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The Child and the Machine: How Computers Put Our Children's Education at Risk [Paperback]

Alison Armstrong , Charles Casement
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 2000
How Computers Put Our Children's Education at Risk
In Los Angeles, the Kittridge Street Elementary School eliminated its music program to hire a technology coordinator. A Virginia school turned its art room into a computer laboratory. In the United States, a record $6.5 billion was spent on educational technology for the 1998-99 school year, while funding for music, arts, and other specialty areas continues to shrink. Stubbornly, nearly every measure of our children's educational performance refuses to rise. Drawing from hundreds of school visits, studies, and expert interviews, The Child and the Machine paints a compelling picture of how our uncritical rush to use computers in schools has led to one of the most expensive and least helpful revolutions in the history of American education.

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The number of computers in schools more than doubled during the 1990s, while government and corporate initiatives to wire schools for Net access has been aggressive. But how are computers affecting the way children experience school? The Child and the Machine offers one possible answer to that question. Authors Alison Armstrong and Charles Casement argue that "computers put our children's education at risk" by diverting funds from art, music, and other programs. What Armstrong lacks in scholarly or professional accreditation she makes up for in tenacity. A concerned mom's polemic, The Child and the Machine meets Armstrong's laudable goal of providing a framework for a "long overdue public discussion" about computers in elementary schools. Chapters about keyboarding, reading on-screen, using word-processor programs, and playing computer games are spiked with useful tidbits of educational theory. The importance of physical stimulation in children's learning is uppermost for Armstrong. Despite the computer's much-vaunted capacity to retrieve pages of information about ladybugs, for example, it is an inadequate substitute for holding the real thing in the palm of your hand. What's missing from Armstrong's account is sufficient attention to the role of parenting. Computers may indeed be a bland experiential diet for hungry young minds, but Armstrong's worry that computers are ruining children's appetite for other kinds of activity is unsupported. Still, The Child and the Machine views with healthy skepticism the benefits of the influx of computers in the elementary school classroom and will sharpen one's thinking on this vital subject. --Kathi Inman Berens --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Armstrong and Casement thoughtfully consider the use of computers to teach children. They explore theories of how children learn and their application to the hottest trend in education, computer literacy. The pressures of accountability and burgeoning technology drive the interest in computerizing schools, but Armstrong and Casement see computers as being in danger of becoming, like TV, a threat to educational development. They cite research critical of computer learning, which maintains that computers deprive children of sensory experience and may actually hurt academic performance. They note that most studies on how computers affect learning are inconclusive. The amount of benefit that students derive from computers depends on their state of developmental readiness and the adequacy of their teachers' training. Armstrong and Casement examine integrated learning systems, schools with heavy reliance on computer learning, and software packages for children as young as eight months, but their bottom line is that money spent on computers would be better spent on more teachers to reduce the student-teacher ratio. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for anyone who cares about kids Nov. 2 2001
Format:Paperback
It is all too easy for those of us with serious concerns about the every-growing power of computers in our children's lives to be shouted down with unreasining cries of 'Luddite!'. Fortunately this book has now come along to strike back on our behalf. It is well-researched, well-argued, and written in simple, clear English, and the concerns raised by the authors about computer overuse mirror what I have witnessed happening in the classroom over the last decade. It's comforting to know that I'm not just imagining it. I use and enjoy computers, both at home and in my work as a teacher, but they are only one tool among many. For me, perhaps the most interesting and important chapter was that on the role of the arts in education, and how this vital component was being squeezed of funding in order to provide more (in my view and the view of the authors, unnecessary) technology. Occasionally the authors go overboard in their criticisms of computer use, particularly in the chapter on knowledge, but they're definitely going in the right direction and should be congratulated for opening up a reasoned dialogue on this question, which is surely one of the seminal issues of our times. Please read it.
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Format:Paperback
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We can presume this book's intended audience is the legion of teachers and education bureaucrats who cringe every time they hear the phrase "computers in the classroom".
Their biggest dilemma and their most justifiable concern are the expense of the hardware and the short-life of your typical PC. Educational dollars are finite and mistakes can be expensive. The big bonus though, is that as computers have become more powerful, they are at the same rate becoming cheaper.
Alison Armstrong and Charles Casement in their book make a fundamental mistake in their approach to the impact of computers on children's education. They focus predominantly on the hardware and human interface issue. Surely the power and impact of IT is not all about the box that sit on our desks but instead it is the world of knowledge and the creative tools that brings value, pleasure and rewards to all of us.
Since this book must have been written for an audience of educators, academics and "concerned parents", it sensibly provides us with a comprehensive set of footnotes and bibliography. Unfortunately, the index is useless. I thought I'd check out references to Yahoo! There are two, the second being on page 200. Nowhere is Yahoo mentioned on that page. Similarly references to Nicholas Negroponte. We found a couple of references to his "Being Digital" when reading the book, but the writers casually dismiss his ideas in a few lines . Whoever indexed their book should polish up their search tools since the index often leads us nowhere.
When you consider Yahoo searches are damned by the authors, and considered to be such a difficult and confusing task for a child, imagine how a serious reader of their book feels when references to Yahoo in their own index lead you astray.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Computers harm kids June 27 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Library Binding|Verified Purchase
This is a timely appraisal of the role of computers in childhood education.The authors question the hype surrounding the use of computers by young children.Parents are pressured to put their children on the computer bandwagon with fears that they will be "left behind".(It's perfectly sane to be left behind collective delusion.)The authors are not anti-computer, but they put forward cogent reasons why young children are harmed by computers.A central point is that computers offer very limited experiences.They offer little more than rote learning and visual stimulation of dubious value.The young child needs a variety of experiences that the computer just cannot give, such as interaction with other people and with living, stimulating environments.Computers deny the development of the imagination, language skills, and experiences of relating.Child development is thus diminished by the computer.The authors also mention physical harm caused by computers, such as RSI, poor posture, back strain, "Sega thumb," eye fatigue and headaches.Young children are more prone to these problems.This is a carefully researched book which wants to see the real needs of children met.It is a much needed antidote to current computer hype.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Critique of Computers in Education Dec 21 2000
By "rrr338" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Library Binding
This is not another Luddite style, hysterically pitched, attack on computers. Armstrong and Casement present a well-reasoned and well-researched assessment of the shortcomings of computer eduction for children. They point out many attributes of software design and computer network systems that work to the disadvantage of some children in certain cases, most children in others. For instance, the very nature of the Internet, with all of its built-in "hyerlink" capability, will give only the most intensely focused pupils a fair shot at genuine learning. The rest? Prone to the distraction and ease of "point and click" motions, they are likely to follow tangential digressions and drift more and more away from the topic at hand. They wil also encounter a high number of non-educational messages, intending to sell and promote consumption of products. The majority of "educational" software is described as heavily influenced by the video and computer game design mentality. Pupils quickly learn how to master the "object" of the "game" and score points, but often with only superficial understanding of concepts. Most persuasive, however, may be the authors' argument that learning about the world must involve going out and experiencing it in numerous ways. Sitting in front of a monitor is a very narrowly defined kind of "experience." All elementary teachers, and indeed all parents of young children, should give this book a very open-minded examination. Those whose kids read books, attend concerts, ask questions of other people, and get involved in conversations, will feel they are on the right track after following the authors' arguments.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Out of date and petty-- There are so many better arguements to be made! June 5 2009
By Christina Tracy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book makes a few good points-- it isn't a good idea to limit children's learning to digital means and most computer equipment used by children is designed for adults which can be difficult at best.

