SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: David Brooks And Whitney Tilson Are Both Wrong

Friday, July 16, 2010

David Brooks And Whitney Tilson Are Both Wrong

Recently in one of his mass emails, Whitney Tilson waxed poetic over a recent column by David Brooks of the New York Times. Whitney blabbered;
2) David Brooks with some CRITICALLY important research and insights on the importance of books – and how access to computers and the Internet actually HARMS the educational development of low-income kids:
If you read Brooks column at no time did he disparage the use of computers in education. What he lamented about was the use of the Internet and the delivering of it high speed. But since Whitney yet again has chosen his own way to see things and disregards the facts I feel I have a civic, as well as a moral, duty to expose his ignorance along with David Brooks. But let's touch on Brooks first. A few things got my knickers in a bind,

Recently, book publishers got some good news. Researchers gave 852 disadvantaged students 12 books (of their own choosing) to take home at the end of the school year. They did this for three successive years. Then the researchers, led by Richard Allington of the University of Tennessee, looked at those students’ test scores. They found that the students who brought the books home had significantly higher reading scores than other students.

OK, where was the control group? At what level were these students at at the beginning of the three year study? Were these books appropriately leveled? Were these books appropriate for each students reading level? Did the students read these books in isolation? Just a myriad of questions that need to be addressed.

This study, along with many others, illustrates the tremendous power of books.

A-duh Sherlock.

Recently, Internet mavens got some bad news. Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd of Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy examined computer use among a half-million 5th through 8th graders in North Carolina. They found that the spread of home computers and high-speed Internet access was associated with significant declines in math and reading scores.

Yeah, really? I mean. really? This should not be a shock. I am sure if you run same study of students who watch more TV than read, or just watch a messload of TV the study will come out the same. What is missing, is what is being done of the Internet. The Internet, computers, technology are just another tool to be used in education. Not a replacement for anything. But an enhancement. Kind of like putting Lowry's in your eggs.

Nicholas Carr’s book, “The Shallows.” Carr argues that the Internet is leading to a short-attention-span culture.

You mean just the Internet is? MTV, most of the crap we see on TV isn't? This is not the fault of the Internet, but of our culture. WE WANT EVERYTHING NOW!!!

The Internet-versus-books debate is conducted on the supposition that the medium is the message.

No, the medium is not the message. The medium delivers the message. Same with books. In fact, let's substitute books for any type of reading materiel. If a student just reads Sports Illustrated is this good? Comic books? I believe it is just as good. But if it done in isolation, it be bad.

Now Whitney, you mentioned computers. Computers are a wonderful tool to be used. Students need higher order thinking skills. The one of the best methods to develop these skills is technology.

Using the Internet to research, is a skill that is needed in the 21st century. Students will also be able to weed out and tell the differences between different types of information. Led correctly students will develop vast skills when it comes to reading, and organizational skills.

There is a graphic organizer, Inspiration, that I truly believe in. Students can glob there information from books, from the Internet, from life and graphically organize it. This builds on their critical thinking skills, or lack of, and will improve their reading. They will feel a sense of accomplishment see completed work, and their thought down in a tangible way.

I have seen computers used as a babysitter in school, I have seen kids just play computer games used endlessly. This is the incorrect method in which to use computers. Also, I have seen non-qualified teachers (not saying they are bad teachers) run computer labs. This is all is not good. Teachers think that if they are using the Internet and Word they have it down pat. They don't.

Want students to read more than 12 books in a summer? Give them an iPad, give them a iPod, or a Palm. There are wonderful programs out there that students can read books on these devices. Better, with some of these programs if a student does not know the word it can be tapped on and the pronunciation and definition are given. Students will read non-stop on these. They do the Wii or Xbox non-stop. Students eat this electronic stuff up. Want to expand their world? Distance learning is so easy now. A class can team up with a class in Europe and each can learn together and about one another. Students can edit and record their own movies, photos, create web pages.

Computers should be integrated with the curriculum. But want to know the most difficult part of doing this? When money is cut, what is one of the first things they cut? The computer teacher is deemed expendable. So are the computers.

But for all this there is a need for money. Show us the money. A lab in NYC will cost somewhere between $50K-$60K. Why can't the hedge fund managers come in a each sponsor a few schools and get computers? It won't happen because it doesn't look as pretty as giving all that money to charter schools.

Shame on you all. Why should our students be in the 20th century while the charter kids are in the 21st century?

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