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Education

Students Outpacing Teachers With Online Skills 331

beaverfever writes: "The Christian Science Monitor ran this commentary by Tom Regan on how students in middle and high school are outpacing their teachers when it comes to understanding the potential of and using the internet for learning and doing research. The article addresses a study, The Digital Disconnect, recently released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Regarding the study, Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, is quoted: 'Educators have a choice: Either they need to adapt or they will be dragged into a new learning environment.' Both the study and article are about two weeks old, but an interesting read nonetheless."
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Students Outpacing Teachers With Online Skills

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  • Well gee, (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Xeriar ( 456730 )
    I'm sure -no one- on Slashdot would EVER have seen this one coming...

    From more than ten years away, anyway. Heck even before then I could use BBSes for research purposes.
  • Yup... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:03PM (#4166691)
    Not for nuthin', but at a local school where I went with my GF to pickup her little sister, I saw a room full (20-25) of 5 year old kids using DELL LAPTOPS and MS WORD. It's a spooky sight to see a little penquin sized thing complaining because FILE-OPEN dialog box is sometimes a bit confusing. They were using portable mice because the little rodants fit more easily into their hands. Ever see a 5 year old girl browse the web? twilight zone spooky. And I though I was kewl at 13, using ZModem and tradin' warez on BBS's here in Long Island, New York. CRAZY!
  • by Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:06PM (#4166708) Homepage
    teachers spend 8-12 hours a day in the classroom, then go home and try to relax. free time? hah. like any adult, it's just the weekends.

    students spend 6 hours in the classroom, and if they don't have extracurricular activities or a job, they get to surf until the wee hours of the morning.

    not a big surprise.

    • by Frums ( 112820 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:28PM (#4166851) Homepage Journal
      As an ex-teacher, I have found this rant (not written by myself, i don't know the author) to be the most accurate listing of problems facing teachers - and as the parent to this mentions, it directly effects technology.

      21st Century Teacher applicant addressing the school administration. Let me see if I've got this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids and fill their every waking moment with a love for learning. Not only that, I'm supposed to instill a sense of pride in their ethnicity, behaviorally modify disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse and T-shirt messages. I am to fight the war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, check their backpacks for guns and raise their self-esteem. I'm to teach them patriotism, good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, how and where to register to vote, how to balance a checkbook and how to apply for a job. I am to check their heads occasionally for lice, maintain a safe environment, recognize signs of potential antisocial behavior, offer advice, write letters of recommendation for student employment and scholarships, encourage respect for the cultural diversity of others, and, oh yeah, always make sure that I give the girls in my class 50 percent of my attention. I'm required by my contract to be working on! my own time summer and evenings at my own expense toward advance certification and a master's degree; and after school, I am to attend committee and faculty meetings and participate in staff development training to maintain my employment status. I am to be a paragon of virtue larger than life, such that my very presence will awe my students into being obedient and respectful of authority. I am to pledge allegiance to supporting family values, a return to the basics, and to my current administration. I am to incorporate technology into the learning, and monitor all Web sites while providing a personal relationship with each student. I am to decide who might be potentially dangerous and/or liable to commit crimes in school or who is possibly being abused, and I can be sent to jail for not mentioning these suspicions. I am to make sure all students pass the state and federally mandated testing and all classes, whether or not they attend school on a regular basis or complete ! any of the work assigned. Plus, I am expected to make sure that all of the students with handicaps are guaranteed a free and equal education, regardless of their mental or physical handicap. I am to communicate frequently with each student's parent by letter, phone, newsletter and grade card. I'm to do all of this with just a piece of chalk,a computer, a few books, a bulletin board, a 45 minute more-or-less plan time and a big smile, all on a starting salary that qualifies my family for food stamps in many states.

      • I'm to teach them patriotism

        This is where the US society fails horribbly and brainwashes it's people into retarded gung-ho morons like Mr. George Dubya Bush.

      • I'm to do all of this with just a piece of chalk,a computer, a few books, a bulletin board, a 45 minute more-or-less plan time and a big smile, all on a starting salary that qualifies my family for food stamps in many states.

        Although I agree with many parts of this rant, I was really surprised by this comment on teacher salaries. Yes, they've historically been a major complaint about teaching, but I was under the impression that things were getting better. So I did a little web research.

        First of all, starting salaries are starting salaries. You don't make much when you start in most careers. According to this page [aft.org] at the American Federation of Teachers website, the average starting salary for teachers in the U.S. was $27,989 in 2001. The average salary in general was $41,820.

        Now, that isn't spectacular pay, but it's not exactly horrifyingly low either. The average pay is almost exactly the national median [census.gov] ($42,148), in fact. Yes, there are some states which are lagging on teacher salaries, but of course there are some which are ahead as well.

        Why do I bring this up? Maybe so that people won't be completely scared off from teaching? :)
    • teachers spend 8-12 hours a day in the classroom, then go home and try to relax. free time? hah. like any adult, it's just the weekends.

      12 hours seems a little much. I'd say 8-10 is more appropriate (and still probably a little generous)

      Assuming the average person goes to bed at 12am this leaves them with potentially 6 hours of surf time. Factor in a 30 minute commute and dinner and you're down to 5 hrs. Obviously people have other things to do some of the time, but at the very least they could switch the tv off for a few nights and surf a little themselves or see a movie, practice playing an instrument, or kill a neighbor.

      I personally don't think it is a matter of time as much as 1. education and 2. pride. Many of my teachers, even sadly those in the CS department seemed to have very dated knowledge. It was almost as if they reached a point and decided learning wasn't crucial any more.

      • Many of my teachers, even sadly those in the CS department seemed to have very dated knowledge. It was almost as if they reached a point and decided learning wasn't crucial any more.

        You're absolutely right. You know what though? I've nearly reached that point, and I'm a freshman in college. I seriously don't care that X software or Y hardware is new and spectacular. My friends used to call me up for advice on fixing or upgrading their systems, and lately I've been leaving them with "don't know, don't care".

        Sure there's a joy in learning new things, but there's always more information to know about any field, more details to consider. After a while, you give up because you realize none of it is really important and you've got more important things to do than read every Slashdot article. (Obviously there are still some vestiges left for me.)
  • Not all schools... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sapphire42 ( 178537 )
    I am one teacher who knows more than my middle school and high school students. They hate it. They don't get away with anything in my lab. I know all of the tricks. OF course, the rest of the teachers in the school need clue sticks, but I am working on all of them. I suppose most computer teachers should be ahead of the kids, but that's isn't necessarily how it really is, and most teachers of other subjects just don't get the internet-thing either.
  • silly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tps12 ( 105590 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:07PM (#4166715) Homepage Journal
    The Internet is great, if you want to figure out that chick who was in the movie with the guy, if you need some information about Linux, or if you want to view some naked ladies. It is not, and I doubt will ever be, a good source for education.

