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IP: now why ever bother to memorize the periodic tables
From: Dave Farber <farber () cis upenn edu>
Date: Sat, 25 Oct 1997 17:30:27 -0400

An excerpt from Cybertimes  -- http://www.nytimes.com/library/cyber/week/




But the educational value of the Internet -- once taken as nearly an
article of faith -- is being called into question at a time when so many of
the nation's students cannot solve basic math problems. 


Supporters of the technology contend that the Internet's benefits are about
to be realized, if only teachers would be given the time and financial
backing to figure out how to use it. 


The Internet probably won't help students memorize the periodic table of
elements, proponents concede, but they argue that the Internet may foster a
more constructive approach to learning, in which students gather and
evaluate information for themselves, rather than rely on expertise doled
out by a teacher. 


The issue, educators say, is not simply whether schools should be wired but
how an educational system built for an industrial age must change to teach
the skills required for the age of information. Learning how to sort
through reams of facts and data and identify the most useful pieces, for
instance, is not a part of traditional curricula. But it may be a crucial
skill in the coming years. 


"The Internet is not going to improve test scores for the kinds of tests we
have now," said Beverly Hunter, an executive at GTE Corp.'s BBN Internet
unit, who supervises an education technology pilot program paid for by the
National Science Foundation. 


"If you want good scores on tests you teach them the tests," Ms. Hunter
said. "You don't have them mucking around collaborating and inquiring and
doing deep investigations into the nature of galaxies. You've got to match
the technology you're using with what you're trying to accomplish." 


Yet a recent survey by Market Data Retrieval, an education research firm,
found that less than 14 percent of American teachers believe the Internet
improves students' academic performance. 


"All the hoopla around the Internet obscures the deeper and more important
issues of learning, about how do you teach kids to acquire the basic skills
and to think independently," said Larry Cuban, an education professor at
Stanford University who has scorned the Internet as the classroom filmstrip
of the 1990s -- a diversion with little pedagogical value. 


"It's what I call the romance with the machine, and it has happened
before," Cuban said. "It's driven by this dream of a magical solution that
does not exist." 






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"Photons have neither morals nor visas"  --  Dave Farber 1994
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