The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Computers in the classroom

I'm actually very dubious about computers in the classroom, and it's not because of any Luddism I might have (heck, I have trouble getting rid of computers). I'm dubious for multiple reasons, one for the over-reliance on technology aspect. And two, I think it's a huge waste of money.

Years ago, maybe ten or so, I was invited to a middle school in Palm Beach County (forgotten which one it's been so long) to give a talk about the Internet. So one week day I arrive at the middle school and get a tour of their computer lab.

Oh.

My.

God.

A huge room, with about 20 or so high end computers (wouldn't surprise me it was Apple Macintoshes—Apple was always big in the educational system) all networked together in this gorgeous lab. Large windows. No visible wires (all wiring ran in tasteful pipes running up from each desk).

It basically exceeded any computer lab in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at FAU.

And the first thing that ran through my mind was, how much money was wasted on this lab?

Twenty computers. Assume two students buddy up at each computer. Fourty students per class. At six classes per day (the number I had in middle school) that's 240 students that have access to these computers. Out of a school that probaby had close to 2,000 students (it was a huge two story middle school—way larger than the one I attended). That's 12% of the student population had access to this beautiful computer lab.

And I have no idea what they actually taught on the computers (when I attended high school, it was BASIC and Pascal programming, but I doubt that's done anymore). I thought that the money spent on the computer lab could have gone to better use. More teachers. Better text books.

Anything but expensive, fragile computers that the teachers probably couldn't operate.

(Oh, and the students I talked to about the Internet? Totally uninterested in anything I said. Sigh.)

(Oh, and computers in the classroom? Highly distracting. Couple that with networked computers in the classroom, woo boy—just ask my Computer Graphics teacher … on second thought … don't.)

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