    The nature of man is to put forth as little effort as possible to get the most in return. Since web sites are advertising-funded, that means web publishing tends to sensastionalism, as sites try to attract as many "impressions" and "click throughs" as possible. This makes it a terrible place for doing research.

    Educators should give up on the pipe dream of using the Internet for educational purposes. Computers in classrooms are important, to teach children how to type, write and format a paper in Microsoft Word, and to play Oregon Trail. These are valuable skills, and (surprise) none of them require the Internet. Schools would put their funds to better use by passing on the 'ternet hookup and instead purchasing some quality glassware for chemistry class.
    • So, I suppose this [mathpower.com] and this [math.com] and the other several thousand responses I got to *one* google query "math help" don't exist on the internet. Or maybe they are not "a good source for education".

    • You forgot about all the websites that feature essays and term papers and whatnot :)

      Seriously, there is a lot of good information on the net. The important thing is to be critical of the information you find.

      Good sites for the critically minded include James Randi's [randi.org] website and Quackwatch [quackwatch.org].

      BTW, Oregon Trail rox nadz!
    • Re:silly (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jc42 ( 318812 )
      Please note that the *.com sites are newcomers to the Internet. It was only a year or two back that the number of *.com sites passed the number of *.edu sites. And this claim is even highly dubious, because a lot of commercial sites have hundreds or thousands of names for a handful of machines. Most .edu sites have just one or occasionally two names per machine.

      Also, the .edu sites are typically have a lot more information available to visitors than commercial sites. Most commercial sites use most of the disk space for accounting information which is not available to web clients. Their online product information is typically small. But educational sites typically make all but the most recent in-progress pages available to users.

      So the educational part of the web is in fact a lot larger than the commercial part.

      If you only look at .com sites, and judge the Internet by that, you are guilty of an egregious misreading of what it's all about.

      Also, note that scientific publications are rapidly going online. A few now exist only in electronic form. Both economics and ease of use are pushing for this change. This is probably the most "educational" information you can find anywhere.

      (One could argue that some of the pr0n sites qualify as "educational", but maybe I won't go there right now. ;-)

    • When was the last time you actually did research on the web concerning an academic subject? It's an immense learning tool. If you think that there's nothing on the web but porn and Linux, then you're seriously disillusioned.

      Ever heard of the .edu TLD? Go find one. Browse around a while. You'll learn a ton.
  • by McCart42 ( 207315 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:08PM (#4166717) Homepage
    ...but when people want to know why teachers (in general--some are quite adept) don't know jack about technology, they can start by looking at their superiors. How many people in positions of authority at high schools/middle schools (principals, "technology coordinators" for that matter) understand what the average student needs to learn about computers, and what computers are not fit to teach?
  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:09PM (#4166728)
    I teach at a suburban high school (approx. 2700 students). Although our Internet access is fast, it is so hobbled by censorware that most research on the web is useless. The machines themselves are locked down with Fortres, which prevents knowledgeable teachers like myself from even being able to introduce the kids to new technologies (I teach computer science, and it's a real pain in the ass to get the student machines updated and reimaged every time I want to work with open-source software I find on the web).

    Add to this the fact that most school district technology staffers are woefully ignorant of technology (many are teachers who have no background in technology but thought it would be "cool" to learn how to jockey a mouse around like a pro), and you have the situation described in the article. It's a sad, sad situation, and it frustrates me to no end that I must deal with so-called district technology "gurus" who have no idea what the hell they're doing, but do happen to know how to type a password in.

  • Most students will also be just as confused as their teachers in their understanding of computer concepts

    Just cuz some kid can use google to find some reference or resource does not mean that they will be able to crosscheck their references, evaluate the article for validity, or realize that geocities.com pages are likely not the best sources of information.

    Then again it was not to many years back that I was being offered rather nice sums of money to do simple TYPING assignments for students. . . . Yeesh, my word! ($20 or so a page. . . . kicker is I didn't take them up on it. . . .)
  • by HisMother ( 413313 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:10PM (#4166736)
    The most dog-eared technology-related gag in the business has the hapless adult dependent on the neighbor's eight-year-old to [program the VCR | set the clock on the microwave | fix the computer]. Like most humor, it's funny because it's true. Kids pick this stuff up like it's the most natural thing in the world because they have nothing to compare it to, while older people try, and fail, to relate everything to something they already know.

    I'm 38 years old, and I often feel like a dinosaur here on ./, listening in on conversations between kids who were born into a world already filled with cheap personal computers. It's honestly always going to be a losing battle trying to teach pre-PC adults more about computers than kids can pick up themselves at home. The problem might never go away, given today's rate of change of technology, but it's particularly bad now because of the PC revolution. In the near future, when all the existing teachers will have grown up in the post-PC era, the crisis will subside naturally.

    • I'm 38 years old, and I often feel like a dinosaur here on ./, listening ...

      Actually, this website is called "slashdot" and not "dotslash".

      GMD

      • Blockquothe HisMother:
        I'm 38 years old, and I often feel like a dinosaur here on ./, listening ...
        Blockrespondeth GuyMannDude:
        Actually, this website is called "slashdot" and not "dotslash".
        Hey, back off, dude. At least she's using proper Unix notation. I'm so used to typing "./dothis.pl" I screw it up sometimes, too. :)
        • This is a good example of what I meant, about how us old guys' brains are already full. "/." doesn't MEAN anything to youngsters who grew up on Windows. "/." looks like "./" only to Unix folks -- particularly people who moved to Linux from another UNIX, and have been doing it so long it's in their blood.
    • In the near future, when all the existing teachers will have grown up in the post-PC era, the crisis will subside naturally.

      All arguments of whether this is really a crisis aside, I disagree. There are plenty of people (most of them, I daresay) growing up in the post-PC era, that don't know jack about technology. In the next generation, a teacher that grew up using a PC will be the equivalent of today's teachers who grew up using electronic calculators, or slide rules.

      The average American may be able to write a simple document using a word processor, or check their email, or surf the web, but that doesn't mean they understand or appreciate the underlying technology and its potential.

      The kids will always be ahead.

      • Everyone will have their areas. If its an effective learning aid, i.e. it helped the teacher when THEY learned it, they'll use it, most likely.

        -I had a teacher in high school who taught using a mathematics cad program

        -I use the web to store information for my students. Even though I know HTML, one does not need this knowledge to make decent webpages.

        -A small (growing) number of teachers use webct to store grades/confidential info online

        So I claim that the day will come that:
        1) Math teachers know more about math scripting languages than other people, including their students
        2) English teachers ALL know how to make webpages, and do it fairly well. I had a few in college with the ability.
        3) Librarians know about the important online prestigious journal archives/magazine archives for research, among other things (such as online libraries, if they have them), and also be very familiar with several CD-Rom archive texts.
        4) Scientists will know something about math scripting languages. I'm reminded of the time in my AP Physics class where the professor required that everybody implement a particular problem as a program for TI-85, by the way (6 years ago)...