However, the author provides the most petty evidence for these claims. Yes, carpal tunnel is a danger, but not for the school children in the book who use share a few computers for a few hours per week. More dangerous is the way neural pathways are formed to accommodate digital media rather than concrete items.

This book is also out of date as far as the Information Age progresses. It doesn't take into account that many children have a unsupervised computer access, etc.

Not worth the money.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Computers harm kids June 27 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Library Binding|Verified Purchase
This is a timely appraisal of the role of computers in childhood education.The authors question the hype surrounding the use of computers by young children.Parents are pressured to put their children on the computer bandwagon with fears that they will be "left behind".(It's perfectly sane to be left behind collective delusion.)The authors are not anti-computer, but they put forward cogent reasons why young children are harmed by computers.A central point is that computers offer very limited experiences.They offer little more than rote learning and visual stimulation of dubious value.The young child needs a variety of experiences that the computer just cannot give, such as interaction with other people and with living, stimulating environments.Computers deny the development of the imagination, language skills, and experiences of relating.Child development is thus diminished by the computer.The authors also mention physical harm caused by computers, such as RSI, poor posture, back strain, "Sega thumb," eye fatigue and headaches.Young children are more prone to these problems.This is a carefully researched book which wants to see the real needs of children met.It is a much needed antidote to current computer hype.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for anyone who cares about kids Nov. 2 2001
By patricia kleeb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It is all too easy for those of us with serious concerns about the every-growing power of computers in our children's lives to be shouted down with unreasining cries of 'Luddite!'. Fortunately this book has now come along to strike back on our behalf. It is well-researched, well-argued, and written in simple, clear English, and the concerns raised by the authors about computer overuse mirror what I have witnessed happening in the classroom over the last decade. It's comforting to know that I'm not just imagining it. I use and enjoy computers, both at home and in my work as a teacher, but they are only one tool among many. For me, perhaps the most interesting and important chapter was that on the role of the arts in education, and how this vital component was being squeezed of funding in order to provide more (in my view and the view of the authors, unnecessary) technology. Occasionally the authors go overboard in their criticisms of computer use, particularly in the chapter on knowledge, but they're definitely going in the right direction and should be congratulated for opening up a reasoned dialogue on this question, which is surely one of the seminal issues of our times. Please read it.
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