The aim of this paper is to prove that the extensive implementation of computers in pre-high school education is having a detrimental effect on the development of children. To clarify my aim the following definitions are offered. Computer is defined as “An automatic electronic device that rapidly performs complex mathematical and logical operations using information and instructions it receives, processes and stores (Scribner, 1986:206).
” Pre-high school education is defined as any formal learning that is “attended before high school education, usually comprising grades one through eight (Scribner, 1986:456). ” Development is defined as “the changes over time in structure, thought, or behaviour of a person as a result of both biological and environmental influences (Craig, Kermis and Digdon, 2001:528). ” The definition of children is “developmental stages of boys or girls from birth until adolescence, or approximately 15 years of age (Craig, Kermis and Digdon, 2001:49]).
” Having defined the main concepts of the aim, the supporting arguments for the aim will be presented next. The first argument I present to support my aim is that computer technology is ecological. Secondly, I argue that a computer is a tool, and to be effective it is necessary children understand what it is and how it works. Thirdly, I argue that computers work with an extremely restricted class of children’s thoughts. The fourth argument presented to support my aim is, that computers are used in education in a way that is detrimental to children’s development.
Finally, and most importantly, I argue that holistic development in children is not compatible with computer use. To begin, the first argument advanced here is that all technologies are ecological (Postman, 1988:147). That is, their introduction sends ripples of change throughout the entire social system and through it, the individuals that comprise the system. Many of these changes are indirect. Usually, there are undesirable, eventually difficult to detect side effects.
For example, the automobile added mobility to society, which was widely perceived as beneficial. It took some time before the problem of air pollution was recognized as a direct side effect of this increased mobility. It took even longer to see that the automobile also contributed greatly to the destruction of the inner city by fostering suburban sprawl and expressways that allowed wealthier workers to turn their backs on inner-city residential concerns. Similar collateral effects accompany every new technology that is adopted by society (Winner, 1993).
This problem can be ameliorated by knowledge of the character of technologies and recognition of the need to look beyond their direct benefits. “This can only be successful if the basic operation of those technologies is understood (Winner, 1993:12). ” The normal response of children, when confronted with something that is not understood is to investigate the object until the child can associate the sensory perception to a concept that relates to his/her ideas with the observed world (Bronfenbrenner, 1995).
Machines are becoming more and more complex and inscrutable. Facing an apparent impossibility of understanding of how they work the child’s response has been not greater curiosity but apathy (Craig, Kermis and Digdon, 2001:421). In addition to the preceding argument, I argue that a computer is a tool; it is advanced that for a tool to be effective it is necessary for children to understand what it is and how it works. Integrated circuits are impossible to internally examine, this broad scale opacity of our common tools presents society with a serious challenge.
To accept the renunciation of the natural drive to understand how things work means accepting the diminishment of this essential human characteristic. This may have “negative influences on any areas that require curiosity and investigation, not only in relation to machines but also in personal and social relations (Craig, Kermis and Digdon, 2001:528). ” Computers have penetrated into every human activity because they replace or simulate a certain part of one’s thinking.
“It is necessary to teach what they are, how they may be used in general applications, how they may be well or badly employed and what beneficial and undesirable effects they can have on the individual and society (Monke and Setzer, 2000:14). ” These influences can only be understood if one has some knowledge of the computer’s internal structure, from the hardware and the logical points of view. This is a subject that educational systems should address, so that all young people can obtain a fundamental knowledge of how the computer operates both for us and on us.
Unfortunately, the emphasis in educational systems is on using computers wherever and whenever software products can be employed effectively. Often, even effectiveness is not the primary determinant. Just the use of the computer itself is deemed justification enough for putting children at the keyboard. Before employing the computer we should carefully examine the effects of its use according to the developmental needs of various age groups (Monke and Setzer, 2000).