        Of course, this requires that the education majors are educated in their subjects right alongside everyone else. I've noticed in from my previous schooling that I learned something about all of these things just by going to classes and getting my degree.

        The only negative side that I noticed was that my Math Education friend (now teaching at a Middle School) only learned up to Trig, while I got my Math Minor and covered several advanced math areas , finishing my core with Diff Eq, and then doing Linear Algebra, Fractals, Discrete Structures, and Numerical Calculus. I shudder to think that all teachers have learned as little as he did. He didn't even know how to make the most of a good calculator.

        One final note: I'm a graduate student now in computer engineering, and I've taught 200 freshman as a teach assistant. I've yet to meet any with a grasp of technology that approaches my own, even though I've met quite a few who are more knowledgable than I was when I started college.

        While I'm here, I read a comment that teachers get one or two degrees. I wish I had had such teachers. I found out later that in Florida, as well as most states, the only requirement to teach is passing a certification exam. Also, the state (and I daresay most states) is in dire need of teachers, since the low rate of pay limits supply. For this reason, it is incredibly EASY to get a teaching job. I used to know a lot of education majors. See if you can guess how many of them didn't get a job.

        My guess is that this comment was issued from some country other than the US. At my college, the degree you got if you didn't want to be educated was Education.

        The kids will only be ahead if the teachers don't excel.
    • I'm 38 years old, and I often feel like a dinosaur here on ./,


      It's /., Grandpa.
  • I am a computer engineering student and both my parents are high school teachers. My mom recently graduated from SDSU with a b.a. in French and her teaching credential. She had to take a series of tech ed classes, mainly they taught her about powerpoint, how to build web pages with a simple web creation tool. She had projects where she had to build a whole web site with a sylabus(spelling?), notes, links etc. etc. The gave these educational websites some buzz word name "infotracks" or something like that can't really remember. I dont think these classes really helped her to much. She learned hos to use a computer as a neccesesity to complete the research for her college classes. All the tech-ed do was throw around all the newest buzz-words.

    My dad teaches special education so thats a totaly different story.

    Personally I think 90% of the kids already know how to use a computer by the time they enter school. Most teachers are just trying to save face by showing the kids they know too. I can't think of any class that has been enriched by the teachers use of technology save my programming classes but hey thats kind of a given. Actually once my math professor brought in a laptop and played some 4d space simulations that was cool but kind of useless.

    I don't like when a prof thinks the internet is the best thing ever to happen to teaching. Several profs have tried using message boards and assigning that every student post two site related to clas etc etc Complete waste of time maybe the same two suck up students used the board the same time and eveyone else posted www.math.com or something lame like that. I think students should be given assignments that require a computer but dont give them any set way of doing (like telling them what software to use) Let them come up with the solutions and use technology how they best see fit, ie instant messeging group mates, and using a yahoo briefcase to share files, vs the group that uses irc to do the whole project whatever but let htem figure it out.

    • My freshman physics class was a good use of technology. We were issued crosspads at the beginning of the semester, and instructed to write two "journal entries" each week on it. Journal entries were composed of investigating some meaningful example of the particular lesson we were learning that week (it was a mechanics class, so this wasn't hard to find). We would then upload the jpg files from the crosspad, and post them to the messageboard, where we were required to post 2 comments on other students' journal entries each week. Made for a little physics slashdot. Fun stuff, and gave us experience with other people's views of the material that we were seeing for ourselves. The professor also commented on our entries to correct our mistakes.
  • In school, I have horrible, painful memories
    of being consistently more literate than many of
    my teachers. It surprised me then, but not now.
    How about for example the history teacher who insisted
    on the word "fractions" when she meant "factions",
    and then took a hostile approach when corrected (on anything)?

    The list goes on and on. It comes as no surprise that
    teachers are computer-illiterate. Some of them have
    absolutely no motivation to do anything at all, others
    finished college before personal computers existed, others had
    a college curriculum that did not involve using computers.

    If only primary education were a lucrative field to enter,
    where one needed a masters' degree and could expect
    salaries of 50-100K. The amount of money spent on
    athletics dwarfs the amount that would be required
    for this kind of compensation, but the USA seems to
    worship ignorance and laziness.
  • by Walker ( 96239 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:12PM (#4166757)
    Granted, I am a professor, so teaching younger kids is out of my field. However, the problem that I see when they reach me is that kids know how to get at all this information, but they don't know how to evaluate it. If someone has a web page, students assume they must be a person of authority, and hence should be believed. I don't have to tell Slashdotters about the problem with that assumption.

    Teachers need to be focusing on this issue when it comes to doing "research", not on how to gather information. Methods of gathering information change all the time, and the kids will invariably outpace the adults. However, the process by which we evaluate information has not changed all that much, and this is where the experience of adults is most helpful.

    In the old days, a kid could do research by looking through an encyclopedia; the quality of encyclopedias through peer review and the like was such that information integrity was not an issue (or such a minor issue that it could be overlooked). However, asking the students to build a report by looking at web pages is very different and much more complicated. Now quality of information becomes very important.

    Sure, the information is easier to come by, but at what cost to the student?
    • I, too, am a professor, and I agree completely with Walker's comments. The Internet is great for finding pieces of information, but one must still a) separate the chaff from the grain, and b) ruminate upon the results until they are understood.

      • > I, too, am a professor, and I agree completely with Walker's comments. The Internet is great for finding pieces of information, but one must still a) separate the chaff from the grain, and b) ruminate upon the results until they are understood.

        That's a feature, not a bug!

        If you're working in the current educational system, where kids are encouraged not to critically evaluate news/information for credibility, then it's a bug.

        But wouldn't it be nice if your Grade 5 fluffy studies project was something like "Here are 10 URLs about [ the environment | cancer | nutrition | space ]. Rank them in order of credibility. For your most credible link, give 3 reasons why you thought it was more credible than all the others. For your least credible link, give us 3 reasons why you didn't believe it."

        As a professor, your students should be able to hack it. If they're not, it's the fault of the high schools and the elementary schools before them.

        IMHO, this is the kind of stuff that should be taught from the day a kid becomes verbal. "Don't get into a stranger's car" is a good idea. "Don't get into anyone's car, no matter how friendly or convincing he is, because he could be lying to you" is better. "Remember how we taught you how to tell when someone was lying? Don't trust anyone you think is lying to you" is an even better idea.

    • If someone has a web page, students assume they must be a person of authority, and hence should be believed.

      The most effective way to fix that is to make publication of the students' own work on the web by the students themselves part of their Internet use education. Nothing sends home the message that any clown can post anything on the Internet better than posting something yourself.

    • Walker is dead right with his post. The Internet may have made it easier to get "information" but I'm using that word loosely. Lord knows whether the "information" they get from the Internet is correct or not. Granted, this could be said about the pre-web era (I'll save my fellow slashdotters the time of quoting some famous textbook errors) but the Internet exacerbates the problem.

