Ben’s Weblog

The Future Does Not Compute
December 3, 2008, 9:49 pm
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I was really intrigued by Talbott’s article/book. I actually agreed with a lot of what he wrote, or at least what I read. I think that education is geared too much toward with the artificial and not the actual. For example students now dissect animals using computer programs instead of the real thing. I understand that they can probably get more in-depth with the computer (see all of the parts) but to me personally is not the same as actually cutting into flesh and removing actual parts of an animal.

The chapter I agreed the most with was chapter 12 where Talbott discussed a student having a pen-pal from India but yet they will not talk to culturally diverse students within their own school.  I have seen a version of this firsthand. I (and probably most other teachers) have students that are reluctant to participate in class discussion but when asked to discuss a topic on my class website they are the students that write a dissertation as a response and respond the most to other students.

As an undergrad I took a mythology class as an elective and one of the assignments we had was watch Bill Moyer interview Joseph Campbell, one the foremost experts in the field. Campbell explains the power of myth on people and one of his comments was that people really feel connected to one another when they are actively engaged with one another celebrating their cultural myths. For instance a traditional dance of the Zulu or attending a Christmas mass. He claimed that when we are inundated with the artificial is when our culture/society breaks down. If you ever get a chance to come across this interview I recommend watching it.

I did disagree with his attitude that technology virtually (good play on words, huh) has no place in education. I think that dissecting a frog with a computer program would be a great tool for educators and students. They can really see the parts of a frog and view what it is doing while alive but it should not replace the real thing.


3 Comments so far
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The frog example you used in your post made me think a bit more about what Talbott was saying in his book. I think it is a good example to show when using technology may be a bit over the top. In these cases you may actually lose out on some of the experience that can teach you valuable lessons. I have an absolutely terrible memory, yet I can clearly remember dissecting a from in middle school. I feel like that says something that I can picture some of the cuts I made in it and what some of the organs looked like. I was entirely grossed out by it, but also very fascinated by the process.

This makes me think there is a place for using the technology component along side of the actual process of dissection. I think the computer program could compliment and enhance the learning possibilities by showing how some of the organs work in addition to seeing them first hand. I know for me this would have been a powerful combination; I could picture the organs I saw in the frog as I learned about their functions. Does this seem like an attractive option to you?

Comment by Julia

I agree with you, Ben! It is interesting to see the kids that barely participate in class, but then given a computer to type on, their fingers absolutely fly. Maybe it relates back to being afraid of saying the wrong thing and at least on a blog or discussion board, they don’t have to see another person’s reaction when reading it.

As for the frog thing, at least at North Harford, kids get the choice to do a dissection on a computer or with the actual animal. Some kids are diehard vegetarians and prefer the computer version, but according to our science teacher, most of them (vegetarian or not) do choose the animal. What happens at your school? Is only the computer version in use?

Comment by Erin

It’s interesting to see other people’s perspectives after reading the articles for this week. Because I am not a teacher, it’s not always as easy for me to relate this to instruction directly. It’s interesting you say that student dissect animals through the computer now. I do work for the school system and I know several teachers and most of them I’ve talked to still physically dissect animals. Plus a lot of school do not have the technology available so there’s still that digital divide that is affecting instruction and also making it difficult to standardize.

I agree that technology definitely has its place in education and there needs to be a balance. It is absolutely not something that is going to take the place of current methods, rather, it should be used in conjunction with it. I don’t think, in any way, that technology is being pushed to take over education – just to enhance it. And that will take some time for people to understand. But my question here is, how much technology is too much? When does it become “abstract” and who is responsible for determining these answers? I think there needs to be a way to make instructional technology useful to everyone and be used as a tool to teach, rather then teach itself.

Comment by aspenc2

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