Joseph J Kozma
In ordinary adult life if you meet up with intellectual or physical challenges that you cannot easily handle you go to an encyclopedia, visit a library or consult the internet. You can read specialty magazines. You can also ask friends, neighbors or persons you respect and trust. All of these can provide you with information and if they are current you will be “up to date”.
Before you can rely on your own information gathering there is a giant multistep base that you are required to master: School education. Only primitive societies don’t have that requirement. Public education is a must in every country pictured in a political map. The extent of public education varies from country to country, from state to state.
In an interview on CNN Bill Gates indicated that US public education has to be reformed and innovations are necessary because schools need outstanding teachers but they do not have them. He thought that the computer could correct that.
Bill Gates is wrong. Teaching is a special form of communication and the computer is not a communication tool. A computer is no more than a library or an encyclopedia. It can provide excellent material for you to use. How you use it is up to the concept that prevails in a home, in a nation, in a school. The teacher is an interpreter. The teacher is the one who presents the material to you and gives you explanations on the basis of the prevailing thoughts of scientific, artistic, linguistic and business communities, occasionally his/her own thoughts.
Computers do not communicate. All of the material that can be experienced through the computer is recorded and stored to be used later. That is not different from using the textbook. The so-called interactive programs are boring and are not educational.
Many great speakers, great scientists, great musicians, great writers, great artists and great members of the labor force that we know did not have computer education.
In general, one can say that a computer gets between people, reduces the potentials of the human ability to feel, to experience, to think and create, to be enthusiastic. To plan for the future on the basis of personal communications and activation of learning potential, computers will very likely not get farther than where they are now, a tool for teachers to use. Most teachers are profoundly interested in the progress of their pupils. A tool does not replace the user.
If Bill Gates thinks that our teachers are not good enough then he should know the reason before pronouncing a solution. If he is to blame anyone it should be the departments of education, federal, state and local, and teacher’s colleges.
In summary, a computer is not a teaching tool. The computer is not a communication device. It is a storage device that replaces the buildings and shelves and books of the libraries. It makes the availability of information convenient and easier but fails to convey a solid composite effect on formal education.