      I'd like to add on to Walker's complaints, however. From the article:

      What will teachers do when their students come to class often understanding more about the subject being taught then they do themselves?

      I sincerely doubt this is going to be a widespread problem but if a student does come to class with some supposed "information" that s/he got off the web that is unknown to the teacher, that might be an opportunity for the classroom to engage in a group "sanity check" to see whether that information holds up to scrutiny. If it the new info turns out to be silly when you stop and think about it, this might help the kids learn the importance of thinking about the stuff they are mindlessly copying from the web.

      Secondly, the way kids learn is changing, but educators are totally unprepared for the shift. Currently, most students are taught in a convergent matter - one thing at a time, for a certain period of time, often in a repetitive manner. But with the Internet and its primary tool, the Web, students are learning in a divergent manner, following interests and passions as they see fit, often doing more than one thing at a time (surfing the Net while carrying on an IM conversation, while watching TV, while listening to the radio).

      I'd like to see some kind of evidence that these kids who are doing several things while doing their homework are learning as much as the students who are following the "old-style" of concentrating on the task at hand. Somehow, I doubt this research exists.

      At home, my 6-year-old son, who loves ancient Egypt and dinosaurs, regularly visits sites like the BBC or The Discovery Channel, which offer amazingly detailed and fascinating online presentations on these subjects. As a result, he knows far more about these topics than I ever did at his age.

      So we're to believe that the author clearly remembers how much he knew about dinosaurs when he was 6 years old? Come on!

      I could go on and on but the bottom line is that a lot of these studies that claim that kids need to be force-fed internet-tailored or computer-tailored assignments or else "our kids will fall through the cracks of the digital divide" lack any serious study of whether shoving electronics at our kids really makes them more intelligent people. As far as I'm concerned, kids can learn a HELL OF A LOT using only their brain, paper, pens and pencils, and a library card. Perhaps even more than those kids who spend 6+ hours/day on P4 machines with a T1 internet connection.

      GMD

    • Great post. I've taught some, but I'm not a full time teacher, and I would have been pretty irritated by the flip tone of the editorialist. You're much more diplomatic.

      Picking up on your last point:
      Sure, the information is easier to come by, but at what cost to the student?

      One huge issue I don't really see being touched here is the question of plagiarism. The difference between plagiarism and use of others' work is critical to teaching students how to form their own opinions and assessments rather than parroting those of others. To put it in a context the /. crowd can immediately grab onto - it's the difference between fair use and unfair copying.

      It has always been difficult to get any but the strongest students to really work from their own thoughts with the aid of sources. That's not the sky falling, that's just how teaching is. Hell, I was lucky enough to go to an Ivy League college, and it wasn't till I got consistent C's on English papers that I finally BEGAN to learn what it means to analyze a piece of writing.

      The ready availability of information is a often tremendous detriment to learning. It is impossibly easy to produce a "report" for class the next day by copying and pasting the results from a google search, thereafter leaving the teacher with the dilemma of whether to accuse that kid whose English is marginal of cheating when she produces a two page report in the Queens' English (happened to a friend). You don't even have to read what you've copied using the copy and paste method!

      I'm not here to say the sky is falling due to the web, or that it doesn't offer new opportunities. Of course the kind of learning the author refers to as "divergent" is tremendously promising, but unless people are willing to own up to how much more work (and $$$$) it is to give a student a long leash, we aren't gonna get anymore learning out of these here computers, and possibly much less.
  • My Dad is part of a program called TILT - Technology In Learning and Teaching. He runs in service courses for teachers to show them how better to use technological aids (including the internet) in the classorm.

    The problem is, half the people signed up for the classes don't turn up, and those that do usually do it for the day out of the classroom, and don't even want to use the skills their taught.

    He reckons it's because the students do know more than the teachers about technology, and the teachers don't want to reveal their ignorance, and so lose their position of onmiscience.
  • by fmita ( 517041 )
    I've found that most teachers have not entirely adapted to using computers in general. My chemistry teacher awarded twice as many enrichment points for flash animations and posters done with Photoshop than she did for normal posters. For example, she gave a friend of mine two times more enrichment for a poster describing the four states of matter and which had no information we hadn't learned in class than my poster, which was not as visually pleasing, but was on the Bose-Einstein condensate, which she herself had not even heard of.
    • You should probably be thankful that she didn't fail you in the mistaken belief that you made it up...

      Style does matter enormously -- both inside school and outside. A factually correct, but grammatically awful essay will quite possibly do far worse than a honey-smooth line of hooey; a cynic might suggest that this is correct scoring, on the basis of expected real-world rewards.

      During middle and high school, I used to compete in a Junior Academy of Science competition. In my state, the format was completely oral: ten minutes exposition, five minutes Q&A from the judge. The main lesson I took away from several years of that was how much presentation mattered compared to content, because I'd seen for myself how well I could do with pretty decent speaking skills (for a student) paired with absolutely unremarkable technical work. The whole experience contributed a lot to my present cynical bitterness, and an aversion to making excessive claims, selectively presenting only the most compliant data, or otherwise deliberately distorting the truth.
  • hire professionals (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:16PM (#4166779) Homepage Journal
    When I was in high school I knew more about computers than anyone else in the building. I knew more than the net admins too. Their security consisted of removing icons from desktop and start menu. By pressing F3 getting find files and folders, then right clicking to get windows explorer, I was able to run nwadmin.exe and change anything. I was really tempted to change the mayor's password.

    Anyway there is only one way to get quality tech education in high school/middle school. You have to hire a professional. I wont go into detail about how completely awesome that would be. If my high school had a full time employee who knew more about computers than anyone else there it would have been great. I wouldn't have to deal with stupid teachers thinking I'm "hackign the schools network" when I'm installing Macromedia flash player.
    The problem is that no non-university will pay a salary as good as what you could get working for a real IT firm. Even college professors work "real" jobs in the summer because they make so much more money that way.
    A big problem is that attitude that you just have to have the computers in the school and everythign else will follow. I see these public schools with labs and labs full of too-powerful computers that are only used for MS-Office. I ask why they have GForce2s, they don't know they're never ever going to run any application that has a scrath of OpenGL or Direct3D in it. If they spent that money more wisely they could have hired a pro to work for them full time, maybe even teach, and help them make better buying decisions. But they didn't hire a person before buying, so now they can't afford to hire anyone.
    I don't think they can afford a real IT salary anyway. At least not a public school. But if they did you can expect the face of computer education to change greatly.

    I'm seeing a freshman year of high school class required for all students in which they learn how a computer works (what are the parts, what do they do) and how to build one and set it up. BIOS OS. Windows, Linux, Mac. Once you know that much, everything else falls into place, unless you are a techie. The problem is people just learn "click, click, type, click".

