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Readers laud PCs in schools

Computers and the Net are good tools for teaching the basics, readers wrote in the latest NEWS.COM poll.

Teaching students to read, write, and reason can only be helped by the use of computers, not hindered, readers indicated in the latest NEWS.COM poll.

Corporations and politicians have invested billions of dollars in technology for America's classrooms, Poll results but a NEWS.COM special report questioned the value of the digital schoolhouse when many teachers lack proper training and are hurting for technical support.

Despite struggles public schools are facing in their journey to integrate computers into lesson plans, 78.6 percent of readers say the machines are an effective alternative tool for teaching subjects such as math and reading.

"Computers are a vital part of today's economy and workforce. Any job with significant advancement potential these days requires computer familiarity at the very least," one wrote.

Among those who responded to an informal survey conducted over the Wired schools: It takes a village last few days, most agreed that computers and the Net can be important components of education if teachers are trained to use them properly. However, 21.4 percent felt that computers were not a replacement for books when teaching the basics, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

"Subjects such as calculus and physics would benefit from computers and Internet connections in the classroom. I don't believe every classroom should be 'wired,' though; it would be pointless to have a computer in my English class," said Jason Gerard of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida.

Computers are just as important as books
"[Computers] provide drills and variety of experience, PCs are a very useful adjunct to classroom teaching. They can offer (subject to suitable software and appropriately trained teachers) an element of self-instruction (i.e., learner paced and directed) which will open up new horizons for some kids who would otherwise remain unmoved by the specific examples and approaches on offer in their classroom."
--Bob McLatchie

"The PC should not be used as an alternative to teaching math and reading, but as a tool to stimulate and motivate students to recognize the need to learn communication and mathematics skills in order to be a dynamic part of the exciting world around them that they would never have experienced without computer access."

"Obviously, what we have been doing for the past 500 years isn't working for all kids. Given a compelling reason to read, write and do math, kids will learn. Those who know say kids learn best when they are actively engaged in meaningful learning experiences. That's how we continue to learn as adults. It's not good enough just to say, 'Well, it worked for me' or 'I didn't have computers when I was in school.' We also once didn't have cars...Would we still make everyone walk now because we had to 50 years ago? Strange mentality."
--Shelly Peretz

Computers are the great equalizer
"Computers have the ability to reach each and every student on a personal level. Programs can be tailored to reach students effectively by paying attention to their learning style and speed, something that no teacher today has the resources to do.

"Not only would this be an advantage, but it would also give the country some measure of control over what the students learn...not in terms of forcing all students to learn the same things (read: Big Brother here), but in establishing a set of requirements for specifying when a student has completed a grade level.

"In doing so, computers would eliminate illiteracy, educate the public on science, and teach tolerance by educating students about other cultures. Students would learn much quicker, getting individualized attention, and would not be bored or lost. This would also lead to a lower level of acting out to relieve boredom, or to make students feel more worthwhile...and would also lead to a higher level of achievement per student."
--Dave Doyle

"As a member of the Martin County Board of Education, industry has told me that they are not satisfied with the computer literacy of their candidates for employment. Many of the machines that are used in low-paying textile plants in North Carolina are controlled by computer interfaces. These businesses want their new hires to be comfortable with the controls of their machinery. It is unfortunate that these jobs are so low paying, but every one has to start somewhere for their career."
--Van Robert Heath

Some teachers resist use of computers
"The problem in our schools is that teachers are not teaching. Computers can be effective but not within the same education system we have now. There is no incentive for a person to achieve when they are not rewarded for extra effort and superior results. The pay is the same. In education, there is a snowball effect. It only takes a few poor teachers to make the task frustrating and almost impossible for those that are doing the job well. In essence, computers give teachers another reason for not doing their job."
--Dennis E. Randall

"Computers can do as good a job at teaching as can teachers. But teachers get paid so they will fight this with everything they have."

It takes more than Net connections
"Our local schools are wired to the Internet and there are several computers in each classroom. However, there are still technical things that the budget people don't understand. They have only one 28.8 line going into each school. That means that even though all the school computers are nicely tied into the town LAN that nobody can do anything on the Internet with the effective baud rate after each computer takes its piece of maybe 1900 baud. And it seems even slower most of the time. All the right tools can't build a house without nails."

Teacher training, support a must
"I wish every principal and Board of Education could understand the concept. Computers in the classroom are worthless if teachers are clueless. Teacher training should be mandatory as part of the school day."

"In this day and age the computer is not a shortcut or a rejection of traditional learning methods--it's just another tool for a new age. From the day when slates were used as books, computers is the next progression. For computers to work effectively, they have to contain the right solutions. Otherwise it will a distraction instead of the learning tool that it's meant to be."
--George Hannah

"It is not whether computers should replace teachers, but rather how to teach more effectively when you have tools such as computers (and handheld graphing calculators, and television, etc.) to assist with the task. Most of the work of schooling gets done with teachers as mediators (making assignments, helping to decide on appropriate mediation, etc.), but yet we don't provide teachers with the tools that other professionals get. When teachers have computers for their own personal and professional productivity--just as we do--then they can see how to use it more effectively in their classes. And access is a significant issue."
--Saul Rockman

Infotainment or learning tool?
"I certainly don't see any inherent problem with using PCs to teach subjects such as math and reading. My basic concerns about the PC are bound up in the attitudes and expectations that many of us bring to our time at the keyboard. Increasingly, and especially in contexts that involve children, PCs are a place where we tend to lack seriousness: we turn to PCs in search of fun, entertainment, and excitement. We do not spend nearly enough time cultivating discipline, rigor, and patience when we are working with PCs. My problem is not with fun, entertainment, and excitement in learning. My problem is with *mere* fun, *mere* entertainment, and *mere* excitement. We should demand more than this from education because education, if we permit it, will demand more from us."
--Lane Hall-Witt