are portrayed. It is a stretch, but some could argue you could see this in the debate of MS vs Linux and GPL. After All, MS has a large mindshare in the market.

    Anything which pushes freedom of thought, of observation, of knowledge will tend to unsettle the folks who want to sell you on their product for their profit.

    The ultimate irony is when people push freedom of thought, etc. get pursue and punished by fud as proponents of mind and culture crimes in the first place. Have you committed a thought crime today?

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • This reminds me of what a parent said at my high-school, when a teacher commited the crime of forcing students to read complex, interesting books.

    In astonishingly lucid stupidity, she complained (quite angrily) that his kid (a previously lousy student) didn't go outside anymore, and spent all day reading. What was worse, he WANTED to stay reading at home.

    For centuries books have been informally blamed for creating anti-social, non-interacting kids (bookworms, nerds, geeks). Now computers are being blamed, but since they do not carry the prestige of being a basic tenet of civilization for millenia, professional psychiatrists who should know better validate those criticisms.

    Computers do not make people more antisocial than any other technology, such as printed media. It's people who do not like those technologies that much who isolate the kids, unless they adapt and become more "normal".

    On the other hand, there are people who are just naturally anti-social, with or without "geeky interests". I cannot understand the psychiatric obsession with treating people who find typical superficial conversation boring as if the problem is on their side.
  • No, my comment was not the most profound and original in the world.

    Just having a little fun at your expense. Sorry. One forgets one's manners in the relatively anonymous world of the internet. Hope you got a little chuckle out of it, though.

    Also unlike that author, I would not force the village's help at the point of a gun. (If you think this is not what is happening, try not paying the taxes to fund programs "for the children.")

    Actually, I have a serious disagreement with this kind of logic. Whatever your feelings on the former first lady, no one's holding a gun to your head. The budget is not an a la carte affair, with tax payers selecting what they do and do not want to pay for. You affect the budget indirectly through your vote, and I for one like it this way. You are free to differ, but I disagree that the current system is coercive.

    Instead, I would urge folks to help those around them when they can, because it is the right thing to do.

    Agreed. Although if I was still feeling playful, I would echo "can't we all just get along"...
  • Of course the system is coercive, in the sense that physical force will be used, if necessary, to compel you to pay your taxes. Do you disagree?

    Well I agree that if you don't pay your taxes, there is the possibility that you will be coerced on over to a prison. But that is true of most (all?) of our laws -- run afoul of them and you will suffer the consequences. But laws are the price of civilization; surely we're not arguing about whether there should be laws with physical consequences or not?

    My point is that if you and enough citizens don't like a law, you can elect those with like minds and have it repealed. If coercion can be eliminated through the same system that put it in place, then I wouldn't call it coercive in an oppressive way. It in fact is the will of the people that such coercion exists; nay, we demand it! We're masochists, not prisoners.
  • by sv0f ( 197289 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @07:08AM (#201550)

    A child needs to learn to read, write, do math, and think clearly.

    Got it. Readin', writin', 'rithmetic.

    A child needs to learn morals, wisdom, and how to get along with his fellow man.

    Family values.

    Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, family friends, please get in the faces of the kids you care about!

    Slow down, slow down. Let me see takes a village?

    Hint: You're probably not on a soapboax if you're stating what's obvious to everyone. Moderators: This post is "Insightful"? I'd say "Redundant".
  • "Outcasts, as not being in the popular crowd, have a lot more time alone, and spend it learning various things. "

    I think the mistaken assumption that you make here is that learning is best undertaken as a solo process. To me this is just totally wrong. Sadly because of concerns about plagarism and "cheating" its a assumption that our education system tends to push fairly hard.

    The reality is that in many many fields of study talking to people is by far the best way to learn. In some fields of study, such as music for instance, its not only the best way, its vital. A musician who can not play with other musicians is not really worth the title. Increasingly these days that same is true of computing. If people can not read, understand and modify your code its not worth much.


  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:20AM (#201561) Journal
    In the 1980's, computers were repeatedly sold on the merits of education. Thousands of hopeful parent bought their kids computers hoping that it would teach them. What happened? Nothing. They were used for games.

    In the 1990's Edutainment came along. One has to wonder whether a product that uses a word as horrible as "edutainment" can actually be educational, but nevertheless, some people bought it.

    They found it was useless, because it rewarded people too easily.

