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EduFUD: Computers, software can harm emotional, social development

As the FUD snowballs. The Globe gets Rimmed again...

The edutocracy (and the Boston Globe :-)) finally notices that all that
artillery parked at the foot of their ivory tower actually *does* blow
great big rocks into tiny little bits...

In another context, Carl Ellison has this great story about how, when
firearms were invented, peasants could finally kill knights in armor from a
comfortable distance. When the church reminded them that killing knights
was a sin, peasants started killing knights on weekdays and confessing
those sins in church on Sunday.

Frankly, I've learned more on the net in the last few years than I ever
would have in an equivalent time in school. I credit it with a
several-point increase in my IQ, even.

Woops. We don't count IQ anymore, now do we?... :-).

I guess I know too many stone geniuses who've had computers since they were
children -- most of the people on this list were raised that way, I would
bet -- to take this crap too seriously, reduced attention "spans" or not.

By the way, "span" is the wrong word for ADD. I was hardly raised on TV,
much less computers, (I had my face in science fiction books throughout
most of my childhood), and I've been known to focus on something
"inappropriately" for hours.

While I certainly have varying degrees of control of my attention, but I
just don't see that a "handicap" anymore. My attention is event-driven,
rather than processed in neat organized batches, and I've learned to like
it that way, even if it did give me trouble when I was chained in the
aforementioned tower's dungeon for most of my formative years.

Besides, even if computers cause people to have event-driven attention
rather than in nice neat industrial batches, that's probably a Good
Thing(tm). Consider it evolution in action.

Farmers and mechanics may need "control" of their attention, but in an
information "hunter" like myself, most of the people who do anything useful
on the net, it's a selective disadvantage.

Bob Hettinga

--- begin forwarded text

From: Somebody
To: "'[email protected]'" <[email protected]>
Subject: FW: Computers, software can harm emotional, social development
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 13:28:41 -0400
X-Priority: 3
Status: U

