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Sensationalism on Computers and Education

The Christian Science Monitor has an article titled Contrarian finding: Computers are a drag on learning, which is a great example of sensationalism both in reporting and studies.

Since there are plenty of reports saying computers help learning no one would read a report that repeated these findings, but if you say the opposite (or “Contrarian” as they put it) then you get attention. Reporting the opposite, exaggerating findings or otherwise presenting them in a more exciting manor is sensationalism. The information may be factual, but it is presented in a way to challenge or entice the reader and usually appears to contradict our presumed beliefs.

Computers are a media delivery system. The same argument presented in this article and study could be made about books or any other media delivery system. Just the presence of the media delivery system does not facilitate or harm learning. That system, if used correctly for learning, will have a positive effect, or if used incorrectly it will have a detrimental effect.

For example if your kids are reading pulp fiction novels, or romance novels, instead of giving attention to their studies. Does this mean books are bad? How about comic books? Not all cave paintings are of historical significance. Some is just graffiti!

The crux of this study is summed up in two paragraphs towards the bottom (of course) of the article:

“In fact, the study says, ‘The mere availability of computers at home seems to distract students from learning.’ Computers seem to serve mainly as devices for playing games.

“Still, there were a few exceptions: Academic performance rose among those who routinely engaged in writing e-mail or running educational software.”

So it would appear that if a computer is used for educational purposes then there is an advantage, but if it is just used for playing games then they are a disadvantage. Don’t know why they needed a study for this!

Bottom line, just like sending your kids to school does not guarantee them an education, giving them a computer can be expected to have the same results.

1 Comment

  1. Jeff

    I read you page and I love it. I actually was in a forum and followed a link to your site! Must be popular. Your last point is right on. Good job! šŸ™‚

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