    Then the internet came along. A resourse contasining all the info kids might need. Shame so much iof it is wrong.

  • I too grew up on a zx, and later a Commodore 128, then the IBM PC clone world. I also wouldn't be employeed as a computer programmer today if not for that old Z80 machine. However, today's kids aren't writing basic and Z80 assembly programs. They're playing shoot-em-up games and chatting to friends on the internet. And that's if they're being good little boys and girls. For the most part, kids with computers aren't learning critical thinking skills, programming or anything else much that is useful. Programming on a modern computer is too big of a learning curve. A five year old can figure out '10 print "Hi!" 20 print 30 print 40 goto 10'. I know. I figured this out as a five year old. No five year old is going to figure out programming for a modern computer, though, not even VB. And why would they bother? I learned to program that old ZX81 because it was there, cool to play with, and if you wanted to do much, hacking was a necessity. Today's computers, from a kid's perspective, is just interactive TV. So, no, not much learning going on nowadays, although the current generation of 20-somethings who grew up with computers did learn a lot on them.

  • There's been a recent Government Survey in the UK which suggests that books(a good library) are far more important than any PCs in the school. Have a look here []

    As a parent I've recently been looking at schools in Central London and I've been amazed (and dismayed) that children as young as six are being taught how to use Excel and Word

    If they were being taught Python or Latin Poetry at that age I could understand. The major problem with most programmers (and people!) I work with is a complete inability to think clearly. Can't see that Word skills will help fix this.

  • When I was young and had my first computer, a TI-99-4A, things were easy. There wasn't much about the computer to understand. From a young age I could learn to program the computer and started writing games and stuff in the Extended BASIC that I had with my TI.(The speech synthesizer module was cool).

    These days however, things are different. The young kids don't get to program at such a young age because the systems are so complex now they can't understand it easily. BASIC was such an easy language to use and the interface so simple that an kid could have picked it up. Today, kids would have to study a lot of things before being able to program their PCs. Especially those running Windoze.

    Also, these days the computer games are so exciting that kids easily get zapped into them for long periods. I can't remember the games on my TI being that great. Enough for a few hours amusement but then I had to resort to programming to amuse myself.

    What I think we need to work on is, developing software that can enable kids to control their computer from a young age. However, it would have to target a higher level of excitement than in the old days. The best stuff out there is probably the Lego kits, but they are expensive for most people. Unfortuneatly there is very little stuff for kids under Linux. Hmmm, time to get coding.....

  • Basic intelligence is not effected by education, or the tools used to acquire information.

    Although I agree with you to an extent I do think that exercising the mind will over time improve intelligence. As in, if you spend your whole day solving problems you will become better at problem solving. Similarly, you can train your memory to become better. Consequently, because we usually measure intelligence as a combination of the ability to solve problems and the ability to remember things your intelligence improves.

    It is therefore an indirect consequence of better education and better access to technology to have better intelligence. Only because the better education and the better technology will provide an environment that will more likely stimulate someone to improve their intelligence.

    f course, someone with no access to education or technology can be stimulated by other reasons and also improve their intelligence.Others are just naturally intelligent.

  • by delcielo ( 217760 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @05:40AM (#201570) Journal
    This is an age old question that has actually been around longer than computers have. The answer is that almost anything (tech/reading/science/auto mechanics) can make you more intelligent if it is used in an educational manner. The opposite is also true. All the mensa primers in the world won't help a kid who doesn't use them in an educational way. As for the comment about late 70's, early 80's geeks now being smarter and the heads of international corporations, there are a lot of international corps. headed by decidedly non-technical people. Intelligence presents itself in many different ways. It isn't a "if you're tech, your smart/ if you're not, you're less than smart" kind of proposition. It's all about how you do the things you do. There is just as much intellectual stimulation in the natural world as there is on the internet. Don't confuse information for intelligence.
  • by OCatenac ( 218161 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:25AM (#201571) Homepage

    I think there is a valid concern that people raised on computers may not learn how to think critically about the information they are receiving from those computers. I am reminded of an old maxim called Gallois' Revelation: "If you put tomfoolery in a computer nothing comes out but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow enobled and none dare criticize it." If kids don't learn to question the tomfoolery which can come out of computers, then we are in trouble. That's where critical thinking is important.

