The book that I chose to review is the High-Tech Heretic by Clifford Stoll. The goal of the book was to draw attention to some of the contradictory issues of some of the education reform and solutions being proposed and the slippery slope that is computer technology. The book was an easy read. It was witty and full of sarcasm. It pokes fun at the nonsensical political ideas floating around masquerading as a better education regime. It opened my eye to some of the pit falls of relying on computers to a great degree. I did not really think about some of the skills that might be lost to this generation of students that are being brought up in this computer age. Skills such as literacy, critical thinking, how to do basic arithmetic, which was discussed in the chapter calculating against calculators, and the deeper understanding of concepts and natural systems that you can get through experience. Everyone talks about making learning fun but fail to see that some things are learned from drills and homework practice. It is not preachy but just shows the holes in some of the arguments supporting computers in classroom from pre-school to high school.
On the flip side to this book, it talks about finding a balance between computers and education but does not offer any solution to the dilemma. It would have been nice to get some insight on how to balance the presence and use of computers in the classroom. For example, that per school and kindergarten kids won’t appreciate the value of computer when they most prefer painting with their hands, or that doing a science project using a computer without any originality or creativity in the project is stifling to innovation. Some clue as to how this balance can occur would go a long way with the protest against having computers in the classroom.
For me personally, I will be more circumspect in how my students present their work. I am a scientist and will be teaching biology and chemistry, and I did not learn my craft from just computer or playing with simulations on a computer. I had to do the actual work, see it with my eyes, feel it, and breathe it. I want that for my students as well. I do not want just knowledge but knowing and understanding. I want them to be critical thinkers always thinking about what is next, how to do better. I want them to be adaptable. Science is adaptable and requires an agile mind or it will go stagnant. I agree with some of the argument within this book. Such as literacy is on the decline, basic arithmetic and times table are not being encourage due to over use of a calculator. It sends a bad message of getting things right here and now and it can translate into all aspect of life. I would limit the use of computer in my class to only doing papers or research a topic. I would want my students to show their thought process, how they came to the answer not just regurgitate what they were told. Computers are great for data collection but it’s all in proper use and not for short cuts or easy answers. Over all it was a good read and I would recommend it to my fellows as an eye opener to second guess how we assign work and choose our assessments with these failings in mind.