    So, this is to all you schools out there. Hire people like us, we will help you! You just have to pay us what we're worth.
    • therin lies the problems. Teachers don't get paid even close to what their worth, so why would extra staff (read: non-athletic coach) be paid what they are worth?
    • by doomdog ( 541990 )
      Being in high school, you obviously don't have a proper perspective on what is and is not important in life. Not everyone needs to know all the "parts" in a computer, or what a BIOS is, or the difference between Linux, Macs and Windows. That's myopic.

      Computers are tools, nothing more. You need to know how to USE them; knowing how they work internally is of very little importance to most people (as it should be). Click-type-click-type is pretty much what most people should know about computers....

      It is far more important that schools teach basic skills, like math, english (just look at the atrocious spelling and grammar here on slashdot!) and critical thinking, than anything else.

      Taking your viewpoint and turning it around, how would you like to be forced to take auto shop (and proving that you can recognize all the parts of a transmission) before being allowed to get a driver's license? Doesn't make sense, does it?

      You should always keep in mind that it is more important to know how to use a tool properly, than to understand how it works internally.
      • You make a good point. People don't need to know how a computer works, just like they don't need to know how a car works.
        However, I have found from personal experience that people who are taught "what to click on" have a great deal of trouble when they seem somethign they've never seen before. They don't think about what the things they click on mean. They simply memorize a procedure, and when that procedure changes slightly they have a great deal of trouble.
        A car has FAR fewer use cases than a personal computer. I don't need to know the full details of rack and pinion steering to make a left. But I need to know that when I turn the steering wheel left the tires turn left. In computers people learn that when you see this click on this. If they come to a "strange turn" they are lost. They don't realize turning the steering wheel left makes tires move. They just know that at certain times they are supposed to turn it left. Get it?

        Basically people who know how a computer works, just basics. A hard drive is the place where information is store permanently, this is how you partition it. When people connect this knowledge with the C:\ D:\ they see in Windows it's much easier for them to figure out the meaning of their clicks.
    • I remember a program back in the .bomb days that involved offering companies some tax credits in exchange for having employees teach classes at the local high school. The story, in general, focused on an IBM employee who taught a programming class one day a week. For him, it was a perk for someone who'd been a dedicated employee for many years...a chance to do something different. For IBM, it was a tax break. For the students, it meant learning programming from someone with 25+ years of industry experience.

      Maybe the key is having teachers who do something in addition to teaching. I know I would love it if I had the chance to teach a class 1 day a week and work a normal job the other 4 (alas...sometimes 5 and 6).
    • When I was in high school I knew more about computers than anyone else in the building... I was able to run nwadmin.exe and change anything. I was really tempted to change the mayor's password.

      The mayor?

      If they spent that money more wisely they could have hired a pro to work for them full time, maybe even teach, and help them make better buying decisions.

      If a school buys computers once a year, why do they need a full-time IT person to advise them on purchases?

      I'm seeing a freshman year of high school class required for all students in which they learn how a computer works (what are the parts, what do they do) and how to build one and set it up.

      Oh Lord...

      You just have to pay us what we're worth.

      What you're worth? In all those words you just wrote you failed to make a case for (a) why schools need to make computing an integral part of their curriculum and (b) why they need a full-time IT person. Not to mention that most schools aren't exactly flush with cash to offer you an IT-level salary.

      You're going to need to sell yourself a little better than that if you want schools to hire you.

      GMD

      • yes they mayor, the network was town-wide. So the mayor had the same Novell login screen as we did.

        The full time IT major is there to teach teachers and students, provide tech support, fix things immediately, provide technical help in other areas of computing. Advising them on purchases is just one of many tasks.

        read my other reply above.

        Schools need to teach computing as part of their curriculum because almost every company, even the gas station, has computers. Computers are the way we do business. Even working fast food you have to use the computer. At the grocery store the checkout lines are all computers. Computer skills I would say are just as if not more valuable than science and social studies. Math and English are far more useful and frequently used. However, I encounter computers many more times a day than I encounter political science, biology, geography, chemistry, etc. Most people in this society need computer skills and the public schools should provide that necessary education.

        Yes, I know schools aren't flush with cash. I said that! you are like the third person who repeated what I said back to me as if you were saying somethign new! I said that schools probably can't afford it, but the benefits of having an IT guy at school are great, and that problems like this wont be solved until IT guys work for cheap or schools save up some dough.
    • by jfpoole ( 210439 )

      Anyway there is only one way to get quality tech education in high school/middle school. You have to hire a professional. I wont go into detail about how completely awesome that would be. If my high school had a full time employee who knew more about computers than anyone else there it would have been great. I wouldn't have to deal with stupid teachers thinking I'm "hackign the schools network" when I'm installing Macromedia flash player.

      I'm sure most schools would love to hire someone who had at least half a clue when it came to computers, but the problem is such people don't come cheap. Here in Ontario teachers start at about $30,000/year (technicians are less, iirc) while most starting salaries in the private sector are around $40-45,000/year, plus your employer doesn't actively hate you.

    • Lots of the replies touch on a variety of potential reasons schools don't hire pros to teach CS coursework, but they all miss the A-1 big reason: There is no Computer Science teacher certificate in most States. Office Technology, Industrial Technology, sure, but not CS. I would have loved to have been teaching, indeed that was my original chosen career (math if you must know, but me and advanced calculus didn't get along as well as was needed). Problem is most schools are allowed to hire people without certification (and those who can still require that you be nearly certified, which is impossible when such certification does not exist).

      Find me the certification, I'd love to teach! My wife (a teacher) makes more than -I- do right now (stuck doing tech support, Eris help me).
    • In my case, at least, it's not the salary that keeps me from teaching. I could do well enough to support myself as a teacher. It's the bureaucracy -- I have parents and friends who are teachers, and there's no way in hell I'm putting myself through that.
  • Outpacing? (Score:2, Informative)

    by intnsred ( 199771 )
    The article headline says students are outpacing their teachers. Shouldn't that read: Students continue to outpace their teachers?!

    As a former public school teacher, technology coordinator, and comp sci professor, it's my experience that with the terrible pay and bureaucracy in public education, very little innovative education with technology is being done. Sure, every state and lots of districts can point to a shining example, but those are by far the isolated exception rather than the rule.

    When you see sharp kids in public schools who know technology, credit the kid and not the school. In many cases, the sharp kids are bored out of their minds and are discouraged (either directly or indirectly) from pushing the envelope and rocking the boat.

  • by rosewood ( 99925 ) <rosewood.chat@ru> on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:21PM (#4166805) Homepage Journal
    My fiance is in a computer class for nursing students. She would skip it, but she wants the easy 3 hours of 4.0 to boost the GPA. She has had one class and already she is ready to shoot the lady. Some key phrases:

    Once you switch to Cox [High Speed Internet] you will never go back to the Internet!

    The reason all these computers [windows boxes] are slow is because they all run off one CPU!

    She told me there were more, but she was busy trying to electrocute herself to get out of class...
  • Only two weeks old?

    Damn, didn't even get a chance to age. This is pretty young for a /. article.

    Normally, you only get fresh articles when they're links to Register [theregister.co.uk] stories
  • When I was 4 I did not know anything about a computer, well there was no personal computers at that time (well, MITS Altair 8800 [ucdavis.edu] came a year earlier).

    Now, my four year old son [nuutti.net] says "dad, we should write a story about this and that and publish it at my homepage so kids all over the world can read it". "Dad, let me play tetris on your Communicator" - heck, he has even already broken 2 communicators (dont tell my employer :)) Also, I quess I was around 11 when I first used a mouse. And maybe 9 when I first punched in the first letters using a keyboard.

    Things chance. 20 years from now kids learn to use computer when they are 2. You and the teachers have to work seriously hard to even have a change to be at same level on some detailed area of knowledge. Teachers should - and already concentrate - in teaching larger concepts and teach to ask why - instead of how.

  • "...Educators have a choice: Either they need to adapt or they will be dragged into a new learning environment." 25yr old. I have taught for 3 yrs. at Mission High school San Francisco. 2 yrs. I was teaching Cisco Systems. What I did realize is that for the San Fransico Unified School District, teachers didn't have a choice. How could a teacher prepare a outstanding lesson plan when they have no resourses. By resourses I mean time and books. For the moment let's just say that they do have computers. Teachers are expected to teach anywhere from 2 to 3 subjects a day on a block schedule with different learning levels involved. After school, instead of planning an outstanding lesson plan, teachers are dragged off to some figgin' meeting that has absolutely nothing to do with giving the students your best, cause that is what they deserve. Instead the administrators and district consultants come in and tell you that you can make a difference in the childs life. They have no idea. In order for computers to be a success in the secondary schools the district is going to have to accept that computers is a science just as much as it is a research tool. It's not about connecting to the internet. It's about standardized programming syntax, making the right decisions in the networking world (and there not always cisco). Also the computer is not a replacement for books. Another thing I had to beg the administration for books. what kinda $hit is that? Programmers need books, I don't care how much information is on the net. Based on my experience, the teachers had no choice, but to do what the School District told them. If I ever go back to teaching, It's teaching *nix. The District will try to stop me. Computer Science is the way. Just straight acceptance. I spoke too much.
  • I almost failed Intro to Comp. Sci. last year (have to take it to take Avdanced and AP Comp. Sci.) because I hated the teacher some much.

    She walks into the class expecting to teach us QBasic by going through a 'Learn QBasic In 24 hrs' book.

    Then, for html she made me and some others teach the class while she took notes for the other classes
  • teachers have jobs, students just bum around at home and have lots of time to play on the internet.
  • I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:24PM (#4166832) Journal
    ...94 percent of that number had used the Internet as a major research source for a recent major school project.

    I find this more disturbing than encouraging. Web searches are great for looking up facts or getting a quick overview of a topic. But except for very recent topics or technological subjects, Internet research is going to be far, far inferior to what you can do in even a realtively poor library.

    Web searches are easy, fast and don't involve going anywhere. But when I've been dragged in to help teenage relatives and neighbors with papers and seen the stack of printouts they're working from, I always wind up telling them they're going to need to visit the library.

    • I think the problem may be that they're printing everything out. I love books, I love reading them. But if I'm doing research, I want something I can search, copy, paste and link to in my own way. Paper is a chore in that regard.

      The biggest obstacle to internet research is the mounds of bad information. But just like with any research, you find multiple sources, other people's papers, reviews (or texts) of books - all in order to determine how credible your facts are. You'd do that in the library, and you do it on the web. In addition to primary sources (books, etc.) that aren't online, the internet is the probably the best research tool around. But just like any other, you need to know how to use it and find/exploit the strengths.
    • FWIW: I use the internet extensively, and as a primary tool, for graduate level research in CS. The ACM Portal [acm.org], Nature Archives [nature.com], etc are the best things going.

      Sure, there is a lot of crap out there, but there is a lot of high quality research as well.

    • Re:I dunno (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Stonehand ( 71085 )
      Hm, the major conference proceedings and journals -- at least, fairly recent ones -- that I look at tend to be online. Likewise, many concepts that interest me, such as numerical methods for singular value decomposition or nonlinear least-squares fitting, have pretty darn good tutorials and such online.

      If I want the text of Shakespearean tragedies, or other copyright-long-expired classic literature, it's also quite possibly there, too.

      Is this sort of thing not true for less-technical areas?
  • by Titusdot Groan ( 468949 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:27PM (#4166845) Journal
    Most elementary teachers stopped taking technical courses (math, physics, chemistry, etc.) in grade 9 or 10 and focused on english, history and other soft sciences. They are particularily ill-equiped to by training and by personality to learn new technical skills. The aging teacher population (at least here in Canada) exarcerbates the problem.

    Of course technically minded people very rarely make good elementary school teachers ...

    This problem is not just with computers -- their knowledge of biology and general science is just as bad but the impact is seen less (my daughter was recently taught that solar power was a viable energy source and only politics was preventing us from using it to heat our homes in Canada's winter :-/ )

    This problem is going away until some good way of teaching technical subjects is found.

    Until then I'll just point my daughter to articles about using soya bean oil instead of diesel fuel as a legitimate alternative energy project ...

  • Both the study and article are about two weeks old...

    TWO WEEKS OLD?! In this internet age, it's already outdated!
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:31PM (#4166869) Journal
    Since being a good teacher and being a good techie are often mutually exclusive for various reasons (job content, personality, time available, etc.), it is not realistic for one person to be all to every student.

    Teachers are best converting knowledge into a form that a student can understand.

    If you want more technical answers, then a side-techie or help-desk is more appropriate.

    Thus, don't go asking a teacher, "Does MySQL support recursive microkernal back-propogation transaction reconstruction?" [phony technese] and then gloat when they don't have the answer.

    Ask those kind of questions of a technician unless they are important to *most* of the students in the class, not just you.

    A teacher's job should not to be your personal technical help-desk.

  • by aengblom ( 123492 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:31PM (#4166874) Homepage
    My mom is starting her first full-time job as a teacher on Tuesday. She's, umm, middle aged and was a stay-at-home'er. But she took a couple classes over the years and learning Windows 3.1/95 and office. In her previous private school part-time jobs, she typed every one of her lessons. So she STILL HAS THEM. She uses Power Point (I'm actually not a big fan in the classroom), but to spice up her Latin for these high school kids she used a Smart Board [slashdot.org]. This is essentially and interactive chalk board. At her new full-time job, the school (where money is tight) bought her one. She asks me questions a lot. I try to answer them. She is in no way an expert, but she achieved competent user level.

