Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Education Technology

Too Many Computers Hurt Learning 935

An anonymous reader writes "The Christian Science Monitor is running a story on a recent University of Munich study of school children in 31 countries that found a correlation between frequent computer usage and poor academic performance. Having more than one computer in the home was found to be particularly bad news! For those Slashdotters with children, how do you deal with your kids' computer use?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Too Many Computers Hurt Learning

Comments Filter:
  • Hrmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Oculus Habent ( 562837 ) * <(oculus.habent) (at) (> on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:29PM (#11013165) Journal
    When I was eight, we had three computers... one in the family room, one in my sister's room, and one in my room. Of course, they were an Apple IIe clone, and Apple IIe, and an Apple II+, respectively. My sister was valedictorian. My grades sucked, but that's because I didn't do homework. :)

    I don't think that multiple computers in a household are patently bad. I think that poor parental understanding and control of their children's using habits is to blame. The key is not too much computer usage, it's too much computer usage doing the wrong things. Half-Life 2 is not a learning experience. How Stuff Works [] can be.

    Computer use in the school is still a fairly new tool. We aren't adept at producing good on-screen content for learning, yet. We still try to push everyone along at the same pace , where computer-based learning should preferably guarantee that a student meets the class requirements and has an opportunity to extend their knowledge beyond the "lowest common denominator" teachings.

    Bottom line, computers are still too new to teachers and too unfamiliar to parents right now. Give it some time.
    • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jace of Fuse! ( 72042 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:35PM (#11013234) Homepage
      Bottom line, computers are still too new to teachers and too unfamiliar to parents right now. Give it some time.

      Might I also add that we need to discourage children from learning to read and write from the contents of chat rooms.

      l337 5p34k c4n 0n1y hur7 gr4d3z.
      • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nomadic ( 141991 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (dlrowcidamon)> on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:53PM (#11013431) Homepage
        l337 5p34k c4n 0n1y hur7 gr4d3z.

        My idea (and I'm completely serious, I think this would work if it caught on!) is to get people to use IM and chat room clients that check the grammar and spelling of anything they type, and then refuse to transmit anything that's incorrect. People will over time develop impeccable linguistic skills!

        Then part II: When speech recognition becomes widespread, make the recognition software only recognize clearly enunciated words (and then check them for grammar!).

        Think about it. We could have an entire society where everyone speaks perfectly clear, grammatically precise day-to-day English (or whatever language you speak in your country)!
        • Re:Hrmm (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fireman sam ( 662213 )
          "...use IM and chat room clients that check the grammar and spelling..."

          And which country's grammar and spelling would be determined the correct one? Take english for example. We have American english, Brittish english, Australian english and slashdot english.

          A joke perhaps: And American, English, and Australian connect to a spelling correcting chat room and nothing is said.

          Should I have mentioned that it was a lame joke.

          • Re:Hrmm (Score:4, Insightful)

            by GMC-jimmy ( 243376 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @01:56AM (#11015205) Homepage
            I'm a single father of a teen-age daughter. She's an Honor student and has been since elementary school.

            A couple of years ago one of my cousins had experienced some hard times so she asked if her son could live with me till she gets back on her feet again. He was failing the 4th grade when he arrived, he is now an Honor student too.

            I have 6 computers in this house. Each has their own machine. Learning doesn't come from any of these computers, infact they are a distraction. But they are also a reward for working hard.

            I don't think computers helped my kids education, but I don't think it hurts either.
            I volunteer to help them with homework everyday, if I felt like it or not. I encourage them to get work out of the way so they can enjoy their free time on their computers without worry or stress. I also manage their internet access, when the grades fail so does their net connection. :)
            • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Informative)

              by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @05:31AM (#11016040) Journal
              Correctly applied, computers can aid learning. I have absolutely no skill at all at operating a pen. It has the worst user interface ever designed. My grades in English were consistently Cs, with the occasional B. Once we were allowed to use computers to type essays, they shot to A or A* and stayed there (until I dropped English aged 16). I now get paid for a lot of what I write (with the exception of the stuff I post on /. which is pro bono, and makes far more use of parenthetical clauses than anything I'd expect to sell).

              CD-ROM encyclopaedias (when I was growing up) and more recently things like Wikipedia provide a valuable source of information - not as a substitute for books, but as an additional source. When computers are treated as a tool, they are a valuable aid. When they are treated as a toy, or as an end in themselves, they are a distraction (although sometimes an educational one).

              I suspect that a lot of the correlation between lower grades and access to multiple computers is a result of parents who treat a computer as a substitute for human interaction. Last century the same parents would have allowed children their own television and let them watch it all of the time. In both cases the parents are at fault, not the technology. Having children is a responsibility, one which it sounds as if you are quite rare in fulfilling.

              • Correctly applied, computers can aid learning. I have absolutely no skill at all at operating a pen. It has the worst user interface ever designed. My grades in English were consistently Cs, with the occasional B. Once we were allowed to use computers to type essays, they shot to A or A* and stayed there (until I dropped English aged 16)

                Ah... I had a similar experience but, given my age, the change came not from computers but typewriters. Typing let me write quickly enough to be coherent. Using a keyb
        • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Funny)

          by punxking ( 721508 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:04PM (#11013533)
          Sounds double plus good to me!
        • Re:Hrmm (Score:4, Interesting)

          by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:07PM (#11013568) Homepage Journal
          And what about perfectly fine words or costructs that your software fails to recognize? And what about people with speech impairments?