    Onorio Catenacci

    "And that's the world in a nutshell -- an appropriate receptacle."

  • for those of you who haven't read this, read it; it explains some of the things i said in my earlier post...

    mentor's last words
    by: +++the mentor+++
    written january 8, 1986

    Another one got caught today, it's all over the papers. "Teenager Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal," "Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering"...

    Damn kids. They're all alike.

    But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950's technobrain, ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?

    I am a hacker, enter my world...

    Mine is a world that begins with school... I'm smarter than most of the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me...

    Damn underachiever. They're all alike.

    I'm in junior high or high school. I've listened to teachers explain for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. quot;No, Ms. Smith, I didn't show my work. I did it in my head..."

    Damn kid. Probably copied it. They're all alike.

    I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it's because I screwed it up. Not because it doesn't like me... Or feels threatened by me.. Or thinks I'm a smart ass.. Or doesn't like teaching and think it shouldn't be here...

    Damn kid. All he does is play games. They're all alike.

    And then it happened... a door opened to a world... rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetence's is sought... a board is found. "This is it... this is where I belong..." I know everyone here... even if I've never met them, never talked to them, may never hear from them again... I know you all...

    Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They're all alike...

    You bet your ass we're all alike... we've been spoon-fed baby food at school when we hungered for steak... the bits of meat that you did let slip through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We've been dominated by sadists, or ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us willing pupils, but they are like drops of water in the desert.

    This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.

    Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.

    I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can't stop us all... after all, we're all alike.

    The Mentor

  • by unformed ( 225214 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:24AM (#201575) solely because computer "power users" tend to be outcasts. Outcasts, as not being in the popular crowd, have a lot more time alone, and spend it learning various things.

    I wouldn't say it's as much computers than the social position of computer users.

    Regarding antisocial behavior, well that stems from the same thing.

    Also check: I doubt it's computers that make kids intelligent, but rather intelligent kids that have a need to learn how to fully use a computer.
  • Sorry, You are both right and wrong. Typical computer + connection per consumer household would be about $1400.00 for a cheap setup for three years.

    Lead removal now averages about $4000.00 per household.

    This doesn't even cover the costs of removing lead balancing weights from cars, and eliminating plumbing from before 1963. I agree that this would have a better effect in the long run, however.

  • Nothing more, nothing less.

    How anybody uses that tool is up to them. A pencil in the hand of a talented artist can create beautiful and wonderous things, just as a chisel in the hands of a sculptor can. Although I might own a pencil and a chisel, I certainly cannot draw well or sculpt.

    Computers are the same way. They are used to create documents by writers, or design airplanes by engineers. They are used by programmers and multimedia artists to express themselves. They are also used as entertainment and for research.

    For those who simply play games, or surf porn, or whatever, who cares. That's what they are using this flexible tool for. Just because I am not an artist doesn't mean I shouldn't own a pencil or a chisel. Likewise for people with computers.

    That a computer makes kids smarter or dumber is a stupid argument either way you look at it. It's what the child chooses to do with the computer that helps them grow or not. It's just a tool.

  • by Kasreyn ( 233624 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:58PM (#201582) Homepage
    Everything does. Making a blanket statement like, "computers make kids smarter" is foolish and absurd, especially when there are so many kinds and ways of using computers.

    What is the computer used for? Is it just your standard Win98 box with AOL, Half-Life Counterstrike, Cable modem for pr0n, and mp3 players? In that case, no - it's just another TV set.

    Is it instead used for programming, for research and learning, or for writing or composition? In that case, then yes - it helps children expand their minds.

    The beauty of computers is that they can do both of these things - they can be an entertainment outlet, a link to the outside world, a research tool, and more. But you can't say PC's in the home make kids "smarter" (that is to say, more inquisitive and willing to learn), unless that is how they are *used*.

  • However, today's kids aren't writing basic and Z80 assembly programs. They're playing shoot-em-up games and chatting to friends on the internet.

