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Technology and ADD

February 9, 2012

In a Naked Capitalism blog post essay titled “How America made its children crazy” David Goldman celebrates the virtues of Waldorf’s learning-by- experience over our country’s obsession with technology and drugs like Ritalin. The more I reflect on the issue of technology in the classroom, the more convinced I am that it isn’t technology per se that is the problem: it is HOW we use technology. If technology is substituted for a teacher, it is akin to substituting technology for a doctor. I use the internet to get background information on various illnesses, but I rely on the doctor to prescribe the right medicine. The doctor, in turn, uses technology to track my health over time and to learn about visits I make to specialists. Students should use home time to gather information and class time to interact with the teacher and classmates— not the other way around. In fairness to schools, until all homes have broadband it isn’t reasonable to expect students to access information at home… One other factor in terms of assessing the use of technology in the classroom: we are using standardized tests as the basis for determining the effectiveness of technology, which is akin to using pulse rates taken on one’s wrist to determine the overall health of an individual. Technology provides the opportunity for more precision in measuring student performance and yet we insist on using once-a-year assessments that are not linked to the overall evaluation of students as the basis for determining the effectiveness of various educational initiatives.

It’s no secret that universities and public schools covet Chinese students, in large measure because these student’s parents are willing to pay full cost for tuitions. This NYTimes article describes this issue and concludes with an interesting observation: when the Chinese kids get home they don’t necessarily have the skills sought in the Chinese workforce and they don’t necessarily adhere to the value system in place in China.

Should homeschoolers be eligible for varsity sports? The NYTimes provides a balanced article on this question in today’s paper. The most interesting aspect of the story was a report that in Virginia, where homeschooling has exploded over the past decade, there is a homeschool athletics program that involves 30 teams! The home schoolers have become network schools much like the one described in the Mountain Oaks article I published eight years ago.

Nick Kristoff’s editorial in today’s NYTimes opens with this synopsis of Charles Murray’s latest controversial book, Coming Apart: “As a practical matter, we can’t solve educational problems, health care costs, government spending or economic competitiveness so long as a chunk of our population is locked in an underclass. Historically, “underclass” has often been considered to be a euphemism for race, but increasingly it includes elements of the white working class as well.”  Kristoff describes how the loss of work and influx of drugs has transformed his hometown of Yamhill OR and how the poverty that now defines his old hometown has created this vicious cycle. Unlike Murray, who attributes the cycle to liberal values, Kristoff attributes it to joblessness that results from outsourcing of work and the change in our economy.

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