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Computers are Poor Instructors

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

Photo by Dries Augustyn

I am sure you have heard of one-to-one computing. The idea that every student has a computer assigned to him or her during the school day and maybe to bring home for homework. The reasoning behind the need for one-to-one computing is usually for building computer literacy, improving test scores, instruction in digital citizenship, and/or the idea of modern children needing to be connected with digitally.

It seems to me after forty-two years in education and watching the birth of computers entering education from kindergarten through adult that computers are purchased because that is what everyone else is doing.

I have been in seven different public school districts in three states. In not one district could any of the students do more than hunt-and-peck when trying to use a keyboard. Almost all know only the very basic keys to use in maneuvering around their computer.

Computer literacy should encompass correct keyboarding skills with a decent word per minute typing ability, clear understanding and practice with all the functions of the keyboard and maintenance of those skills. Otherwise students are tediously plodding through their assignments.

And I am not picking on public schools only. Charter schools considered some of the best in the Valley (and country) ignore the idea of providing core instruction and practice with computer literacy let alone a mastery of those skills.

So, what do almost all of the schools in the country do with their computers? They are all constantly searching for the next best instructional program. This is not only a present day practice. It has been this way since my time in Mesa and their first computer labs. Mesa Public Schools found after five years of their computer lab investment, test scores had not changed.

And the results of this investment of thousands upon thousands of dollars is the same across the country, little to no change in test scores.

There is no need to provide studies I have found to support me. Instead, the question is, where is the compelling evidence showing the benefits to the student's test scores or even amazing progress in the basic skills of reading, math and writing? There is no compelling news.

With test scores across the country staying stagnate or even dropping, where is the bang for the buck? How is all this investment in technology helping anyone?

Does this mean we shun computers in our education here at Maricopa Christian Academy? Of course not. But we do not continue the poor tradition of computer use and instruction so prevalent in the education culture around us.

We do have a very definite and proven plan to not only make our students computer literate, but also confident learners who build on ever increasing technology skills.

With all of that said, I do need to make clear, computers are not used in any instruction, except maybe third grade science, in the primary grades of 1, 2 and 3. Our focus at Maricopa Christian Academy is for all of our students to make significant academic gains in reading, writing and math through our individualized and for many, accelerated instruction.

The elementary grades (4, 5 and 6) begin with keyboard skills building on correct hand placement and increasing typing speed while maintaining accuracy. Next is a working knowledge of Word and Excel. I use to cover the cost of official certificates earned by my students taking the exams, but over the past twenty-five years, certification opportunities constantly change and I will have to research certification more.

Part of the lab science is built on basic programing using Legos. And though most of my students will be highly skilled in math, they will have computers, not abacuses to support them. :)

That rounds out technology training in elementary grades here at Maricopa Christian Academy except to say, everyone has the opportunity to gain the previously mentioned skills. As with math, reading and written expression, it is all individualized and the opportunity to exceed is there for all.

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