    I really don't believe that the percentage of children interested in programming has changed. It's just that computers are more common. Instead of playing cowboys and Indians or romping around outside and chatting with the neighborhood kids, the normal kids will be playing shoot-em-up games and chatting to friends on the Internet. The same kids that forsook the former will forsake the latter, in favor of the joy of original creation, the feeling of power, or the satisfaction of finishing something cool. They'll be the programmers.
  • Basic intelligence is not effected by education, or the tools used to acquire information. A computer will allow someone to take advantage of a superior intellect, but it will not increase the intellect. Great post. Tog [] had a great chapter in his book Tog on Software Design were he explains some of the downfalls of our educational system. He pointed out that teachers didn't allow calculators in the classroom for years. I graduated in '93, yet I was still required to learn out to calculate square roots (a button that has been on every calculator in the US since I was born). Did that increase my intelligence? No. Did it improve my ability to understand the situations that I might need to apply square roots? No. Too many people (including our own schools) confuse knowledge with content. Rather than memorizing facts and dates, we should teach our children how to find those facts and dates, should they ever need them. We should then spend the remaining 7.5 hours in the school day to teach them the concepts - how those facts effect the world, and their lives. Computers are simply the next misunderstood technology. What people fail to realize about computers, is that they will never go away. Computers are here to stay. Those who are familiar with them will have the world's knowledge at their fingertips (a phrase that finally has meaning). As you pointed out, the children who are growing up with the internet will not end up any smarter than the rest of us... but their knowledge will be much more applicable in the future, than will be the content I was forced to memorize when I was young.
  • Funny how they could write that article without noticing that IQ scores in the USA have been rising steadily for about a century (ever since the first IQ test was written). It's pretty clear by now that this isn't a case of dumbing down the test, but whatever IQ tests measure really has been increasing on the average. Early explanations centered on physical factors like better food and control of diseases that may stunt the brain. But by the mid-50's there wasn't any significant room for improvement left in the physical factors, and IQ's kept on rising.

    So it's got to be the more stimulating environment -- remember, at the beginning of the 20th century half of American kids grew up on farms and rarely traveled further than they could walk. Most entertainment was necessarily home made. When you got tired of listening to your sister singing the one song she knew, offkey, you could read -- most homes owned a bible and maybe one or two other books. Public libraries existed in most towns, but the 20 mile walk discouraged most rural kids. In the last 100 years, peoples', and especially childrens', horizons have widened immensely: automobiles, record players, movies, radio, airplanes, TV, etc. We are so prosperous that people can buy books for kids so young they are more likely to eat them than to look at them.

    There are two observed facts that are cited against the hypothesis that the more stimulating the environment the higher the IQ. One is that many studies show a very large (over 50%) relation between IQ and genetics. Reconciling these two sets of statistics requires a very subtle relationship between IQ and genes. One theory: IQ depends mainly on stimulation. Genes determine how well you like stimulation. That is, if your genes gave you more curiousity or possibly just a little more natural ability, you will seek to learn more, and wind up considerably smarter than the average. (Remember all those stories of Abe Lincoln walking long distances to borrow a book or working hard to buy one.) TV, video games, and computers can raise the average -- but it's still the people who seek out the hardest challenges that learn the most.

    The second objection to the environmental hypothesis is that for the last few decades the rise in IQ scores has not been followed by an improvement in school performance. That could mean that there is something wrong with the IQ tests, but IMO it's that the schools haven't been keeping up with the times. They still depend primarily on techniques that were developed centuries ago, and were adopted then out of necessity rather than any opinion that they were _good_. "The best school is a log with a pupil on one end and a teacher on the other", but when you have 20+ pupils, one teacher, and no technology you've just got to do the best you can. Socrates encouraged students to figure things out for themselves (circa 400BC). Teachers with larger classes had to lecture, trading a great reduction in quality for quantity. (It once also helped that the world outside school was so boring that a 70 year old man lecturing on medieval history could be stimulating by comparison.) Now computers (properly used) can free the students to go find out for themselves once again, but the education establishment is so set in it's ways that when a kid goes and learns something on his own, they resent and fear it. So the kids _are_ smarter (at least in some ways), but they're bored silly in school. Read the comments by teachers about computers in that light.
  • paying/training teachers better (hopefully attracting/producing better teachers). They are already paying teachers much better and training them more than when I was in school forty years ago, and they are getting worse teachers. The main problem is, the extra pay isn't going to better teachers -- it's going to anyone who gets the required certificates (by enduring four or more years of one of the least intellectually stimulating majors in existence), and shows up most of the time. The second problem is, the training consists mostly of indoctrination into liberal/socialist politics and unproven teaching methods. Until they actually research what works, get some real quality control, and start basing promotion and retention on whether the kids learn, more money just gets you better paid deadwood.
  • These seem to mostly be examples of ignorant teachers. Teachers' college standards are so low that it is possible for a person with a mental block about mathematics to become certified to teach high school algebra. The basic problem is that the core education courses are so stultifying that too few bright people can stand them.
  • You could also say the same thing about televison, or the mouth of Alan Greenspan. Personally I don't give a hoot about what machine my information cam out of, I try to evaluate it critically no matter what. My learning to think critically has nothing to do with how I was thought, but what. If you don't teach logic, you won't be able to distinguish tomfoolery from wisdom regardless of the source. If you don't critically evaluate what you input, you are screwed; the medium makes little difference.

