“One of the most common selling points for computers in schools, even in first and second grades, is to prepare youngsters for tomorrow's increasingly high-tech jobs. Strangely, this may be the computer evangels' greatest hoax. When business leaders talk about what they need from new recruits, they hardly mention computer skills, which they find they can teach employees relatively easily on their own. Employers are most interested in what are sometimes called ‘soft’ skills: a deep knowledge base and the ability to listen and communicate; to think critically and imaginatively; to read, write and figure, and other capabilities that schools are increasingly neglecting.” – San Francisco Chronicle, November 30, 2003
Read the whole article at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/11/30/ING8L39SIP1.DTL.
The article is over three years old, but in classic overdriving-our-headlights fashion, we as communities haven’t caught on yet. Years ago, at an academic party in a university town, a group of computer scientists agreed that banks of computers for public schools didn't make good educational sense; pomoting computers for schools, however, brought grant money to academic departments. Is further comment necessary?
I would be very grateful to anyone who could identify for me a book (title and author’s name forgotten; I think the author was a woman Ph.D. but can’t remember in her field) that I read two to five years back on the subject of reading, writing, thinking and computers. (Googling for this list of terms brings a googleplex of results and is no help whatsoever for anyone without infinite time.) The claim I want to review in the book has to do with reading print on pages vs. reading text on screen. The author cited research to show that while we lump these two activities together as “reading,” our brains are engaged in very dissimilar activities, and that while the first kind of reading strengthens the brain’s ability to follow complex narratives and argument chains, the latter actually erodes that ability. As I recall, this was not a consequence of paragraph vs. bullet style but something basic to do with brain physiology and kinds of light. Perhaps the bullet style even came about as a consequence of decreased ability on the part of screen readers to follow contextualized points of argument.
The other day I assigned my community college students a one-page, 200-word essay. “Can we use bullets?” one of them asked. “You may include them, but don’t use them for the whole essay,” I answered. “I want sentences and paragraphs!” If my blogging style starts showing signs of decaying into unrelated “points” that don’t add up to anything, I hope I’ll be aware enough to notice and call the whole thing off. No doubt one of my friends will be kind enough to let me know?
Meanwhile, to catch up to where I am now with books, I’ll backtrack to remind you that I set aside BEATRIX POTTER: A LIFE IN NATURE to pick up THE RAIN BEFORE IT FALLS, which I loved and finished quickly. Then CRUSADER’S CROSS tempted me, but that lost out (temporarily) to LIBBY: THE ALASKAN DIARIES OF LIBBY BEAMAN, 1879-1880 and Zadie Smith’s ON BEAUTY. LIBBY hooked me until the last page, and then I went back to ON BEAUTY, finishing that book this morning (having taken off some time for David Hume’s TREATISE ON HUMAN NATURE along the way). What can I say of ON BEAUTY? It isn’t a new release—I’m always “behind” on my reading when it comes to new books!—so it’s been sufficiently reviewed and doesn’t need my two cents added. Quite extraordinary. That such a young writer could portray with such depth and sensitivity her older, middle-aged characters is more than impressive: it’s downright frightening. I'll be getting back to BEATRIX POTTER, though, and finishing it long before spring arrives.
Tomorrow I’ll give a detailed activities and contests list for Saturday’s Winter Carnival. Promise!