Tale of Two Schools: Technology in the Classroom (1999)

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and paid out to put computers in our classroom but can computers really
create the literate children that we want actor Donald Sutherland has made
more than a hundred films but he's quick to say that movies are not the influential force that some believe them
to be movies don't shape anything they echo things they report what's already
happened they don't lead they define the events so that people can follow but
they don't lead these stories are coming up next on life and times tonight for
Tuesday the 1st of June 1999 [Music]
life and times tonight is made possible by the following corporations and
foundations the James Irvine foundation
which is dedicated to the development of an informed California citizenry
gte a company committed to
telecommunications excellence and an open dialogue among all people
Bank of America you start a new job
today what he did how can Bank of
America help you
Bank of America and the elk a quitter foundation
dedicated to improving the quality of life by supporting innovative endeavors
in the fields of medicine health science and education
good evening I'm Pat Morrison and our top story tonight is kids computers and
literacy and what that triumvirate promises California already spends
millions of dollars each year to put computers in every classroom and politicians from President Clinton to
Governor Davis have been touting the benefits of computers as teaching tools in some cases computers are edging out
art and music and physical education programs both in terms of class time in
classroom dollars but before we all climb aboard the high-tech bandwagon
some experts are warning us to wait a minute we need to be sure that computers
will indeed deliver something more than Mouse skills so far they say there is no
hard evidence that computers can improve learning significantly gayi has more
this is a tale of two schools open charter in Los Angeles where you'll find
computers integrated into every classroom and Hyland Hall in Northridge
where you'll find a computer in any classroom at all two schools with
similar goals to teach youngsters to be lifelong learners but their means to
that end is quite different in order for me to do the job that I need to do to
prepare my kids for the 21st century this is it i if I do not use them I'm
not doing what I should be doing in order to prepare them for the world that they're gonna live in BJ Alan Khan is a
fourth and fifth grade teacher at open charter and the members were schools
tech teams open charter is one of the most technologically advanced public
schools in the nation fifteen years ago it was adopted by the Apple computer
company in an educational experiment every classroom is wired to the Internet
and there's a computer to every two students it's sometimes boring when
sitting down and just listening to the teacher when you could be a computer
typing and having fun Alencon these
computers improve teaching practices and student achievement even though it's
never been proven in the research proof she says is for students I truly
believe our kids are more articulate they're better problem solvers they're
better writers because we have the technology here well the faculty here
encourages students to thumb a ride on the information superhighway the
teachers at Highland Hall believe that kids should learn problem-solving skills
the old-fashioned way through hands-on
experience but at Highland Hall
things are different kindergarteners learn to count by jumping rope and spend
the day hand crocheting and creating animals out of beeswax the school
believes in the Waldorf philosophy that children learned best especially in the
early childhood years using a hands-on approach they need to have the
foundation of good motor skills of all
the synapses and neural pathways in
place as a result of having to have having played well who can tell me a
little something what you know about ancient Greece what there is little
technology at Highland Hall because the faculty believes the students become less socialized less motivated and less
imaginative they believe using computers Rob's the student of a cherished
commodity in learning time at the time you had to take to look up a word but
think of all the process that you went through and searching for that word in
the dictionary how many new words you were exposed to what the experience was
you had that luxury of time the computer gives you the answer like that
fifth-grade teacher Lisa cinema says a computer is just a tool and even as we
face the 21st century she believes the old tools are better when you're given a
pencil you're free to express yourself and that is the the the participatory
part of learning that is sometimes missed with computers and children young
children have to learn by doing that's how they learn best two schools of
thought open charter believes teaching students this technology is his obligation to
prepare them for the real world of the 21st century
although Highland Hall questions whether this virtual world is a real world at
all but life in Times tonight I'm gay ye the question becomes then
where the computers are a teaching tool or merely a costly and trendy toy we put
that question in others to Alan Kay who was with Apple computers when he designed the computer system we just saw
at open charter school he believes the computers can and should play a key role
in children's education and with us as well as Richard Clarke he is a professor