  • How is doing a search in Google for X and compiling a report from that any better/worse then summarizing an encyclopedia?

    Not to be too obvious a troll, but really now. Half the comments on this discussion seem to be 'computers discourage children from thinking, and instead they're just regurgitating what they've read'.

    Hmm... most of my schooling was done WITHOUT computers being around, and yet for the most part, that's all the first 12 years of it was. Read a book (or maybe the Cliff's notes if you're lazy), change some words, get a B+. Listen to the teacher talk for a few weeks, and write down what s/he said on your exam paper.

    The vast majority of grade school is like this. Having or not having a computer really won't change a thing, however what it will do is prepare today's youths for the Real World (tm). How many (white-collar, anyway) jobs today don't use a computer in some fashion?

  • Computers may be increasing intelligence, in whatever abstract measure they're using today, but I don't think it's improving people in an overall sense.

    Intelligence is a tricky quantity, and the sort of things that are typically used to measure it may very well be increased through exposure to computing from an early age. But that doesn't mean kids are any smarter in reality or more able to deal with tricky situations.

    In fact the anti-social behaviour which almost invariably comes with computer expertise is a far worse handicap than any gain in intelligence. Time and time again studies have shown that social skills are far more important in determining how successful people are in the real world than intelligence. Kids who spend all their time with computers are losing one of the most important aspects of their humanity. Serial killers weren't very social people either.

    Kids who are allowed to just rot in front of a computer are being failed by their parents, who obviously don't care enough to have their kids turn out as well-rounded individuals who will be able to go through their lives without the kind of emotional inability we read about in places like this. Parents should encourage their kids to get out and actually interact with their peers.

    Geeks here whine about being outcasts. Well is it any wonder if they do nothing other than sit in front of computers? Social bonds don't appear as if by magic after all, they take time and effort. Unsuprisingly, also things that computers tend to destroy. Think about it next time you wonder why nobody likes you.

  • Basic intelligence is not effected by education, or the tools used to acquire information.

    I'm curious about what you define as Basic Intelligence. AFAIK the input you give a child, especially in the early years of life will have a very significant effect on all tests which measure "intelligence".Dammit, listening to classical music is supposed to increase kids' performance in IQ tests.Surely using computers would mould a child's way of thinking in some way. That way might give every appearance of making the child more intelligent.They would be better problem solvers, be able to bring a larger base of knowledge to solving problems, be more logical in their approach to things, read things more carefully (e.g. RTFM).All this stuff looks extremely like intelligence to the outside world.To say that education does not effect intelligence you would need to measure intelligence without tests which used any of the above skills as these can definately be learnt and honed.Basically what I asking the question - What is the difference between the intelligence you refer to and being able to learn, and do, things well and how do you propose to tell the difference?
  • by CrackElf ( 318113 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:26AM (#201615) Homepage
    Basic intelligence is not effected by education, or the tools used to acquire information. A computer will allow someone to take advantage of a superior intellect, but it will not increase the intellect. A quick intellect will allow a child to grasp the nuances of the computer easier, and use it to a greater advantage. A computer is a tool, not a magical box.

    One thing that really bothered me in this was the assumption that a child would become a hacker (by which I assume cracker was meant) which is compleat technophobia. Just because a child reads a book does not mean that he or she is going to run off and become a librarian! I have known several ppl with a very strong background in proging who chose to pursue diff. careers in college.

  • by Drunken_Jackass ( 325938 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:18AM (#201620) Homepage
    ...well it's not making grown-ups any smarter -- i mean look at AOL!
  • by GearheadX ( 414240 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @03:35AM (#201623)
    Computers will not encourage intelligence until intelligence is encouraged by society.