          I think the way Konqueror has it now is best: highlight words it thinks are wrong, but still accept them when you tell it to.
        • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CoolGopher ( 142933 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:18PM (#11013663)
          Think about it. We could have an entire society where everyone speaks perfectly clear, grammatically precise day-to-day English (or whatever language you speak in your country)!
          And the language would never evolve.

          Or alternatively, the language would evolve in the direction set by certain Large Corporations. Enter doublespeak plus good.

          The language defines what we can think about, and how we think about those things. It is not a good thing to attempt to restrict it, since by doing so we are restricting people's thoughts.

          Having said that, I'll continue to make fun of anyone using 1337 5p33k.

          • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Insightful)

            by meatspray ( 59961 ) * on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:55PM (#11013922) Homepage
            ERROR: Cannot send Instant Message(R). Last Message did not contain "So easy no wonder it's number one. I'm going to get a Coke."
        • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:21PM (#11013684) Homepage
          Actually, when I was younger, I was on BBSes all of the time. I found that people would take me more seriously when I wrote better. Prior to that, I hated English and couldn't write worth anything -- I was all about math and science. Using the BBSes balanced me out nicely.

          Like anything else, it's all about how it's used... and perhaps even who is using it. That said, it's important to note that I am not a member of the masses... so how do the masses respond? How do they perceive computers, how they work and what they're for?
        • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lachlan76 ( 770870 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:26PM (#11013717)
          IM is supposed to be similar to conversations, and if you have to type in proper english to be able to so something, then it would be much harder to use.

          For example:
          I will be right back.
          Which one looks easier to do? There is a speed up of over six times by using the abbreviation.

          And then there are other aspects, like when I'm trying to talk about technical stuff, or fix problems for someone.
          lachlan@, p/w abc
          Connect to using the username lachlan. The password is abc.

          There is a reason why we use things like this. Because they work. Language isn't meant to be a set of laws, it's supposed to be a way of conveying information. We need to start treating it that way.
          • Fatal Overreach (Score:4, Insightful)

            by 3l1za ( 770108 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:37PM (#11013807)
            You totally had me on the casual nature of chat being part of chat. Abbreviations, flexibility, ... work for that medium.

            But your generalization to "Language isn't meant to be a set of laws" is not supported by your earlier arguments.

            The reason that language IS represented by a set of laws as if it weren't then there'd be no way to teach it in geographically disparate locations where folks may not be in contact with native speakers of that language. How can I learn Samoan if I live in SmallTown, KS? I need to refer to the laws of that language. No laws --> loss of structure --> lack of ability to communicate clearly and effectively. The laws are not there to be punitive; they are there to make the system work.
        • Re:Hrmm (Score:4, Insightful)

          by kwerle ( 39371 ) <> on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:48PM (#11013878) Homepage Journal
          My idea (and I'm completely serious, I think this would work if it caught on!) is to get people to use IM and chat room clients that check the grammar and spelling of anything they type, and then refuse to transmit anything that's incorrect. People will over time develop impeccable linguistic skills!

          That's the lamest idea I've heard in a while. Computers are supposed to make things easier. Instead of failing

          OMW 2 store, then BRB

          the computer should expand it to be

          I'm on my way to the store, then I'll be right back.

          People don't (generally) type shortcuts because they don't know any better - they do it because it is faster and/or they're lazy (notice 3 contractions in that statement). Or they do it because they've learned it from chat rooms. If IRC servers (etc) expanded all these shortcuts, folks would learn correct forms by reading them - which is where they're learning the incorrect forms now.

          In short: positive reinforcement is better than negative.
        • Re:Hrmm (Score:3, Informative)

          as a linguist i can tell you this. a computer can never teach a human being language. not unless such a computer as an exhaustive account of grammar. to produce such a database i guess is on par with mapping out the human genome. it is simply too difficult for a computer to follow the infinite variety of sentential constructions a human speaker can come up with.

          that said, i do not entirely disagree with your idea to use computers to help people focus their language skills. i just think it would require too
    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:38PM (#11013272)
      Back the the Apple II/ IBM DOS area. When you used a computer you used 1 program at a time. You used a word processor you were usually in the word processor until you were done. If you were in Lotus 123 you were in Lotus 123 until you were done. Multitasking was near unheard of. So when you used you Word Perfect you were doing your work. Now with multitasking and windowing environment kids can now have there paper open while chatting with there friends. Playing some game in checking up there favorite pop star. Most kids don't naturally have a since of focus if they have the chance they will do other things that are more enjoyable then homework. They will do there work to avoid being yelled at by there parents/teachers but not for the point of learning the information, so with modern computers they can get the work done without learning the information because there mind is split on many tasks.
      • by Chuck Chunder ( 21021 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:43PM (#11013334) Homepage Journal
        checking up
        there favorite pop star
        Two computers in your household, right? ;)
      • by Schuler ( 821676 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:31PM (#11013760) Journal
        I think the use of broadband internet as well as multitasking and more importanly, lack of self control are the reasons for lack of learning. The fact that I can keep my AIM with the compulsive need to check it every five minutes, accompanied by winamp and firefox with infinite time wasting abilities, while I'm trying to write up my lab report is not a winning combination. If I was able to pull my ethernet cord out from my jack I can gurantee I would get much more work done and be able to focus on work. I'm sure many people can attest to this.
        As useful as the internet is for homework and research, parents should really limit internet usage or atleast allocate time for their kids away from the computer (or the TV) to set aside to do schoolwork. I always did my best work in high school when my cable modem was acting screwy or I was forced off the computer.
    • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Suburbanpride ( 755823 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:41PM (#11013301)
      I think that poor parental understanding and control of their children's using habits is to blame. How about poor self control? I had to take counter strike of my computer so I get work done, but with two terms papers and to finals this week I have spent a lot more time on my computer looking at /. fark, and on my blog than studying. I think I have typed more in my blog than I have on my term papers, and here I am on slashdot, wasting more time.

      Computers are great tools for learning, but they are also great tools for distraction.

      • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by newrisejohn ( 517586 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:45PM (#11013345)
        I second this. I have a graduate level research paper due Wednesday morning, and I'm neglecting finishing it in favor of posting to Slashdot. It's not just little kids that get distracted with computers. :)
        • Re:Hrmm (Score:3, Funny)

          by xenocide2 ( 231786 )
          Thats why I installed Linux; to eliminate the game distraction and find something productive to do. Then I found /. .... =(
      • by theblacksun ( 523754 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:19PM (#11013672) Journal
        ...are a thriving breed, amongst I count myself member. I know many an advanced degree student who put all sorts of assignments off. They expect it, honestly. This year the computer engineering senior projects final project specification requirements (40 pages) were handed out on monday and due that friday.

        I don't know why but for some reason I just can't work any other way but under the gun; without urgency I tend to just lose intrest. With literature on subjects I really want to learn about just a click away it becomes even more difficult.

        • This is nothing new. See if you can find a copy EP Thompson's essay "The Making of the English Working Class" in which he talks in some depth about Saint Monday. To cut a long and elegent essay very short the thesis is that the current 5 day a week regular hours work pattern is not at all 'natural' as humans tend to work episodically for deadlines if left to their own devices. Instead the 'working week' was imposed on us, with a great deal of trouble, in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries so as to make la
    • Re:Hrmm (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MickLinux ( 579158 )
      Today's computer usage is a very passive experience. There was a huge difference between the old command line computers, one at a time, and the multimedia computers.

      With the old command line computers, you had to be in control of everything the computer did (games excepted, to a limit; but my statement was even somewhat true for the games of the time).

      As a result, computers didn't hurt academic performance all that much. But even for those households with computers, back then, I found that students who
    • Re:Hrmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bleckywelcky ( 518520 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:01PM (#11013505)
      Good point, computers aren't bad, but what you do with them isn't always good. This is why you can have 2 or 3 computers in your house (wife + 2 kids + server) but the key is you don't allow the kids to have any computers in their rooms. The same goes for gaming consoles, TVs, phones, etc. There's an easy check to see if someone has done a poor job of parenting (in 75% of the cases): see if one of their kids has a TV, phone, gaming console, or computer in their own room (extra points if they have more than one). These devices should be out in the open where the parents are mulling about so that their usage can be monitored. Perhaps in a den with the TV or in a side office by the kitchen, etc. And it should stay this way until they are 16 to 18 (depending on how responsible and mature they are) or even later if they're complete hooligans and still living at home. Sure, they can still use the public computer in the den, they just don't get the _privelege_ of a private computer. As well, I believe the first time you should have a TV in your own room is after you move out of your parent's house. (And no, I don't live in my parent's basement, heh).

      Now, having said that, I did have a computer and phone in my room before I turned 18. However, the phone was there because I helped with the family business on a daily basis (I made personal calls maybe once a month off of it). And, I was into computers before I was 10 ... messing with our old Ataris and Apples (although I did play games quite often ... wasting valuable time ... but I graduated high school in the top 10 out of a graduating class of over 350).

      In the end, all kids need is good parenting; not regulation by the government, not censorship by special interest groups, just good parenting.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:29PM (#11013167)
    The problem with kids with computers is that they are used both for entertainment and work at the same time. Writing a paper with IM on browsing the internet for sources and to keep tabs your favorite pop star. Sure kids with 24 access to computers they basically give themselves an information overload thus they split there educational learning. While children with more limited access to computers are more forced to get there work done and get off so Mom and Dad, brother and sister can use the computer so they just get the work done especially with a little brat ready to go to mom and Dad that you are using the computer for fun while she needs to use the computer to finish her homework also. It is worse then doing homework with the TV on because they are actively engaged in many activities. As a parent one should make sure the computer enhances ones life but doesn't replace it. When they have to do home work make sure they are doing homework and not on IM or doing an other things that the computer is good at.
    • I agree.
      Normal computer use is like tv-zapping^2.
      Take a textbook and read it, or take a sheet of paper to write something, you can concentrate and archive something.
      Have your computer with the webbrowser open, then there will be icq popups, new email, winamp in the background, plus the quick game or cool website is only a second away from the boring "need to do" stuff, ready to be changed to at the first opportiunity.
      I remember that when i was a kid, i did ZERO useful stuff with the computer, and only learn
  • by SIGALRM ( 784769 ) * on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:29PM (#11013171) Journal
    It seems if you overuse computers and trade them for other [types of] teaching, it actually harms the student
    Computer technology can help support learning, and that is especially useful in developing the higher-order skills of critical thinking, analysis, and scientific inquiry. But the mere presence of computers in the classroom does not ensure their effective use.
    • I bet if kids had to take computer science in elementary school than computers would be shown to be a benefit. However because most elementary scool learning is rote (the stuff a computer is good at) kids rely on the computer for their boring work instead of doing it. I wonder if we took a survey of adults 20 years from now how many of the succesful ones would have grown up with computers. Computers are a large part of our lives, and kids should be exposed to them early.
    • Computers can help or hurt, it all depends on the teachers.
      I worked in a public school with at least 3 computers per classroom. The only thing they were ever used for were for downloading games and music videos. Yes we had deepfreeze installed, so every day the kids would have to redownload the same crap over and over... and they didn't mind it at all because it gave them a break from their teacher.