of educational psychology and technology at USC where he is also an expert in
technology based education he questions the contribution that computers can make
in the classroom welcome gentlemen both to life and times tonight you seem to
epitomize the two versions of Education that we see there but let me start with
you mr. king we put a lot of money into technology over the years anyway and if
we're so rich in this country why don't we why aren't we smart well we could
learn how to read better when computers help us read better I doubt it I think
that both of the schools you saw our
part right and part wrong because people tend to like to adopt highly focused
almost religious approaches we all think about computers is not to emphasize them
as a material because nobody would say we should have a paper-based curriculum
it doesn't really make sense curriculum is made out of ideas and techniques and
environments for children to explore and the real question about computers is
what is special about it and one of the things that's special about it is the
way you can learn science and math on it that's what I've devoted my interest to
I don't think it should replace any of the other media that we have and that
isn't the same even if the open school to do do you as your concern that you
see it's squeezing out as a teaching tool as a substitute even for a teacher
rather than there's a tool I think it's mostly a symbolic token right now that people are buying it because it's the
easiest way to say we're doing something about education but in fact that the
computer won't have any impact until teachers learn how to teach science and math and when they learn that the
computer will be a natural amplifier just like it's very hard to learn music
unless you have musicians around and then the anno is a natural amplifier and the
music is not in the piano it's in the students mr. Clark you may have some
areas of agreement then with mr. K on this the example that comes to mind reading my own newspaper the LA Times
today a front-page story about this very subject and the reporter used the word discreet there are two ways to spell
discreet he chose the wrong one for his usage but the computer only knew that it
was spelled correctly not that it was misused was that kind of an example of perhaps our will over reliance on
computers to teach us things when in fact we need to program them and learn
ourselves before we can make them our tools well it was interesting that one
of the teachers in the in the piece talked about the fact that computer
spots a misspelled word instantly and of course that's not always the case but it
is the case that her impression was that having computers make decisions and
solve problems intellectually is a good approach and I'd sort of doubt that's
the case why is that well one of the things about the use of computers and
classrooms that's been very obvious in the research on computers for the last 15 years is that children get the idea
that it's easier to learn with a computer than it is with a book for example or with some other medium now
that's wrong of course it's not easier it might be quicker to get certain types
of information but it's not necessarily easier to learn with them but because they believe that the evidence is that
they take a kind of mindless approach to it they literally don't work as hard they don't think it's hard and as a
consequence they don't learn as much how would you come down on the side of that
mr. Kay especially the ideas you're hearing from the kids because it's fun it's all part of this emphasis that
education has to be entertaining that you need a performance in the classroom well as Neil postman pointed out a long
time ago that Sesame Street made it very
difficult for kids to go to school because they could never measure up to there's no big bird up there no big
birds and I think I would agree with most of I'm supposed to be arguing I
know right I would agree with most of this because I think that children just
like the piano the piano will play any note in the pitch and so it's a very bad
instrument to start off with it's better to start off with a violin or singing or
both before you go to the piano because the piano automates a lot of things that
musicians are supposed to pay attention to that doesn't mean we should throw away the piano it
means that we should take the right approach into going into something that instead of being a prosthetic which i
think is what most people are worried about is it's an amplifier so the approach as you say people be seem to be
embracing this uncritically that it that in fact rather than the information age
we live in the data age and people aren't learning how to discern and some
of the numbers that the people on your side mr. Clark talk about is how
information is retained reading is the least effective way to retain information talking watching it looking
at pictures is the most effective but it seems like we're almost going preliterate in our embrace it's too bad
you can't be bad you can't argue the merits of democracy using stained glass
windows there would be a snap one of the big points about reading is that it is
difficult it's hard fun and the very important thing about hard fun is it
leaves you a different person thereafter and so trying to use
something that smooths the way that takes you on a ride I think is the wrong way to look at education what you want
is no gratuitous difficulties but you want good hard fun that leads you into