    Berk Watkins
  • I myself am a professional programmer, so I make long hours behind the computer. Programming requires a large amount of creativity and I think few would deny it to be an intellectual progress as well. I do find that after I've been programming for a long time, I get disconnected from the real world, to the point were I'm unable to tie my shoelaces, because I can't remember how. And that's if I'm lucky enough to actually recognize my shoes from all those other things that look a lot like shoes, but don't fit on my feet. It usually takes me one or two hours to get back to myself again. Point being, is that this kind of detachment from things down to earth is bad. It'll make your anti-social, unable to take care of yourself and generally unmotivated to do anything else than crawl behind the computer again. I imagine this goes for anybody who (over-)uses a computer now and again. It even goes for anybody I think that does long periods of very abstract thinking, like academians and such. It's this kind of behaviour, when people are detached from the world around them, that freaks out people, and makes them condemn computing all together. And they're right, if somewhat blunt. I think we should teach our children, and remember our friends, that a computer is a tool to get things done, and not a world in itself, not somewhere to retreat when the real world scares you, which it so often does when your a teen.

    Living is a way of life ...
  • by james(honest) ( 452503 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @04:22AM (#201637)
    I've just returned from six years in the California to be part of a startup that will have a very positive impact on peoples lives. Since returning I have been very much more frustrated and have had a gnawing disatisfaction around creativity and ideas. I have recently realised it is due to our internet connection speed. In the US, my worst connection was at home, a 1.5Mbit ADSL line. In the UK, my best, at work, is a 64kbit ISDN line.

    In the US, any bit of information I wanted was a few clicks away. I could use the internet as an extension of my memory. In the UK, each click now takes between seconds and minutes to download, so something that was once a few seconds away, is now several minutes away, especially when I dont remember the exact series of links to follow and have to back track. One might think that it would make the internet just a slower part of my memory. However, the delay is such that it no longer plays any part in my memory - it is too slow to participate in my short-term thinking process. I am having to learn old methods of memory retention, and use "Favourites" a lot more!

    This is pure theory, of course, but it is the only explanation I have. If I, an adult, am having this problem, what effect will it have on a child?

  • by kitchnwitch ( 454651 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @04:31AM (#201640)
    Interesting point, and I think your last two sentences are the most important. I'm homeschooling my two kids (7, 8 next month, and 4) and my older child has his own computer and net connection. We use the computer constantly. He has several different search engines and portals bookmarked and knows when each is appropriate. When looking something up, he knows to check several different sites, and ask questions if the answers differ. He knows that information on the web often comes with an agenda, and has more than a few times observed that agenda in action, or I've pointed it out to him. He knows when he's being condescended to, or spoonfed. ("Yahooligans has silly stupid baby stuff. I'm going to the grownup engine.")
    He also sees me stress about the quality of what this household puts up on the web (my personal site, and my husband's business site). He knows, although at this age I'm not sure that he could articulate it, that the value and danger of the net is in the freedom-to-publish. The "sanctity of tomfoolery" idea that you're talking about, to me, has always been a lot more about books than about the net - it's a vast investment, either of other peoples' confidence in you (via a publishing house) or of your own time and money (via self-publishing) to create and distribute a book; to do the same with a website, all you really need is access to the machine that, these days, can be gotten for a ridiculously small amount of money. This creates the opportunity for some truly extraordinary material, in terms of both informational integrity and originality, that otherwise wouldn't be available, but it also hands a soapbox to every idiot. I don't think this concept is lost on kids, who are a lot more flexible of mind than we adults often give them credit for.
  • I remember being led to the computer lab in school to play Oregon Trail, because it was what the public school system regarded as "educational". My more intelligent peers and I could care less whether the family made it to Oregon or not. It was who's family got farthest being naked with no food. The point I'm trying to make is even a moderate student will regard this type of training as a joke. Even as computers advanced in my high school years, we weren't encouraged to use them for problem solving. Instead, we learned word processing and spreadsheets. I'm sure the students who found that interesting then are making excellent paper pushers today. I know people who are full of useful, and sometimes interesting facts. Sadly, their knowledge of these things is limited to regurgitating this information. I don't think intelligence can be increased or decreased, only sharpened or blunted. Computers can make a person more knowledgeable, but not more intelligent. Those are two very different animals.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur