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School computers may be overrated :: Asperger Technical

 

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 Post subject: School computers may be overrated
Post Number:#1  PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:47 pm 
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Joined: 23rd June, 2007
Posts: 35
THE vast sums governments spend buying computers for schools might be better spent on hiring more teachers and buying more books.

That's the conclusion of Thomas Fuchs and his team at the Ifo Institute for Economic Affairs in Munich, Germany, who looked at the academic results of 100,000 15-year-olds in 32 countries. Frequent use of computers makes "no discernable difference" to students' academic performance, Fuchs told a meeting of the Royal Economic Society in Nottingham, UK, this week. The team suggests that computers may be displacing more effective chalk-and-talk teaching methods, and using up cash better spent on books or teacher training.

However, Olive Forsythe, a spokeswoman for the UK's National Union of Teachers, doubts the finding. "For instance, the teacher-controlled interactive whiteboards that are being introduced are proving to have enormous teaching benefits," she says. In a statement, the UK's Department for Education and Skills said, "It is the way IT is used which makes the difference, not its mere availability."

New Scientist


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     Post subject: Re: School computers may be overrated
    Post Number:#2  PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 1:34 pm 
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    Aneez wrote:
    THE vast sums governments spend buying computers for schools might be better spent on hiring more teachers and buying more books.


    People have been saying this ever since computers started being introduced into schools. Computers make up a large (and ever increasing) part of the education budget that many critics say would be better spent on staff, textbooks, equipment, and building repairs - or even not at all and taxes reduced. It's difficult to deny that the current British IT policies for education are very wasteful with billions of pounds being spent on software licences for Microsoft and commercial software that could be replaced with open source software totally free (as in beer) of charge. Billions of pounds are also spent on consultancy services and IT projects such as virtual learning environments that are probably unneeded in practice.

    Quote:
    That's the conclusion of Thomas Fuchs and his team at the Ifo Institute for Economic Affairs in Munich, Germany, who looked at the academic results of 100,000 15-year-olds in 32 countries. Frequent use of computers makes "no discernable difference" to students' academic performance, Fuchs told a meeting of the Royal Economic Society in Nottingham, UK, this week. The team suggests that computers may be displacing more effective chalk-and-talk teaching methods, and using up cash better spent on books or teacher training.


    I believe there is much truth to this. The effectiveness of computers in improving the academic preformance of students in traditional subjects such as English, maths, science, geography, history, etc. is minimal. Schools in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe were remarkable at producing students with very high abilities in grammar, maths, and science despite using traditional educational techniques without a computer in sight. A similar situation also holds in some independent schools in Britain which have been slow to deploy computers, and in colleges that enable children under 16 to take GCSE and A Level exams.

    I met a 12 year old who took a maths A Level during evening class at a college. It was taught using a traditional textbook and blackboard approach. Half of the KS3 maths lessons at his secondary school were spent in front of a computer.

    It's interesting to note that back in the 1980s, many schools wanted to incorporate computers into existing traditional subjects. After 1990 the emphasis was on teaching IT as a separate subject that ended up becoming office skills in practice. Computers in schools really are used as word processors or to create documents most of the time. Only progressive schools use computers for data logging in science or CAD in technology.

    Quote:
    However, Olive Forsythe, a spokeswoman for the UK's National Union of Teachers, doubts the finding. "For instance, the teacher-controlled interactive whiteboards that are being introduced are proving to have enormous teaching benefits," she says. In a statement, the UK's Department for Education and Skills said, "It is the way IT is used which makes the difference, not its mere availability."


    I lament the fact that I rarely ever got to use a computer during my time at school. Computers may well burn a hole in the educational budget but they are fun to use. Something I cannot understand is why has disaffection with schools and truancy shot up so much since 1990? Modern schools are chock full of all sorts of flashy software and equipment that students in the 1970s could only dream of. They are basically digital playgrounds. I seriously doubt that any student today would ever want to go to a school run like it was in the 1970s where classrooms were banal places and half of all lessons comprised of copying screeds of text from blackboards, yet truancy was almost unheard of back then.

    I certainly agree with the statement "It is the way IT is used which makes the difference, not its mere availability". Students with SEN and AS can benefit greatly from computers if they are used effectively.

    I had a terrible problem with handwriting when I was at primary school which later began to affect essay writing and project work. The teachers at my primary school were hell bent on handwriting and were positively and vehemently opposed to using a computer as a word processor. Teachers regularly refused to accept work if the handwriting wasn't up to their standard and neither would they accept homework that was done on a computer and printed out. This eventually damaged my self esteem.

    Primary school students with bad handwriting are often given Alphasmarts nowadays. When I was at primary school you could buy this neat little Tandy TRS 80 Model 102 laptop. They were popular with journalists because they were simple to use and rugged. I wanted one to use at school but the teachers would not allow me to use it in class instead of writing and thought it was an excuse to avoid me from improving my handwriting.


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       Post subject: Re: School computers may be overrated
      Post Number:#3  PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 10:46 pm 
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      Canopus wrote:
      People have been saying this ever since computers started being introduced into schools. Computers make up a large (and ever increasing) part of the education budget that many critics say would be better spent on staff, textbooks, equipment, and building repairs - or even not at all and taxes reduced. It's difficult to deny that the current British IT policies for education are very wasteful with billions of pounds being spent on software licences for Microsoft and commercial software that could be replaced with open source software totally free (as in beer) of charge. Billions of pounds are also spent on consultancy services and IT projects such as virtual learning environments that are probably unneeded in practice.


      I would rather see money spent on computers than sports facilities in schools. Computer skills are statistically a lot more useful in the workplace than being skilled at kicking balls around a muddy field. Has it even registered with the government how only a minute fraction of school leavers ever become professional sportsmen?

      The amount of money that schools and colleges spend on Microsoft software licences is absolutely disgusting. It is all part of the change in emphasis towards office skills using popular software which happens to be from Microsoft. I witnessed this changeover when my school replaced the Acorn Archimedes with PCs running Windows 95. I suspect that the government is totally oblivious to the existence of open source software. An increasing number of American schools and public sector institutions are migrating to open source software because they now realise the quality and benefits it provides and the money it saves.

      Quote:
      I had a terrible problem with handwriting when I was at primary school which later began to affect essay writing and project work. The teachers at my primary school were hell bent on handwriting and were positively and vehemently opposed to using a computer as a word processor. Teachers regularly refused to accept work if the handwriting wasn't up to their standard and neither would they accept homework that was done on a computer and printed out. This eventually damaged my self esteem.

      Primary school students with bad handwriting are often given Alphasmarts nowadays. When I was at primary school you could buy this neat little Tandy TRS 80 Model 102 laptop. They were popular with journalists because they were simple to use and rugged. I wanted one to use at school but the teachers would not allow me to use it in class instead of writing and thought it was an excuse to avoid me from improving my handwriting.


      That's harsh. You should have changed school. My parents wouldn't have stood for this kind of treatment.

      Handwriting was a problem I experienced at school because of motor and co-ordination difficulties. Thankfully my primary school was more progressive than yours. The teachers realised my difficulties and let me type work that was more than a couple of paragraphs on a computer. They also let me write with a ballpoint pen rather than the standard issue crappy fibretip pens because I found it easier to produce better handwriting.

      Another motor and co-ordination difficulty I had was handling a bike. I was given this really cool looking Sonic Cybertribe bike for my birthday because my parents thought that its high tech appearance would encourage me to learn to ride it.

      Image

      It was too heavy for me to handle properly without losing balance. In Y5 my school had cycling proficiency and the instructor wouldn't let me take the test on the bike because I was too wobbly and had difficulty with the gears.


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         Post subject: Re: School computers may be overrated
        Post Number:#4  PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 12:20 pm 
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        Aneez wrote:
        I suspect that the government is totally oblivious to the existence of open source software.


        Hundreds of schools are unable to use Linux because either the governors or the local authority demand that a virus guard is installed on every computer. Virus guard software packages only work with Windows and are unnecessary with Linux because it is designed to be secure and virus resistant as standard. The ptb cannot understand this because they are generally computer illiterate people. I once tried to persuade school governors into accepting Linux by making an analogy that Windows is a car that doesn't have locks fitted as standard by the manufacturer and the virus guard software are the locks, whereas Linux is a car from a manufacturer that fits locks to their cars as standard. The governors were finally convinced by this analogy and allowed a few Linux boxes in school although local authority policy would not allow them to be connected to the internet.

        Quote:
        I had a terrible problem with handwriting when I was at primary school which later began to affect essay writing and project work. The teachers at my primary school were hell bent on handwriting and were positively and vehemently opposed to using a computer as a word processor. Teachers regularly refused to accept work if the handwriting wasn't up to their standard and neither would they accept homework that was done on a computer and printed out. This eventually damaged my self esteem.

        Primary school students with bad handwriting are often given Alphasmarts nowadays. When I was at primary school you could buy this neat little Tandy TRS 80 Model 102 laptop. They were popular with journalists because they were simple to use and rugged. I wanted one to use at school but the teachers would not allow me to use it in class instead of writing and thought it was an excuse to avoid me from improving my handwriting.


        Teachers with this bad attitude were very common back in the 80s. Lack of a national IT strategy incorporating word processing and DTP allowed such attitudes to flourish for longer than they should have had. There were even teachers at my secondary school who refused to accept printed out homework and shrieked "you have to write it with a pen!". I had a 24-pin printer with an inbuilt cursive typeface that I used when printing out homework and I still remember the escape code to set it. Unfortunately it did not convince the teachers that it was written with a pen.

        As Aneez has said, things had really improved in the 90s.

        Quote:
        I was given this really cool looking Sonic Cybertribe bike for my birthday because my parents thought that its high tech appearance would encourage me to learn to ride it.


        Aneez, is that a Sonic the Hedgehog bike? I think it would look quite in place in the Scrap Brain Zone or Starlight Zone.


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           Post subject: Re: School computers may be overrated
          Post Number:#5  PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 4:22 pm 
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          Reseda wrote:
          Aneez, is that a Sonic the Hedgehog bike? I think it would look quite in place in the Scrap Brain Zone or Starlight Zone.


          You're not the first person to mention this. Some kids at school used to call it a Sonic the Hedgehog bike and for a brief time my nickname at school was Sonic. I don't think an official Sonic the Hedgehog bike even exists.


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             Post subject: Re: School computers may be overrated
            Post Number:#6  PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 5:58 pm 
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            I still think it looks really cool even if it isn't Sonic the Hedgehog. I have never seen a bike like that before. Any ideas who manufactures it? Have you still got it?

            Here's another really cool piece of technology I have sitting on my desk.

            Image

            It's a Facility Phone 200. The top of the range all singing all dancing telephone sold by BT in the late 80s. Features include one-touch memory, a clock, a call timer, a calculator, a display of the dialled number, and an amplifier. Note the old style BT logo.

            Image

            The green vacuum fluorescent display looks really freaky in a dark room.


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               Post subject: Re: School computers may be overrated
              Post Number:#7  PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 12:15 am 
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              Joined: 23rd June, 2007
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              Reseda wrote:
              I still think it looks really cool even if it isn't Sonic the Hedgehog. I have never seen a bike like that before. Any ideas who manufactures it? Have you still got it?


              Really cool but also really heavy. I used to enjoy riding the bike once I got the hang of it and it certainly turned many heads. I have no idea which company manufactured it. My parents bought it off a colleague at work. After I outgrew the bike my sister (who is neurotypical) used to ride it. She could handle it well enough to take her cycling proficiency test on it. Unfortunately it was snatched from her in the street by some nasty thug and was never seen again.

              Reseda wrote:
              I had a 24-pin printer with an inbuilt cursive typeface that I used when printing out homework and I still remember the escape code to set it.


              My Amstrad CPC 6128 came bundled with a Star LC24-10 printer that had several inbuilt fonts including one called script that looked like handwriting and another with a shadow effect. I remember learning the escape codes that invoked all sorts of features and mapping them to keypresses on Tasword. At primary school I had to use these crummy 9-pin printers that could only print in upright and italic before it bought some colour inkjets.


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                 Post subject: Re: School computers may be overrated
                Post Number:#8  PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 6:11 pm 
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                Reseda wrote:
                It's a Facility Phone 200. The top of the range all singing all dancing telephone sold by BT in the late 80s. Features include one-touch memory, a clock, a call timer, a calculator, a display of the dialled number, and an amplifier. Note the old style BT logo.

                The green vacuum fluorescent display looks really freaky in a dark room.


                A damn nice phone that cost about £140 back in 1987. I happen to have two of them, and I'm sure Nigel Lawson also had one when he was living in 11 Downing Street. Does anybody have any pictures or video clips to confirm this?

                There was another microprocessor controlled phone available from BT during the early to mid 80s called the Sceptre. It had a bug in the software resulting in erratic operation so ended up with nicknames of Sceptic or Spectre.


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                   Post subject: Re: School computers may be overrated
                  Post Number:#9  PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 10:13 pm 
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                  I find it rather strange that nobody seems to have spotted a parallel between school computer suites and those console language laboratories that almost every secondary school had back in the 1960s and 1970s. These console language laboratories were heralded as state of the art teaching technology when they first came out. In reality they consumed vast amounts of money both installing and maintaining them, whilst producing only a marginal improvement in the academic performance of most students. Much time was wasted in lessons trying to get the equipment to work properly or rectify minor faults.


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                     Post subject: Re: School computers may be overrated
                    Post Number:#10  PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 8:46 am 
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                    One of my secondary schools had a console language laboratory. I started in 1988 and it was no longer used because it was broken beyond repair. It was stripped out and scrapped some time in the early 1990s. The room later became an IT suite for learning languages.


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