Published March 21, 2020
The following is in response to this previous Letter to the Editor:
Ms Marsau referenced an LTTE I wrote in Mid-February. I want to thank her for her positive portrayal of my letter. Unfortunately, it appears that I was not as effective at communicating as I’d hoped.
First of all, I’ve no objection to children developing computer literacy. My issue is that there are significant questions regarding it’s appropriateness with respect to the developmental needs of children.
The fundamental function of elementary education is socializing children so that they can function in society. Next is to develop fundamental skills necessary to build a knowledge and skill base to contribute to society. Fostering and nurturing a desire to learn and participate in society is built upon the social relationship that children establish with their teachers and each other. These of course are my premises and may not be the same for others.
I believe there are some significant challenges in making the leap to think that any computer mediated education is going to replace in any meaningful manner what takes place in an elementary school.
First the obvious, a substantial part of our society, believe it or not, do not have access to the necessary technology to support this “computer generated curriculum”. This includes, of course, the support systems needed to keep that technology operating in a home environment. If you doubt that this is an issue, all you need to do is visit an elementary school that has computers. IMHO, computers in the hands of children have to be hardened beyond the most stringent military specifications.
A fundamental element of education that your “computer generated curriculum” will be missing is the diagnostic function that is provided by a teacher. Children in general are not motivated to pound their heads against walls. Teachers are essentially the element of the educational process that figures out what walls are surrounding your children and then provides them the tools and incentives to tear them down.
Again, IMHO most children are not developmentally prepared to benefit from computers in the educational process until Middle School and even then to expect that the benefits will out weigh the negatives that come with the technology is still in question.
Computers are tools. Just because you have the ability to use it doesn’t mean they give you the knowledge and skills necessary to use them well or that they will be effective in the educational process.
In conclusion, no, Ms. Marsau, I do not see the value in providing elementary school age children with early computer literacy training, in fact I anticipate that providing “computer generated curriculum” will prove to be a monumental failure. I’d much rather see them in school where they might actually have an environment suitable and proven to provide learning opportunities.
Finally, I am grateful that we are discussing these issues here. I know that I benefit from perspectives held by others. I hope that my tone is respectful and encourages others to share. I know that our passions often lead us to appear intractable and I hope that is not the case here. It is my most profound hope that these discussions will lead to better education for our progeny.
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