Bob Sipchen (Monday's Column, July 24, 2006)
The teacher’s blah-blah-blah sent my brain swooning toward hibernate mode. I slumped into the flesh-toned plastic chair, propped an elbow on the laminate wood desktop and fought back panic.
I knew the fear was irrational. “You’re an adult, a journalist on assignment!” I told myself. “Your pals aren’t really out there having a total blast playing while you suffer.”
Even now, you see, it’s hard for me to discuss the trauma that summer school boredom inflicted on my young psyche. Entering that classroom rekindled the pain.
Here’s what’s bizarre, though: Before I could escape into guilty slumber, I found myself paying attention. In a classroom. On a hot summer day.
And it wasn’t the hand puppets that saved me from stultifying ennui. It was the teacher. She captured my attention without so much as a state-of-the-art interactive whiteboard with edit-as-you-go video clips.
Which brings me to today’s subject: Teachers and technology.
My July 10 column, written from an education and computing conference in San Diego, chided schools for a Luddite-like refusal to take young peoples’ techno-sophistication and entertainment addiction into account.
Thanks to the relatively new technology of the Internet, a rippin’ good discussion of that subject has been unfolding at this column’s latimes.com blog. So far the online debate among students, parents, teachers and crabby citizens is ping-ponging from gung-ho geekery to traditionalist scoffing, with hurtful assaults on my eggshell-like ego thrown in: “…The LA Times, great paper that it is, should probably start attacking the problem by finding writers for this subject who don’t mock their subject matter.”
A few excerpts:
“… Computers and media, especially in early childhood and up through 7th-8th grade, do more harm than good. . . . Being active, hearing stories, using the imagination is critical to well-rounded kids.”
“The problem is that exploring Internet links is so easy and tempting, it is difficult to stay focused.
In science and engineering, much learning comes from working problems. I am worried that many students spend more time searching for a solution they can copy than working the problem themselves.”