The use of computers in the modern age has brought a lot of improvement in human lifestyle: accuracy, reliability, quality, and speed. It is not in contention that the world has gone digital and it is now almost impossible to execute tasks in any field without the assistance of a computer-related device. However, in the field of education, the use of computers has been received with a pinch of salt. This is well brought out by two articles entitled ‘The Myth of the Computer in the Classroom’ and ‘Can You Be Educated from a Distance?’ by critics—Gelernter and Braszcz respectively. The writers have raised questions regarding the utility of the computer in teaching and learning and the effect it has on education. This paper shall look further into these articles.
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Whereas Gelernter has restricted himself to the utility of the computer within the classroom setting, Braszcz has gone beyond the normal physical classroom set up and discussed the concept of distance learning and its efficacy in delivering the so-called education. Gelernter confines his arguments to the teacher-student relationship and questions the application of the computer as a replacement to this traditional and universally accepted method of education. Braszcz, on the other hand, chooses to look at the whole picture. His arguments encompass much more than the teacher-student relationship: what constitutes education, the quality of education, and commitment to learning.
The main point of convergence in these two articles is the extent to which computers can be used as a tool for education. Both writers disagree with the contention that modern technology can assume the role of a teacher and fulfill the task of delivering education to the students. The writers concede that whereas computers do help to run the basic administrative modalities of teaching, the same should have a limit as to the extent they can be deployed in the education system.
A quick reading of the title of the article by Gelernter indicates his sentiments as far as the use of computers is concerned. According to him, the use of the computer to replace teaching methodology in the classroom does more harm than good. He contends that a simple machine cannot purport to usurp—and indeed—fulfill the role that a real teacher does.
About the article of the paper, Gelernter states that the use of computers to teach students is a myth. The students are—in an actual sense—not getting educated but the whole process increases their rate of illiteracy. He gives the example of the hypermedia and the multimedia that allow the student to view a book online or a scanned version of the same. In this manner, the computer can read out the texts to the student through its sound-enabled system.
Gelernter argues that this is detrimental to the general education and welfare of the student because they miss out on the things that seem so small yet are in the real sense quite significant. For instance, scrolling down through selected texts of the media to quickly get an answer renders the student ignorant of the main storyline of the book. Furthermore, having the computer read out the book and highlight the words through the reading denies the student an opportunity to improve his or her speech and reading skills. This automatically increases the level of illiteracy. Of what use is the computer if it cannot impart basic education to the student?
The argument of Barszcz is based on internet-based instruction, also known as distance learning. The upshot of his arguments is in tandem with that of Gelernter—that if the quality of education has to be maintained, then computers cannot replace the role of the traditional classroom setting.
as little as 3 hours
Barszcz concedes that distance learning does have its advantages: flexibility, convenience, and easy access to class material. He is, however, quick to note that with the very good deal comes a very high price to pay. He argues that very little effort is put into the system; after all, a student only needs a computer connected to the internet and he is good to go with the lessons. Barszcz has argued that the reduced effort directly impacts the commitment and rarely will students attend the virtual classes as and when required. He quotes figures of surveys conducted by Cornell University that indicate that the rate of attrition in long-distance learning is higher than the traditional classes by 15 percent. The low attendance reduces the quality of education as far as that particular class is concerned.
Barszcz also questions the argument that distance learning is an advance in the effectiveness of education. He frowns upon this reasoning by Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey—that makes it compulsory for students to take at least one distance learning course. The rationale for this is to expose the students to a wide network of scholars globally and to enhance the students’ research skills in digital technology. Barszcz wonders if that is even necessary.
The most outstanding feature of Barszcz’s article is the fact that he questions the exact role of education, especially as provided for in distance learning. He reminds his readers that the etymology of education was to bring out intellect and character from a person that later on helped to build his character. He states that education is the process of bringing the best out of an individual and no just drilling information into him. To this extent, Barszcz contends that computers have failed to discharge the proper role of education.
The writings of Gelernter and Barszcz speak volumes about the role of computers in education. Both writings propound the idea that the use of computers in the education sector has failed to attain even the minimum goals of education—literacy.
Both Gelernter and Barszcz make recommendations on the way forward. The writers appreciate the role of computers in the education sector but caution the extent to which the same can be comfortably applied within the system of learning.
Gelernter’s writing deals with the normal operations of the computer to carry out various tasks such as administrative duties and planning lessons. To this extent, Gelernter says that it is okay to deploy computers in the daily running of the institution. However, the makers of the software need to apply their minds to capture the imaginations of their audience in such a way that the resultant programs offer substantial learning material as opposed to the direct delivery of the same. Alternatively, the machines can be used during recess as tools of relaxation so that the students can see that the computer really cannot usurp the role of a real teacher. Gelernter concludes that it is only in this manner that students shall learn to appreciate the nature of true education.
Barszcz simply wishes for distance learning to be abolished.
Barszcz, James. n.d. Can you be educated from a distance? n.d. Web.
Gelernter, David. Unplugged: The Myth of Computers in the Classroom. The McGraw-Hill Reader Issues Across the Disciplines. 9th ed. 2006. New York: Print.