      Basically, if the teacher understands computers and can control what the kids do on them, they are usefu
  • Seems logical (Score:2, Insightful)

    Computers make figuring out things too damn easy these days. Back in the day, you had to expend effort to learn things, now it's just googling 'thomas jefferson' or what not to do your reasearch paper.
    • by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:37PM (#11013250) Homepage
      But isn't that a good thing. AS we progress humans should have to memorize less things and use our tools to do more. That is the trend in history after all. I don't think that we should cripple ourselves just because that is how things used to be done. Kids nowadays need to learn how to evaluate sources and find information more than they need to memorize it.
      • by bwy ( 726112 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @12:16AM (#11014510)
        AS we progress humans should have to memorize less things and use our tools to do more.

        Agreed. Whis is why I friggin HATE technical interviews. I have 7 years of experience coding Java, and some guy on the other side of the desk asks me how many methods the serializable interface has. That was an actual question. Maybe, just maybe, I've spent MORE time learning concepts and how to build effective applications that users actually need, and LESS time memorizing javadoc that is only a click away from any PC in the country. And you wonder why big IT departments are disfunctional. Because they hire 80K walking javadoc repositories to develop apps.
  • Thank you, but no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dr Tall ( 685787 )
    I play about 4 hours of computer games a night (more on weekends of course), and I might very well be my high school's valedictorian next semester. I think those kids weren't playing enough computer games.
    • 4 hours AND valedictorian?

      Let me just express my disliking of you, says the 50th percentile :P
    • You're also smart enough to get your schoolwork done quickly and still have time for that.

      The problem pointed out here is when the rest of your classmates put in the same amount of gaming time as you do and their grades suffer for it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, but you suck at Counterstrike.

  • i work from home (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:32PM (#11013199)
    when i moved house and didn't have internet access for a couple of weeks i got a lot more done (no slashdot for one!)

    sure the correlation isn't between those with internet access and those without?
  • by IvyMike ( 178408 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:32PM (#11013203)
    Stolen from some comedian: "The same machine that teaches my kids the alphabet also brings me porn."

    "Computer use" does not really describe the activity with any amount of precision.
  • Me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by evilmuffins ( 631482 )
    Funny, I have not one, but 3 computers in my room, and some how I've managed to keep around a 3.5 in highschool for the last 2 years.
  • Makes some sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:33PM (#11013214)

    Let's be honest. How many of us sit down to "just check e-mail" and find that nearly an hour has passed without really doing anything productive?

    If usage goes up but productive usage doesn't go up, then time is wasted.
  • Obvious Correlation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eeg3 ( 785382 )
    Just look at the performance of the average student in math without a calculator. People just don't know how to do the math, and don't feel the need anymore.

    Computers have become a crutch and a hindrance rather than a tool. Pretty sad.
  • Well, yea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:33PM (#11013216) Homepage
    Learning and multitasking have never mixed well.

    Multitasking also doesnt mix well with research, creativity, or anything really worth doing well for that matter.
  • Computer's fault? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:34PM (#11013220)
    I wonder how much of that "frequent computer use" is spent on entertainment instead of educational software?

    For instance, I used computers a lot when I was younger, but it was playing around with Logo and Basic on an Apple 2. I turned out to be a pretty good student.
    • by dgagley ( 468178 )
      Part of the learning problem is interaction with other LIVE PEOPLE. There also has been a case where hadwriting suffers along with spelling. I have an eight year old and a four year old and the teachers do like to use computers but when it comes to math and language they are told to do it by hand. It is the early years where the computer can hinder some of the ineraction and learning.

      My kids only have learning software on the computer and it does help. The entertainment comes from the PS2 and XBox which th
  • by xercist ( 161422 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:35PM (#11013233) Homepage
    How exactly do you get from "found a correlation between frequent computer usage and poor academic performance" to "Too Many Computers Hurt Learning"?
  • by Doomstalk ( 629173 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:36PM (#11013240)
    It's like TV. If you let your kids watch TV all night rather than doing their homework or studying, they're going to do very poorly in school even if they've been watching PBS or The Learning Channel. More TVs makes it easier for them to go unmonitored and unchecked. In the same sense, if you don't monitor how much your kids use the net, you're going to have academic problems. And, much like having more than one TV, multiple computers means that kids can more easily spend all night surfing the web and talking to their friends (especially if they've got a box in their room). In both cases, parents who take an interest in their kids' activities will have less of a problem.
  • Speaking Of That (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rie Beam ( 632299 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:36PM (#11013242) Journal
    The kid who spends his time reading "Monster Truck Mash-azine" does poorer than the kid who reads "Scientific American". Therefore, magazines are bad for all children.
  • The entire phenomenon of trolling! SOLVE!
  • by biryokumaru ( 822262 ) * <> on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:37PM (#11013266)
    is the correlation based on grade performance (article doesnt seem to say)? being just out of high school, i noticed that geeky computer guys are super-smart, but get bad grades cuz they just dont give a **** about menial tasks like homework (maybe a realization that most menial tasks would be better done by a computer). also, intelligent teenagers who spend much time on computers tend to care little about the superficial aspects of things, such as formatting and making cardboard displays really pretty, which are both a major part of doing well in high school.

    i note some objectivity here (if not much) as i was not one of the geeky computer guys (i am now).