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Somebody else
> Sent:	Thursday, October 01, 1998 8:41 AM
> To:	a whole buncha education "professionals"...
> Subject:	Computers, software can harm emotional, social
> development
> Computers, software can harm emotional, social development
>               By Barbara F. Meltz, Globe Staff, 10/01/98
>               Short attention span. Needs instant gratification. Can't
> focus. Doesn't apply
>               himself.
>               If this is what you're hearing from your child's first-
> or second-grade teacher,
>               before you panic and think learning disabilities or
> attention deficit disorder,
>               consider something external: your family computer.
>               Educators have long intuited that early exposure to
> computers doesn't give
>               children an educational edge. Now researchers have data
> to show it can
>               actually be harmful, potentially undercutting brain
> development, interfering
>               with the way a child learns, intruding on social and
> emotional development,
>               and putting health at risk. ''There is no reason to give
> a computer to a child
>               under 7,'' says educational psychologist Jane M. Healy.
> If she had her way,
>               she'd throw computers out of preschool and early
> elementary classrooms
>               and keep kids off them at home. Her
> sure-to-be-controversial new book,
>               ''Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our
> Children's Minds, for
>               Better and Worse'' (Simon & Schuster), is eye-opening
> reading.
>               Many researchers agree with her. ''For children under 7
> or 8 who have not
>               reached the age of abstract reasoning, computer exposure
> changes the way
>               they absorb material. Some of us think this is quite
> frightening,'' says
>               educational policy analyst Ed Miller of Cambridge.
>               Technology researcher Douglas Sloan, a professor at
> Teachers College at
>               Columbia University, says, ''It's something of a scandal
> that it's taken us so
>               long to figure this out.''
>               Some of the troubling trends Healy identifies:
>                 Kindergartners who don't want to draw with markers and
> crayons
>               because ''it isn't as pretty as my computer drawings.''
>                 First-graders who are so used to a computer game's
> reward for doing
>               something easy, they don't want to try anything hard.
>                 Kindergartners who are nonverbal and don't know how to
> play with
>               peers because of too much time alone at the computer.
>                 First-graders who are unable to understand what they
> read because they
>               lack a rudimentary language base they typically get from
> peer and adult
>               interaction.
>               ''In putting little kids at the computer, you take them
> away from peer play,''
>               says Sloan. ''That compromises social development and
> imagination.'' Not
>               only that, but a child is being provided with someone
> else's visual images at
>               precisely the time when he needs to be developing his
> own image-making
>               capacities. ''That's what leads to intellectual growth
> later,'' Sloan says. The
>               same thing is true with too much TV time, but studies
> show parents monitor
>               TV more. ''We've come to ascribe almost magical
> educational qualities to
>               the computer,'' he says. He researches how to protect
> children from
>               computer misuse.
>               Problems with computer exposure aren't limited to early
> childhood. Bill
>               Schechter, a history teacher at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional
> High School, says
>               he knows the Internet has the capacity to be a
> tremendous tool for research,
>               but so far he hasn't seen how.
>               ''I'm getting to the point where I'm not going to accept
> Internet research,'' he
>               says. ''The technology for cheating far outdistances a
> teacher's ability to
>               recognize it. All I'm seeing is lazy Internet use, where
> kids use it as an excuse
>               not to open a book, not to check sources, not to go to
> the library.''
>               Software researcher Howard Budin says one of the
> problems is the vastness
>               of the Internet. Last year, his son's sixth-grade
> research project required two
>               Internet sources. ''When he did a search for `panda,' he
> turned up 54,000
>               entries! If I hadn't been there with him, he would have
> been totally
>               frustrated,'' he says. Most of the entries were for
> schools with pandas for
>               mascots, but it took even an experienced navigator like
> Budin a half-hour to
>               get to appropriate sites.
>               Budin, who is director of the Center for Technology and
> School Change at
>               Columbia, says exposure to the Internet should start in
> third or fourth grade,
>               not before. ''Introduce it as a source of information,
> not entertainment,'' he
>               says.
>               Even so, it can lead to the kind of problems teachers
> like Schechter see.
>               ''Who's teaching these kids how to use it and where the
> information comes
>               from and what it means?'' asks Sloan.
>               He says that in the rush to wire classrooms, these
> critical questions are
>               largely ignored. ''Data itself is not knowledge,'' says
> Sloan. ''It's only
>               knowledge when you connect it thoughtfully and
> critically to curriculum.''
>               In many schools, the problem is lack of human
> infrastructure, says
>               technology researcher Vicki O'Day, of the Xerox Palo
> Alto Research
>               Center. She speaks admiringly of a new principal at an
> elementary school in
>               California who had the courage to shut down the computer
> lab for two years
>               until she had technical support and curricula-links.
>               She says a school needs to fund two positions, a
> technology coordinator
>               who keeps equipment up and running and is not a teacher,
> and a curriculum
>               development person who is a teacher but not in the
> classroom. ''You can't
>               expect a classroom teacher to be knowledgeable about
> software and the
>               Internet in addition to what she already does,'' O'Day
> says.
>               She also tells schools to put computers in the
> classroom, not in a computer
>               lab; they're more likely to be integrated into the
> curriculum and to be seen as
>               one more tool, along with a dictionary and pencil
> sharpener. ''We used to
>               think kids should do computer just for the sake of doing
> computer,'' says
>               O'Day. ''Uh-uh. It should always be used for a
> purpose.''
>               For parents, this means restricting the computer to
> what's useful and
>               forgetting about what's entertaining.
>               Healy, who's a purist about this, would limit a young
> child's access to e-mail
>               to write to grandpa, or to sitting on your lap while you
> download pictures of
>               her favorite animal or truck.
>               Steve Bennett, who reviews software and is author of
> ''The Plugged-in
>               Parent'' (Times Books), tells parents to think of
> themselves as ''parentware.''
>               He defines that as an involved parent. ''It's just as
> important as software,'' he
>               says.
>               In his home, the computer is one resource among many and
> it's not used as a
>               babysitter or as entertainment. He enforces limits on
> screen time - his kids, 8
>               and 11, can have two half-hour sessions a day, after
> homework, although he
>               says they hardly ever use it - and restrictions on
> software: no ''drill and grill''
>               games, shoot'em-ups, or Internet surfing. Budin has
> similiar restrictions for
>               his children; his sixth-grade son spends his computer
> time on spread sheets,
>               graphic programs, and 3-D renderings.
>               In addition to setting limits on software, Sloan says,
> parents should avoid
>               what he calls an adulatory attitude toward the computer.
> If your child is
>               young and you're just starting out, ''Look at it as an
> appliance,'' he says.
>               And if you already have a 4- or 6- or 9-year-old who's
> hooked on
>               computer games?
>               It's never too late to talk about family values, even to
> say you've made a
>               mistake about allowing certain games. ''The ultimate
> challenge and most
>               successful counter,'' says Sloan, ''is to provide such a
> rich environment in
>               your home that the games seem dull compared to whatever
> else is going on.''
>               AFTERTHOUGHT - Recommended reading for 3- to
> 7-year-olds: ''How
>               to Take Your Grandmother to the Museum'' (Workman
> Publishing), by Lois
>               Wyse and her granddaughter, Molly Rose Goldman.
>               Child Caring appears every Thursday in At Home. Barbara
> F. Meltz
>               welcomes letters and comments and can be reached via
> e-mail at
>               [email protected]
> hmm!
> 	This story ran on page F01 of the Boston Globe on 10/01/98.
>               (c) Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.

--- end forwarded text

Robert A. Hettinga <mailto: [email protected]>
Philodox Financial Technology Evangelism <http://www.philodox.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'