Information, Computers, and Education

If you want the most vivid picture of developing life, you need only look at the child. Day by day and year by year new miracles unfold, both physically and mentally. The child is engaged with extraordinary intensity in the highest activity of which the human being is capable: she is on her way to becoming more fully herself.

But increasingly in our society, and at an ever earlier age, she is also on her way toward meeting the computer. This encounter between the self-transforming human being and the compelling indifference of programmed logic could not be more fateful. The child is still soft, close to nature, in need of the warmest and most intimate nurture. She requires stimulation, but stimulation that raises her spirit toward the beautiful, the good, and the true.

And what happens in her encounter with information machines? Well, that's a large and complicated story, horrifying in many respects, but also, if we attend to it in the right way, pointing us toward the wonderful and ever-redeeming qualities of childhood. The articles we draw your attention to here will help you to understand the grave significance of the meeting between child and machine.

The following articles are by Stephen L. Talbott unless otherwise indicated.

Reality-Based Education in a Hyperreal Culture, by Craig Holdrege. In a culture filled with screens, how can we help children participate in commanding realities so their ideas can be rooted in the world and not in the fantasies of the cyber world? This brief article by Craig Holdrege explores the question. Based on Craig’s presentation at the 2014 Techno-Utopia Teach-In in New York City, the article includes a video.

Why Is the Moon Getting Farther Away? Why do we work so hard and spend so much money distancing the child from nature and surrounding her with a virtual reality? It is well to remember the educational virtues of our natural surround, which are many.

Failure to Connect. Follow a master teacher as she travels around the country seeing how computers are actually used in the classroom -- and be prepared for a hair-raising experience.

Educational Provocations. Many of these brief statements designed to provoke discussion will seem obvious to you; many of them will seem outrageous; and many may be both at the same time.

Three Notes: On Baby Walkers, Video Games, and Sex. Misunderstandings about child development, coming from very different directions, are all encouraged by our infatuation with technology. They deserve to be dissected and cast aside.

The following three articles come from Stephen L. Talbott's 1995 book, The Future Does Not Compute: Transcending the Machines in Our Midst:

Net-Based Learning Communities. If I need to find out whether a child will become a good world citizen, don't show me a file of her email correspondence. Just let me observe her behavior on the playground for a few minutes.

Impressing the Science Out of Children. There is a difference between "special effects wonder" and the true wonder that leads toward a devout scientific curiosity. The latter grows from an awareness of one's immediate connection to the world -- from a sense that the inner essence of what one is looking at is somehow connected to the inner essence of oneself.

Children of the Machine. Through education based on computer programming, the child loses -- never having fully developed it in the first place -- that fluid, imaginative ability to let experience reshape itself in meaningful ways before she carves out of it a set of atomic facts.

Other articles and resources:

Meetings with a Snake – What is lost when we use video and computer technology in the classroom? This paper also discusses the relation between quantitative and qualitative educational research.

You will find many additional articles by clicking on the "Computers and Education" link in the NetFuture topical index.

For some of the best work on children and computers available anywhere, see the Alliance for Childhood at

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