  • I am attending college right now, I can definately tell you that XBOX + HALO2 + INTERNET = FAIL. The same can be said for EverQuest or EverQuest2 (aka EverCrack) on a PC. Computers are really, really bad for people with addictive personalities. Sorry, I write a longer comment, but my Guild needs me in battle........ :)

    It's too bad that computer games can't be more educational.
  • The TV (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hardwyred ( 71704 )
    I have a feeling that in those households the computer was looked at much like the TV. A plugin babysitter that keeps junior quiet and out of the way. When used in that manner, yeah the computer can have some negative impacts on your kid. People seem to have forgotten that children need to be stimulated and challenged. TV and the internet can be great tools but can also be pretty mind numbing. My wife and I are about to have our first kid and have been talking about these type of things at length and we b
  • I agree. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blueforce ( 192332 ) <clannagael&gmail,com> on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:43PM (#11013331) Homepage Journal
    I'm a code monkey and a moderately smart.

    Things I used to know by heart I've purged from my mind (mostly unintentionally) over the years. Although, I did purge my computer architecture class - MUXes, flip-flops, etc. on purpose. ugh.

    Partly because I don't use that knowledge as much and partly because it's WAY too easy to jump on * and look something up. Heck, in a lot of cases, just typing a query and pounding the enter key is enough. I can usually find that nugget of information or trivia fact I'm looking for in the short description that shows up on the results screen without ever having to follow any links. Google dumbs me down.

    I've turned to reading more books to combat the problem. I try to read a variety of topics that interest me such as physics, math, biology, and economics and even fiction novels too. I find that the variety of information and learning new things helps keep me "fresh" and sharp in spite of google and kcalc.

    I think it's way too easy to open up a calculator, spreadsheet, web browser, [insert app here] to do things one should be able to do, or at least know how to do, by hand.
    • I disagree. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ghostgate ( 800445 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @12:23AM (#11014558)
      I think it's way too easy to open up a calculator, spreadsheet, web browser, [insert app here] to do things one should be able to do, or at least know how to do, by hand.

      The flaw in your logic is that you still must be able to apply SOME knowledge in order to get the answer that you are looking for. Even if you don't know how the calculations work, you would still need to know why the calculations are important and what they can be applied to.

      Sure, you can use a calculator or whatever to perform calculations on some numbers. But, are these just arbitrary calculations you are making? No, they are likely part of some larger problem. And you must know how these calculations fit into the problem, or what calculations to use in the first place. You still need to know the principles behind what you are doing. If you don't, a calculator (or other tool) will be useless to you, except in doing simple arbitrary tasks.

      In this way, the tools we have available to us save us a lot of time, energy, and sometimes needless frustration.

      I remember some of the more advanced math classes I took in college. A single problem could, at times, take more than 10 minutes of work to solve. And in that time, it was easy to make a small mistake somewhere, even if you were being careful, and ruin the entire thing. Or, you could insert the problem into a computer math program and have the answer in less than a second. Guaranteed correct, if you did not make a typo entering it. As far as I'm concerned, doing such a problem by hand is entirely counter-productive. And you know what? I'm not even sure I want to know HOW it's done. I just want to know why it's useful. I want to know how to apply it to something productive.
  • Incomplete Study? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkBlackFox ( 643814 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:45PM (#11013351)
    I didn't see mentioned anywhere in the article what types of software these kids were running. If they spend all their time playing "educational" software (by which I mean those counting programs/nick jr. type games which serve more to keep the kids out of parents hair than teach the kids anything useful)in place of learning from a teacher, of course grades will decline. All a computer can do is teach a kid basic functions related to specific areas of study. It can't answer questions or provide more insight into "why" rather than "how."

    The flip side would be what they actually get to do on the computer. If the parents limit them to games and programs they set up for the kids, that's almost as bad as spoonfeeding an 8 year old. The technically oriented/geek parents (or, were I one, this is what I would do), make a ghost/dd/carbon copy/backup of your hard drive, and let the kid loose for a few hours to do whatever he wants. If you're a true geek, the kid would have his/her own dedicated computer to play with, to let him find his own way around. Show the kid how to use the mouse, and how to click. Teach them the basics of how to use the computer, and let them learn their own way. That's how I was brought up, and I'm more capable of using/building/working on/maintaining computers than 99.9999% of all the people I know. Plop me in front of a foreign interface I've never seen before and I'll figure out the basics of how to use it within a few minutes (or if in another language, hours).

    Computers can be extremely powerful tools for learning, but only if used in proper context. Parents who use the computer as an electronic baby-sitter will find their kid's grades slumping, while a kid who figures out the basics of the bash shell by the age of 5 could probably graduate high school at the age of 10. Give kids the tools to foster deductive reasoning, and they'll blossom into students with an insatiable appetite to learn and figure stuff out.
    • Spellbinding. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by twitter ( 104583 )
      Computers can be extremely powerful tools for learning, but only if used in proper context.

      Now there's a thought. My favorite quote from the article:

      consensus holds that more research is needed to know exactly where computers make the most difference in an educational process. "There's this sort of bizarre belief that computers cast a spell over students and teachers and schools," says Christopher Dede, professor of learning technologies at the Harvard School of Education. "Can you imagine what would h

  • by Macgrrl ( 762836 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:45PM (#11013356)

    There have been numerous reports released in Australia recently on how literacy and numeracy standards have been slipping in recent years. There was even an article [] yesterday commenting on how illeteracy is now being 'diagnosed' as ADHD, with children being taken to emergency rooms for treatment when what they really need is to be taught how to read.

