Child and The Machine: How Computers Put Our Children’s Education At Risk, The

Child and The Machine: How Computers Put Our Children’s Education At Risk, The

Johnson, Cynthia E


Beltsville, MD: Robins Lane Press.

During the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of technologies in many aspects of our lives. Equally touched by the technology trend have been children and schools. The authors, Armstrong and Casement, take on the “computers and children” debate in their book The Child and the Machine: How Computers Put Children’s Education atRisk. They target elementary schools and how technology is cheating our children of an appropriate education. Their theme is portrayed throughout the text as they discuss the pros and cons of emerging technologies, particularly computers. The book raises awareness of the changing roles of technologies in the schools and queries the type of education our children are receiving with the introduction of computers amongst young children.

A goal of The Child and the Machine. How Computers Put Our Chil dren’s Education at Risk is to expose parents and teachers to the harmful effects of too much time in front of the screen. Still another goal is to encourage parents to remain actively involved with their children so that the computers don’t take over too much of the quality time that research has indicated makes for good parent-child (or teacher-child) interactions. The authors portray a critical analysis of the use of technologies in elementary schools by referring to the erosion of technologies as a “huge social experiment” that takes children away from solving problems and socializing thus exposing them to isolation and increased individualism. They also show inherent problems of computer technology such as poor choices of software, inadequate teacher training, mismanagement of classroom time, loss of teacher-child interactions, the high cost of computers and their maintenance, physical ailments resulting from too much time in front of the screen, and lost opportunities for children to stay involved with the fundamentals of development – exploring, discovering, group work, teamwork and sportsmanship, and old-fashioned “playtime.”

The book has 12 chapters with many illustrations and examples of the role computers play in classrooms. Two main questions permeate the book: “Are computers essential to children’s education?” and “Do computers improve the quality of instruction in schools?” The authors, Armstrong and Casement, cover such topics as the cost of computerizing education, the relationship between computer-based instruction and academic success, the physical effects of computer use, the role of advertising and its purchasing power among children, and the mass information on the Internet. They further stress the value of human relationships and how teacher interactions and contacts contribute to students’ abilities to learn to communicate and to develop social and problem-solving skills. They point out the lack of scientific research on students’ success among elementary children. The authors show that teaching with computers has not raised the academic achievement of students; nor is there sufficient evidence to show that the long-term effects of the millions of dollars invested in technology have improved teacher effectiveness or achieved schools’ goals of learning. Finally, Armstrong and Casement point out the vast resources needed to maintain the electronic databases and to keep technologies current. They argue that maintenance costs or the huge sums schools are spending to purchase computers, are deducting resources from programs that have scientifically proven to be of benefit to children, such as music and art programs.

This is a must reader for parents and teachers, particularly those who have or teach children who have learning disabilities or whose children are developed delayed, talented, or gifted. Since schools serve a diverse population, groups that support education might find useful concepts from the book. Given the limitations, the book might best be used in combination with other computer references.

The major weakness of the book is its limited scope. The content is basically limited to computer risks. Throughout the book, little is said of the benefits of computers or the advantages computers provide for disenfranchised, rural, and bilingual children who may enter school at a disadvantage. Nor do the authors include research on the benefits that computers are playing for children who are home schooled either due to illness or parental choice. little attention is given to the vast knowledge that one can be exposed to or the accurate resources on the Internet. Neither is there a broad discussion on globalization and how quickly one is able to connect and communicate to the entire world.

Let’s face it-technologies (computers) are here to stay. Over 60% of households have computers. They have become integral parts of our lives. Children are able to master them faster than adults! What is needed is a discussion on how to help more parents become computer literate so that they can understand their children’s schoolwork and help them with their homework. Parents and teachers need to monitor what children see, talk with them about the content, and provide other non-computer avenues to expand those concepts. Teachers and parents need to find balance between the electronic/technology machines, schoolwork, and children’s time outside of school. Adults need to ensure that children have time for play-play that brings out imagination and creativity in children. E

Reviewed by CYNTHIA E. JOHNSON, Ph.D.

East Carolina University

Copyright American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences 2001

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved