To start the most significant fact that should be stated is that the computer is a tool, and as with any educational tool, from books to crayons, it can be used to enhance the curriculum and promote learning, but it can also be misused and abused. In this essay, I will discuss the disadvantages of having computers in the classrooms due to the misuse and the abuse of this tool.
I found it hard to find research that had been done on this topic because not only is the research on the effectiveness of computers in the classroom scarce but the research that is there is often done by software companies and therefore may be biased. (Emmans 2001). Even though there is no clear-cut answer to the question of a computer being a friend or foe in the classroom, having an unsolvable question of good or bad brings many issues to light.
For example, the fact that much of the software designed for children is appealing to them. If nothing else, it at least holds the children's attention. Though this may seem like a positive characteristic, consider this, just because a television show holds your attention, does it necessarily educate you? The answer to this is simple, maybe some do, but certainly not all do, mostly they are just simply entertaining. This causes me to raise an eyebrow at some, not all, software. As a teacher, one must not use time-fillers, cause a child can watch television or play on a computer at home, but as a teacher, we must educate, and if there is no educational value in the software, what good is it for a teacher?
On the defense for teachers, another reason for computers being a shortcoming is that sometimes the software is not obvious that it is non-educational. This can be a common mistake of any educator, being fooled that a product could be educational when it is merely entertainment software dressed up in an educational costume aimed at these gullible teachers.
According to Cindy C. Emmans (2001), a professor of Educational Technology at Central Washington University, on software in the classroom…
” Often feedback is the key to learning, and computers are appealing because this feedback can be immediate, which is of course a very effective learning tool. Unfortunately, this feedback is not often as effective as it might be, perhaps because it is not easy to return to the original question to try again, or the student must begin at the beginning to review the original content rather then backing up a step or two. In some cases, the feedback for the wrong answers is more appealing than that for the right answer, causing students to try and get the wrong answer simply for the entertainment value”.
Gerald W. Bracey sums it up adequately in a journal article called Principal by basically saying that the bells and whistles are all there, but the education is not, because it was not produced by someone who understands how children learn. (1996, p.6).
More arguments in the research area continued in September of 2000, the Alliance for Childhood published a statement against the use of computers in schools. More than 85 experts in various fields including psychiatry, education, and philosophy signed the statement in which calls for a suspension on the promoting introduction of computers into the nation's elementary schools until there is a more careful assessment of their effect (Hafner, 2000). Another influence in opposition to computers in classrooms is that of Jane Healy, an educational psychologist and the author of “Failure to Connect,” a book criticizing educational applications of computers. Thomas Crampton interviewed Mrs. Healy and she declared that computers “can hurt children's personal skills, work habits concentration, motivation, (and) the development of social skills” (IHT, October 2000, p. 19).
Another reason that computers in the classroom would prove to be a disadvantage is the availability of computers in the classroom to each individual student. It is rare to find a school that, in each classroom, has a computer supplied for each student. This then brings up the problem of scheduling and rotating the students to the computers available. (Tiene 2001) This begins a whole new ball game in which you are now consuming a lot of time in which could be used for more productive measures rather then scheduling computer time for each student. If this is the case, and only a specific amount of students can be on the computer at one time, then you are dividing your classroom, and not integrating it, as it should be. This causes many difficulties in teaching a whole group instruction, which leads to problems in skill development, since the attention of some students is lacking. (Tiene 2001).
On the Colorado state education web site (2003), I was able to find questions that were asked to teachers regarding computers in their classrooms. The teachers were asked, “What do you find unattractive about teaching in a computer based classroom?” The one teacher commented that, ” Students have a tendency to come in a print out their papers at the beginning of class instead of coming into class with a hard copy…” Another teacher said, ” Technological difficulty, your whole lesson could be shot for the day if the computer would go down”. When the teachers were asked about the difficulties they faced themselves and with the students due to computers in the classroom, they answered, ” It is hard to get the students attention when they are on the computers.” Another teacher commented, ” There are times that I send them to work and instead they are interacting with each other.” Another teacher stated her fear of the computer classroom by saying that, ” Students are at their own screens, they're in their own little world, and they are not talking to their classmates, sometimes I think that they don't even know half the names of all the people in their class.” (Barnes 2003)
I feel that these teachers comments are very important when looking at the issue of computers in the classrooms, because these are the people that actually interact with the children in the classroom, they are not just some random research study by a software company, these people are the real thing, and they see how computers are effecting their classrooms.
Another issue of computers in the classrooms regards the child's health. If a child were to be functioning on a computer for a long interlude of time or with incorrect positioning they will inadvertently obstruct their own health, some problems caused from this include muscular-skeletal injuries and vision problems. (MacArthur & Shneiderman, 1986).
Another issue concerning computer use in classrooms is that a lot of teachers have not been trained to use a computer, and many do not know how. An enormous amount of time would have to be consumed for the teachers to learn both the hardware and the software of the computer. They also would need time to collaborate with other teachers. Time is something that many teachers spend planning lessons and the weekly events of their classroom. The other problem that was just mentioned was the training of the teachers. Some educators do not have local training options available to them. Some do not have the time or money to spend on it. Another issue is that even if a teacher does go through training, there are always unsuspected things that can go wrong with a computer. If a teacher were to base their whole lesson on a computer, and it were to crash, and the teacher just being minimally skilled in using computers, would not be able to fix the system so that they could continue their lesson. (Tiene 2001).Therefore an on-site technology expert would be needed on site at all times in case any of these incidences would happen, and quite frankly I do not think that there are too many school districts looking for another expense.
Another reason for computers being a disadvantage in the classroom is that if the computer is Internet accessible, if this is the case, then the children can be exposed to Internet content that is not appropriate for their age level. They can also be exposed to child predators, which is a huge concern in today's world.
Though this may seem far-fetched it truly is not in an article published on the gurdian angel websitein 2000 states,
“The facts are plain. Children are being targeted, solicited, and made victims by pedophiles. What do the ratios or statistics matter? Isn't even one too many? These predators range from the simple minded closet pedophile who has surfaced because they believe they are safely anonymous behind their account alias, to the highly organized and skilled child pornography rings that operate predominantly off of US soil, behind quick discard web sites, and anonymous re-mailers, pushing their hideous wares for big profits. Have you ever heard of a child being molested or kidnapped in your hometown? Don't you teach your kids to watch for certain things and, not to talk to, or go anywhere with, strangers for just that reason? This is our point. Just as there are real world lessons that you teach your children, there is a necessity to teach them cyber-world lessons. ” (Hook, 2000).
To put this quite simply, are you sure that your child is being watched very closely when accessing the Internet at school? It sure would be hard for one teacher to keep a close eye on each individual student in the classroom when they are all accessing the Internet at the same time. Therefore are you, as a parent or a teacher, really quite sure that a computer is necessary to learn in school? I mean, didn't you, the parent or teacher, learn in school without the computer? I agree that learning the latest technology is a necessity, but I do not agree with using computers for classes like mathematics or reading.
To sum it all up, Computers in the classroom lacks research of it being an advantage in the classroom. Computers in the classroom may not provide the students with the proper education that they need if the software being used is not adequate. Computers may not be, depending on the school, made available to each student. The attention of the students is harder to get when they are on the computer. An inexperienced teacher in the technology area may cause many problems in the classroom, and consume valuable time that could be used to educate. Most schools do not provide an on site technician in case a difficulty may arise. The children's health may be affected by long-term use of the computers, and probably the most frightening one is that these children can be exposed to child predators and unfiltered inappropriate content through the web while they are in school and in their classrooms presumed to be receiving their education.