    The computer is simply a tool, it has no moral value, if the children are taught how to use it effectively as an educational aid, and are taught to value learning, the unfettered access to a computer will be beneficial. IF the children are taught to treat education as something to be endured and that computers are toys - then that is how they will treat them.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:50PM (#11013398) Journal
    and they are draconian, but tough.

    1. No computer games. Yup. None.

    2. TV has to be PBS, Discovery or History Channel during the week, and no more than one hour.

    3. the computer is used for schoolwork and research.

    4. No TV in the bedroom.

    5. No headphones indoors, no excessive volume indoors.

    6. No TV during Dinner. conversation is encouraged. Dinner is served at the dining table 5 nights a week (Friday is swimming, so dinner is shortened, as we go out for a snack after swimming, and Saturday dinner is often out (and never at a fast food joint.)

    7. One DVD may be rented a week.

    8. books, magazines, and newspapers can be read at anytime except during meals.

    9. Homework is done FIRST. Then play is permitted. Making things with paper, glue, wood, paint, ink, rubber stamps, etc. is encouraged. Puzzles, word games, and other intellectual riddles are encouraged.

    10. Music is always permitted, but at reasonable volumes. Playing music and singing is especially encouraged, and preferred to listening.

    That's the way the house is organised, and mommy and daddy (me) follow the same rules. No exceptions.

    We have 7 computers in the house, but 2 of them (a win2k laptop and an XP laptop) are for my wife's office, three are in my studio (OSX laptop, OS9 tower, SuSe "project" machine), my daughter has a desktop (Apple OS9) and a laptop (OSX). She uses them, but not as much as she reads books. she also likes to make books - she has a good head for narrative.

    She (Elizabeth Spoilsport) is 7, is bilingual in French and English, writes in cursive, and does her times tables. She can recognise 4/4, 3/4, and 5/4 time signatures. She's my little pride and joy, when she's not acting like a spoiled little snot (which only happens when she's tired or grumpy).

    She also feeds the kitties, waters the kitchen herbs, (fresh basil is DIVINE), and when she gets all A's in her work, we give her a small allowance which she then divides up between a savings account, an investment account, a charity account, and a spending account.

    And that's how it works in the Spoilsport household.


    • by That's Unpossible! ( 722232 ) * on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:04PM (#11013532)
      No computer games. Yup. None. ...
      The computer is used for schoolwork and research.

      It sounds like you are discouraging creative computer use? Why?

      What if your kid could be a great computer programmer? What if they wanted to create a video game?

      The right computer games encourage thinking.
    • by GerbilSoft ( 761537 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:23PM (#11013693)
      3. the computer is used for schoolwork and research.

      Then what the heck are you doing here?
    • by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:57PM (#11013943)
      and they are draconian, but tough.
      I hope your daughter doesn't go off the rails when she leaves home. When you grow up with that amount of regimentation a little freedom can be intoxicating.
    • Age (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:25PM (#11014164)
      It seems very likely that at age 7 when children are still looking to their parents for nearly everything that such rules work I highly doubt that as she grows older and more aware of the world around her that your methodology will be as effective.

      More than likely she might rebel against your admittedly stern authority as she grows older. Also as she grows older and is exposed to more things she will realize that the lifestyle that she has been exposed to is radical different than others. At the very least she might begin to question why you chose to raise her in that fashion or more likely use it as a further excuse to rebel.

      I'm going to stop here with my little dime store analysis of what I see you doing but I hope you take some time to realize that your raising a human being, not something for you to try and pour into what you see as the perfect mold.
      • Re:Age (Score:3, Insightful)

        I completely agree with you on much of what you say. We have some rules that we keep a pretty tight lid on, and it allows us all to peacefully co-exist and spend time together as a family. (I'm typing this because she's having a bath right now, so it's "mommy time")

        In most other ways, we're very liberal parents who want her to explore things that interest her. It's very likely that once broadcast goes HD, we won't upgrade - we'll get a projector, and then the only thing she can watch will be stuff she ren

    • Find me three pieces that would be playable by less than a college level performer that use a 5/4 time signature. Much more common would be 2/4 which is often used in music a child of that age might sing or perform. (After just helping my 7 year old prepare for a recital with a piece in a 2/4 time signature,...)

      As for the chores, those sound typical for any child of that age. But forget the fresh basil, get the fresh catnip instead. Use it as mint in your cooking and then rub the extra on whatever you
  • by slightlyspacey ( 799665 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:52PM (#11013419)
    You're question presupposes that us Slashdot nerds actually have enough of a life to:

    1) Turn off the computer(s)
    2) Date (or more accurately, find a girl desperate enough to go out with us)
    3) Turn off the computer(s) and go out long enough to have a serious relationship
    4) Marry (nowadays optional)
    5) Turn off the computer(s)and actually make kids
    6) Give up control of one or more of *your* computer(s) so that the aforementioned hypothetical kids can get on the computer(s) so that later, as you realize there is more to parenting than sitting them in front of a computer screen the entire day, you can kick them off

    Sounds like a long shot to me.
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @09:55PM (#11013449)
    ...that are certain to get worse with my girlfriend and her four year old daughter. The only applications available to the little girl are a couple of Reader Rabbit games, but rather severe tantrums occur when she is denied playing the games or asked to stop for the night. I was reminded of my own behavior, though on a slightly different scale when I was fifteen or so and Warcraft II, Quake, and Grand Theft Auto were what dominated my non-schoolwork hours. I flat out had behavioral problems, wanting to do nothing beyond playing the games, and throwing teenager level tantrums when I was denied such.