making you a different kind of person mr. Clark how can people in your position put the brakes on or at least
issues some some reasonable caveats that will be heated by the likes of President
Clinton who seems to have embraced this uncritically well it's a it's a very
very difficult problem because there's a huge political incentive to act as if
we've made some serious contribution to schools because we've hooked them up with the internet and put a few
computers in schools and we wash our hands of it and the evidence is by the
way that while 90% of the schools in the United States as of last year were
hooked up to the Internet only about 18 percent or we're making any significant
use of it in the classroom what I'm sorry go ahead well it's just the case
that there's a huge amount of information out there for people that is available already there's more
information now that the Internet's and classrooms but people are not making any kind of use of it in any central way and
it's not always reliable isn't knowing who gets email knows about about seeing
these matters repeated that article you spoke about in the times this morning
mentioned there were 700 different software packages focused on reading and writing alone that were available to
schools and how do you choose among all that what so how do you separate out the
week from the job I'd like to ask both of you mr. Clark first one of the great concerns we've seen studies of it
recently the people who spend something on the order of more than three hours a day in front of a computer screen become isolated
their social skills tend to Domitian we're talking about adults who've already gone through a socializing
process what does this promise for kids because you can't really play a piano I
do except for a few pieces of music written specifically and you can't sit
on a computer two at a time either what are your concerns on this well actually
I don't I don't think that's as large an issue as some people do as a matter of fact I see some benefits for computer
screens for certain types of children who have learning difficulties it focuses their attention and attention is
usually a big problem with kids particularly in the earlier years mr. Kay yeah I think that when we see
children in the classroom using computers they'd like to double up that's why we only put one for every two
kids we wanted to have plenty around we wanted to have them in the classroom make them socialize no we didn't want to
make them socialize they already are social we wanted to allow them to share
what they were what they were doing with somebody else and also children tend to have different personality temperaments
and so some of them like to be active and some of them like to be thoughtful and it's generally a good idea to let
the kids hook up into groups as part of just simply a sales job that the
computers are the hot item in it's not it's the transistor radio once was is
the refrigerator once was as I said I think it's a sacred you know it's kind of magic it's a magic thing and it's a
way of avoiding responsibility and it shifts attention away from the really critical issues I think in schools we
act like we've made a significant contribution when in fact this instructional problem the teachers have
miss schools confront it is not solved in any way by putting a computer in a classroom or hooking up to the Internet
well here's one which is we've gotta wrap it but would you both agree the best advice is Festina lente make hay
slowly on this there we go make a slowly is good and I would
definitely try and understand what they're actually good for analysis thank
you both Alan Kay and of course Richard Clarke we thank you both for joining us on life and times tonight
up next part two I do Donald Sutherland
then hugh hewitt together again
Donald Sutherland has made more than 100 films you know him perhaps as the
troubled father in ordinary people or maybe is the mysterious government informant in JFK now he is stepping into
a new venue his first stage appearance in Los Angeles where he plays a Nobel
Prize winning author in the play Enigma Variations his appearance also gave you
here at a chance to talk to Sutherland about his films and some of the characters he's portrayed I'd like to
talk about some of your roles and how you came to get ready for them he played
an art dealer in six degrees of separation opposite Stockard Channing
and you hid kind of perfect pitch of a mixture of arrogance and yet informed
knowledge and aesthetic sensibility how'd you prepare to do that one I I was
driving from my house in Quebec in the winter to go see fred skep see because
I'd agreed to see him even though I was going to turn the movie down and he was
in New York during the six or seven hours of driving the eight hours of
driving I realized who the character was
and and how to do him and I was so
thrifty my god to say no to Fred and I
gosh I embraced him we talked for hours it was just delicious the and the key to
it probably came he's called flan his real name is Flanders and for a Canadian
Flanders Fields you know where the poppies grow is where all of our heroes
are buried and flan is a custard it's a
thing like that and so he had and his birth
this Flanders and something that was heroic and what he had become was flan
and so it was the juxtaposition of those two images in my head that started to
germinate and grow and I don't want to lose our life here I
don't want all the dead to pile up and crush it won't with