    She is so far advanced tech wise for most teachers it is incredible (sad that is) and she's pretty sure it's the reason she got hired for a job that will be a stretch for her first year.

    The saddest part? Her new school's admin seems so technologically inept, it's going to be quite difficult. They make her use an iBook (she knows Windows. She's trying to concentrate on learning Latin 4 this summer. Not Mac OS 9.1). It has a (broken) CD-R, but the admin doesn't believe her. (It says so in the Hardware and it screws up cd-r disks. Try to do that with a regular cd-rom) He says e-mail your files to yourself, but if she updates 10 files, she has to e-mail ten files. Not very efficient. It reads her files poorly and transferring them was a nightmare.

    My point I guess? A major failure here is the need competent people to help teachers along. Most teachers were running the classrooms. Not taking computer classes. Computers make things much harder, unless you know a good way to set things up. I'll tech my mom to use FTP, get her a zip drive, find a copy of DAVE client or figure out something else to make her life possible.

    The school gave her a partially broken computer that makes things nearly impossible to back up or move. Their advice as she picked up her new computer was "It's a Mac. You'll love it."

    Oh and if you're interested in the Christian Science Monitor. (As in why should I read a "Christian" newspaper.... go here [csmonitor.com] before you complain about this news source.
    • >
      Oh and if you're interested in the Christian Science Monitor. (As in why should I read a "Christian" newspaper.... go here [csmonitor.com] before you complain about this news source.

      Well, first I would explain your quotes on Christian by remembering all readers that Christian Science is not Christian nor Science, but a mistaken self-assigned name for a gnostic heresy.

      Second, why would I trust a publication by a religious organization [tfccs.com] based on bad philosophy [gty.org] over publications by corrupt corporations? I mean, what's the difference? Even idealistic publications [estadao.com.br] have problems to get things right.

  • I'm 26 now. Last year, my girlfriend's cute and popular-seeming 14-year-old-ish cousin thought I was a nerd because I didn't use any instant messenger stuff.

    In high school, when I *did* use that stuff, kids thought I was nerdy BECAUSE I used that stuff!

    Man, I can't win!
  • by slashdot_commentator ( 444053 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:40PM (#4166916) Journal

    Assigning aim/icq/yahoo accounts to students and "study buddies" is such a brilliant use of the technology. But what I don't get is:

    1) How to encourage the buddies to help each other out? (Threat of "Your kid doesn't use his online time productively"? It doesn't always work.)

    2) Leaving yourself available to be asked homework questions is a pretty miserable way of eliminaating your life outside of work. Even system administrators only get paged when there is a problem.

    3) I can just imagine the spamming that must go on with those messaging clients.
  • Most internet and computer users first encountered the world wide web at their PLACE OF WORK... How many teachers do you know with laptops on their desks? And if you do, how long have they had those things? Not long I'll wager... Technology funding is seriously lacking in most public schools. My school district cannot seem to pass anything reasonable, so my son is relegated to a 'computer lab' where he is bored out of his mind making powerpoint presentations... Of course what he does at home eclipses his school curriculum, but until technology bond issues are passed that put a significant number of computers in classrooms with broadband access, not much will change... so VOTE FOR IT!
  • by CaptainCarrot ( 84625 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @06:49PM (#4166979)
    This just supports something I've been saying for a long time. We do not need to teach computers to children in the schools! The kids are outpacing their teachers for a reason: They're growing up surrounded by this technology; they're saturated with it; it's far more familiar to them than it is to their teachers. My grandmother grew up with crank telephones and party lines, where you had to listen to the ring pattern to tell whether a call was for you or one of your neighbors. She was utterly baffled in her later years by a cordless phone; she had never even used a touch-tone telephone before. A modern kid, surrounded with CD players, video games and ATMs just isn't going to find a general-purpose PC very intimidating. This overcomes the main barrier to computer use right from the start. How many of us have tried to get a parent online, and one of the main problems we had was getting them to but their hands on the keyboard and mouse in the first place?

    Teaching students programming or other truly complex or specialized skills related to computers is a good thing, of course, as these subjects are ones that actually require some instruction to acquire in many cases, although not all cases by any means. But basic use of the Internet? Playing games for cryin' out loud? This is a waste of time and resources, especially when American students are falling behind in essential academic subjects like reading and mathematics. You see schools cutting back on subjects deemed "non-essential" simply because they do nothing more than enrich the students physically or culturally, like phys ed and the arts, but making all-out efforts to put computers in every classroom and to string cat5 all over the buildings.

    Even in impoverished areas where it cannot be assumed that the students have access to a computer at home, I would argue that we would be better off exposing these kids to music, drama, or the plastic arts rather than putting computers in their classrooms. The Internet -- and especially the part of it most people see, the Web -- is very easy to learn with modern tools, and any moderately intelligent kid can pick it up in a week or so. This is not a "life skill" we need to spend very much time on. And when the students arrive knowing more than the teacher, there's no point in even trying.

    • I just have a few small comments regarding your comments.

      I would argue that we would be better off exposing these kids to music, drama, or the plastic arts rather than putting computers in their classrooms.

      You might be right in some ways, and the other subjects you listed are valuable to teach, but I think you are forgetting the value of the internet for research. You can't take the computers completely out of the classrooms. The resources available on the internet outpace those of a small school library millions of times over in the amount, quality and ease of information provided. And students should have access to the web for research. Otherwise they will not learn the power of the web for research, may not have as complete of research as those with net access, and will suffer if their library is underfunded. We can't pull the computers out of schools. I could argue strongly though that the way that they are being used in schools needs to change.

      We do not need to teach computers to children in the schools! This is not a "life skill" we need to spend very much time on.

      We may not need to teach a manditory computer classes in schools, but I think that it needs to be an option for those who haven't used them before. The class probably wouldn't need to take a whole semester. Perhaps a week, maybe even to occur before school starts similar to the way that ESL students come and focus on learning English before school starts. MOST kids will have more knowledge than the teachers and have used technology all their lives, but something should be offered for those that haven't. It needn't disrupt the other kids.
      • Well, I don't entirely disagree with you...

        The resources available on the internet outpace those of a small school library millions of times over in the amount, quality and ease of information provided.

        Amount? I don't know about you, but when I research something on the Web I most often find exactly the same information in multiple places when I can find anything at all. I don't think this sort of thing is taken into account when estimates of the total amount of information on the Internet are published, so those figures are by nature inflated. Based on my recollection of my own small high school's library, I don't see how there could possibly be that much more useful information.

        Which brings me to my next point. There is at least some quality control on the information that makes it into print, and which books a school library is going to acquire. There are no such controls on the Internet. Any nutcase with an agenda can post pretty much anything he damn well pleases whether it's factually correct or not. I would say there's a much, much lower signal-to-noise ratio on the net than you'll find among the dead-tree publications on a library's shelves.