    Fortunately I was in marching band, jazz band, electric car club, and some other structured things for me to redirect myself to when my parents forced the issue and wouldn't let me use the family computer for games, but it definitely wasn't easy, and probably would have been even harder if I hadn't had other activities that I liked to turn to. Consequently I'm paying close attention to what happens in what I'm seeing now, because I know from experience what can happen if things get out of hand.

    The moral of my own story: Have something else to do besides computers. Read. Play sports. Play a musical instrument. Work with your hands on something, like cars, or woodworking, or jewelery. Find a passion to compete with the one operating at 1024x768. It's definitely a lot more healthy that way.
  • One thing to note: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by imsabbel ( 611519 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:02PM (#11013514)
    I can read TONS of "but i always used the computer and am still the brightest guy around" posts.
    Sit down, and THINK!

    Back when most here present started their computer use, computers werent entertainment stuff that every grandma owned. Getting into computers needed real attention, technical interest, an open mind to find out how things work, ect.
    Of course, when only nerds use computers, computerusers are smart. But maybe everyone would have been smarter if he didnt spend that much time with the computer.
    I certainly would.

    Nowadays, most "average" users use pcs as an entertainment system, with an added value that they can fool others that they are learning/doing something useful.
    And that certainly doesnt help...
  • by Temporal ( 96070 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:09PM (#11013586) Journal

    Some possible causalities here:

    1. Computer usage makes kids dumber / perform poorly.
    2. Kids who perform poorly for other reasons like to spend their time on the computer when good kids are doing homework.
    3. Bad parents like to put their kids infront of a computer to occupy them rather than make them do their homework.
    4. The type of families that have multiple computers (wealthy ones?) tend to be dysfunctional in ways that lead the kids to perform poorly.
    5. Of the countries surveyed, computer usage happens to be more prevalent in the countries who have more conservative governments, where the economy tends to be stronger but education is underfunded, thus causing the kids to perform more poorly.

    I could keep coming up with reasons all day. The article seems to assume #1 is the explanation, but the study provides no evidence to suggest that #1 is any more plausible than the others.

  • I am a teacher (Score:5, Interesting)

    by defishguy ( 649645 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:20PM (#11013673) Journal
    I'm a highschool teacher. I teach IT and I can absolutely say that, for the most part, the more CBT that is integrated into the class the lower the level of performance by the students as a whole. I'm not saying all of them suffer, but enough do that I try to limit the contact with the machines to that of the task to be done instead of the task to be learned.

    I strongly suspect that the only thing that most people learn from machines is how to be lonely..... of couse I'm sitting at one... in a room... alone...scratching.....hmmmmmm.

    At any rate, the more time I spend with the students in conversation over the hum of a projector the more the students seem likely to absorb things like IRQ tables and subnetting. The kids really do seem to be more inclined to actively particpate if there is a person leading them.
  • by conradp ( 154683 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:21PM (#11013688) Homepage
    The studies are testing performance in educational areas that used to be considered important - reading, writing, arithmatic. So clearly if the kids spend a lot of time on the computer instead of studying math or reading literature, their performance in those areas will suffer.

    But what about their performance in technology-related areas? What about their programming ability, their ability to think logically, their knowledge of and familiarity with computers? Those things will surely improve, unless they're just firing up Half-Life in which case their scores will plummet just as if they had a PlayStation or an XBox. Just because their performance suffers in the traditional areas doesn't mean computers are bad for them - they may in fact be better prepared for 21st century jobs than their schoolmates who get higher grades because their parents make them study the classics and ban them from using computers...
  • I smell an agenda (Score:5, Insightful)

    by inkswamp ( 233692 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:36PM (#11013796)
    These kinds of studies always strike me as tainted by some political or social agenda. They never seem to match up with reality.

    My daughter is 8-years-old. She has been using the computer (mostly for games) for several years. I used to sit with her and play the Jumpstart Toddler series with her when she was 2. Most of what she plays is educational, but I also let her play video games on the computer, including games on the GameCube, her GameBoy and our old N64.

    So, the verdict? She's consistently ahead in school, reading and math skills are 1-2 grades ahead. She has no weak areas, no areas of concern and no behavior issues; she has a creative mind and is a whiz at problem solving and her verbal skills are remarkable at times. I couldn't ask for better. Her teachers are always happy to have conferences with my wife and me, and they have always spent the half-hour praising her and quizzing us on what we're doing at home.

    I think it has less to do with the amount of time a child spends on the computer and more to do with what they're doing on it specifically. My daughter does educational stuff along with the occasional video games with no graphic violence. I also monitor what she does and help her get the most out of it. I just recently showed her the basics of how to create web pages and she's been coding her own pages by hand. No report anywhere will convince me that those kinds of activities are hurting her learning abilities.

    It's just like TV. You can do it right or wrong. I don't think you can blame the computer itself.

  • From blaming contraceptives for STDs and unplanned pregnancies, to straws for spitballs, to computers for distraction.

    Computers are a very powerful tool in such a way that they can be used for almost whatever you might desire. Is this not a good thing?

    If one desired distraction and could not find a computer, I'm sure said one would find a gaming console or a limping dog or a spot on the wall.

    Computers are a tool to allow people to explore whatever it is they want to explore. Can't blame computers for allowing peoples' bad habits to show through.