        All in all though, you make a good case for computers in the library, not the classroom, and I can't disagree with that. I also agree about the need for remedial classes for those students who have not used computers before. I was speaking of the general case in my post, but there are always going to be exceptions. A week should be about right, as you say. Too bad that's not how they handle it now, by and large.

  • by Raindeer ( 104129 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @07:17PM (#4167159) Homepage Journal
    It's late here, so I'm just going to pose the question. Is it relevant to children's education that they know how to operate a pc at a young age?

    I only started using PC's in the last year of my high school in 1993. Now I'm quite computer literate. I learned most of these abilities in university and just by figuring it out myself. Now I can understand that it might be handy to teach kids some basic skills, but what I see from kids is that they are quite eager and smart to teach those skills to themselves. What is important for school is to teach kids Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (yes, with capital letters). Those are the elimentary skills. Now you don't need laptops for that. Computers might help some dumb or smart kids, but in general I don't see any real use for computers in learning the three R's.

    I do think however that we should teach kids a skill which a teacher can learn them even though he is in his sixties, old and wise but with zero knowledge of anything that runs on electricity. It is how to use data and judge the value of it, so that when they interpret the data and shape it into something meaningful, they learn to draw the proper conclusions.

    Well, it turned into a rant anyways... but please give me your opinion.
  • Teachers are too busy keeping dirty pictures and bad words out of their impressionable wittle hands to actually use computers for any valuable purpose, whatever that is. AFAIK the primary use of computers in schools is to replace the physical assets of libraries and books. Oh and it replaces actual teaching skill on the staff's part.
  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday August 29, 2002 @07:55PM (#4167335) Homepage Journal
    Warning: Rant follows

    1) Teachers suffer from low pay and low respect in most of the country. I blame much of this on the power of the NEA [nea.org], which is a classic example of a bureaucracy that exists to perpetuate its own existence. If the NEA advocated in favor of more rigorous screening, performance reviews, and salaries based not on seniority but on parent reviews, student reviews, peer reviews, and testing performance, teachers might have a chance. But as it is, the NEA aggressively fights to "protect" teachers. Of course all this does is perpetuate stereotypes about teachers being slackers who want to work 9 months out of the year. Try being a full-time teacher in the US without also being a member of the NEA - it doesn't happen.

    2) District-based funding, coupled with per-seat attendance rules mean that schooling is about cramming as many students into the classrooms as possible. School districts, be they rural or urban, rich or poor, almost always suffer from bloated bureaucratic structures and mismanagement. An atmosphere of entitlement ("We dedicate our lives to helping children, so you can forgive our mistakes") permeates these organizations. This of course stems from antiquated concepts of tenure and lifetime employment in the education system. Hell, even the US Government doesn't offer the kind of guaranteed work for life contract that most school districts provide.

    3) Ultimately, American K-12 education is more about socialization and keeping children out of trouble than it is about truly educating them. Because family structures have fallen apart, teachers are expected to be caretakers first, and educators second. How on earth can teachers focus on using technology effectively when they barely even get the opportunity to teach?

    I've done technology volunteer work for schools in places all over the country, and one consistent trend I see is that charter schools [uscharterschools.org] make far better use of the money they have, and leverage technology better than traditional public schools. Too many Americans are content with the status quo, because they figure the NEA and the national political parties know best. They're afraid of changing the system for fear of ruining American K-12 education. The thing is, it's already screwed up, and the time for change is now.

    • Don't forget political infighting.

      I'm in Pittsburgh, and the city school district has, apparently(*), so pissed off a number of foundations that contribute to the point that they're backing off until the district administration and the school board clean up their acts.

      (*) Judging from the local paper. I don't have kids, however, and technically I'm a resident of a suburb (and thus not a Pittsburgh voter), so I don't follow it /that/ much.

      For instance, the district isn't doing too well financially. Well, that's not too surprising; the economic downturn probably affects how much governments are willing to pay. However, it's not helping that there are /tiny/ neighborhood schools, operating well under capacity, that the board wants to keep open -- because the parents whose kids attend them insist that those schools stay open, even if it's vastly uneconomical, and these parents vote without giving a damn about the cost to everybody else. The superintendant, for his part, hasn't helped things by making one of his first notable actions the requisitioning of new expensive furniture for his office, if memory serves, and perhaps other extravagances.

      At least, to my knowledge, there's none of the obnoxious religious wars about Creationism or book banning going on in the district...
      • The first school district I ever did volunteer work at was in fact Pittsburgh. I was working at a local nonprofit that ran an education-related program in East Liberty. The principal was dynamite - this woman kicked serious butt and got things done. But any time the district got involved, it was a nightmare. Basically we did everything with the school and tried to end-run around the district wherever possible.

        I agree with your comments about tiny schools being kept open due to political pressure. Part of the problem there is that schools are these vast, immovable fortresses that have so much sunk cost that nobody wants to "abandon" them to other uses. One of the great things about charter schools is that many of them use extant facilities that have been converted for use as schools, but can be easily re-converted to other purposes if the school shifts location.

  • by octalgirl ( 580949 ) on Thursday August 29, 2002 @08:34PM (#4167502) Journal
    'Educators have a choice: Either they need to adapt or they will be dragged into a new learning environment.'

    I left the commercial world to work for IT in school systems 7 years ago. This statement was true then and unfortunately it still is. Some teachers, given the proper training, are up to it, and have come a long way. Others still don't know how to turn their computers on. This is one of the reasons for the continual attempt for things like the Childrens Online Protection Act. Schools won't get federal funding for technology if they won't install a Internet filter. I am against such strong-arm tactics, but I do know that there are many teachers who do not pay attention while kids as young as ten are giggling at p0rn. And if a student simply minimizes the browser, the teacher is lost.
  • Had nothing to do with working together but everything to do with being online. The teacher just threatened to tell their parents what "browser history" was, where to find it and that http://www.goatse.cx/ was not a foreign language site.
  • When I was in Jr. High, myself and at least another half dozen of my classmates all knew more than our teacher... that is, any of the kids who'd had ANY experience with computers.

    Of course, it'd probably have been better if our teacher wasn't chosen from the pool as being the person showing the most aptitude at getting the flashing '12:00' off the school's VCR...

    Grade 12 in high school was different. We had a former MIT grad teaching. Got us all manner of cool things to play with. First time I'd not known more in computers than the person allegedly teaching me. :D
  • The real danger here is that teachers, administrators, and parents fear that students know more (they do on this and other subjects) about things and so what happens is that the technology is limited through firewalls etc.

    That students hack through some of these things is a matter of course, but often gets kids in trouble.

    Me, I'm a teacher who knows at least a few of my limitations and enjoys watching kids take apart the network.
  • Ok, here you go... Who has more time to use the internet? A teacher with 30 or so students and eight classes to prep for tommorow or a student who's PC is nearly an extention of his arm? Not that it's an excuse to stay behind, but unless computers and networking are that teachers full time job of course he/she is falling behind the average student.

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