    Before computers, TV prevented me from doing my homework. Before TV, it was drawing and blankly staring out the window. Before windows, it was the faint light breaking through the ovum.

    I know what I'm doing when I want to do it. I just don't like homework. >.

    Now that I have slashdot... things are different.

    Or not.

    Back to homework now.

    - shazow
  • The funniest part (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Soulfader ( 527299 ) <> on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:48PM (#11014333) Journal at the end.
    "There's this sort of bizarre belief that computers cast a spell over students and teachers and schools," says Christopher Dede, professor of learning technologies at the Harvard School of Education.
    "Can you imagine what would happen if you had the same in business, asking if computers were interfering with performance? It would be a big joke."
    Now is it a joke because it's funny, or a joke because it's true?
  • by dozek ( 525516 ) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:56PM (#11014383)

    As a freshman computer science major in a required writing class, I wrote an essay suggesting that premature introduction of computer technology could lead to severe developmental progress. One of my primary arguments was that the development of fine motor skills and handwriting was stumped when children are allowed to type and use the mouse rather than write, paint, etc.

    Further, (and granted, this was prior to the widespread advent of the WWW) the 'curiosity driven' learning experience is interrupted by the immediacy of technology provided information. Case in point, Online Encyclopedia vs. Book Encyclopedia. With one, I type in my topic and immediately receive a specific article. With the other, I have to learn how to look the topic up, and in that process am inevitably exposed to other topics which may catch my attention and allow me to learn a bit more.

    My suggestion at that time, and one I would probably stand by today, is that computer technology in the classroom should be delayed until the Junior High (7th or 8th grade) level. In America at least, we see quite an opposite trend, where children are exposed to technology at younger and younger ages.

  • by darnok ( 650458 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @01:31AM (#11015061)
    I suspect the real issue here is e.g. putting PCs with Internet access into kids' rooms, as distinct from PCs without Internet access.

    This is an issue I'm struggling with now. With 8 computers in the house (including one Linux firewall), do I put a PC in each of the 3 kids' bedrooms? At this moment, I'm inclined to install e.g. Mepis and restrict Internet access to e.g. 7pm-8pm each day on bedroom PCs; that should remove the possibility of endless hours of pointless IM and downloading WM* files, while still letting them get homework done and talk to their friends for a bit each night. If there's some exceptional circumstance, then Mum or I can invoke the "Internet access extension" clause in our contracts...

    Still struggling to work out if this is a good approach or not, amidst the other obvious (e.g. no access, or unrestricted access) and not-so-obvious options. I'd be interested in any other suggestions.
  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @03:46AM (#11015659) Journal
    We're not learning "less" we're learning differently. By the reasons given we might as well go back to abacuses because even slide-rules are evil technology blah blah blah.

    Yes, you could blame the computers, but realistically I think a lot has to be said about the deterioration of the teaching system. I would know, I work in schools and see daily how bad they've gotten. Kids have no respect... yes they didn't have respect when I was in school (and hey, I'm 23), but now they're much more open about doing everything short of (and sometimes beyond) telling their profs to f*** off.
    br As for the profs, well, it's rather discouraging trying to teach kids that don't want to learn, somewhat like watching the coding project you babied for the last year get tanked by management in the final stages.

    But as to the kids that do want to learn, and make use of computers as a tool... they're going to do more than the previous generation did with a set of fancy calculators. Realistic simulations, architectural tools... computers expand in other areas.

    Of course, I suppose I could look at myself. Grandiose projects planned, but after a day of work I'm often sacked and just end up playing games to relax. If I had to sit through some of the classes that students do today, I'd probably do the same...
  • TV in the classroom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @03:49AM (#11015675) Homepage
    Decades ago, the TV was hailed as the next greatest thing in education. Teachers would soon be able to record their own lectures and presentations for a much more efficient, effective educational experience!!!

    Hopefully the computer hype will die down soon enough.
  • by hajons ( 771162 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @03:52AM (#11015692)
    Having two kids myself, both using their computers a lot, my main concern is not academic performance (in fact they are both top of their class despite playing counter-strike and other games for hours each day). I am a lot more worried about them not getting enough exercise, which in the long term will have fatal consequences. The discussion on parental control or kids self-control is uninteresting. What is interesting is making them interested in and getting an understanding of what is good for them. That takes a lot more than just telling them "You cant play any more today".
  • by mysterious_mark ( 577643 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @04:00AM (#11015727)
    If 2 many 'puter iz bad fer yuz, tha'd mean peplez like ize which haz a lod uv 'puterz wudz be reawy reawy dum
  • by Eivind ( 15695 ) <> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @05:12AM (#11015970) Homepage
    I do know that this is /. and expecting that much from the editors is a stretch, but it still needs to be said: correlation is not causation.

    The actual study says they've found a correlation, the braindead /. editor writes (or accepts, whatever) a title which would indicate causation.

    Say it again boys and girls, real loud, maybe even the editors will hear it; Correlation is not causation.

  • by gnovos ( 447128 ) <gnovos.chipped@net> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @05:43AM (#11016090) Homepage Journal
    Instead of just letting your kids play counter-strike, make them have to jump through hoops, crack firewall passwords, decrypt .shadow password files, make it a challenge. That way when they are done they've learned a valuable skill. And the aiming and shooting skills the aquire at CS will helpt them deal withe consequences of thier new skill as well.

"The C Programming Language -- A language which combines the flexibility of assembly language with the power of assembly language."