Jonathan Zimmerman: Is Your Computer Making You Stupid?

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education and history at New York University. He wrote a longer version of this for the Merionite, the school newspaper at Lower Merion High, where his two daughters are students.]

Dear high school student:

Can we talk? It's about computers....And I've got some bad news for you: They make you dumber.

There, I said it. And so have numerous researchers from a wide array of fields. It's time to take them seriously....

Now, if you're really clever, you'll hit me with some good old-fashioned American techno-futurism. "See, Professor Zimmerman, you're from that '1.0 World,' where people actually digested full articles and books, and wrote linear texts like your boring op-ed pieces. But we're entering a Brave New '2.0 World,' my friend." In the soon-to-be-eclipsed age of books, students had to passively absorb whatever the text said. But now they interact, inquire, collaborate, innovate.

Please. Every time a new technology develops, there's an American telling us it's going to transform education. In 1922, Thomas Edison predicted that the motion-picture technology he invented would "revolutionize our educational system." In the 1930s, similar claims were made of radio. Ditto for television in the '50s and '60s, and now computers.

But education hasn't changed. And it won't. I teach college students, and the things I ask them to do - analyze, synthesize, critique - are exactly what I learned at their age. And computers don't make it any easier. To the contrary, they get in the way....

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More Comments:

Oussama Harb - 12/24/2010

A computer without Internet is like
a TV without a satellite cable or like a car without gas.

Internet is great tech. if it was used PROPERLY since it faciliates the job of educators and students wether you like it or not.

It's easier and quicker to "analyze, synthesize and critique" if we use computer tools, search engines and documents published online (EBOOKS) than doing the same job in Libraries
and !

I agree with the writer when he said that computers make you "dumber" but
let me add a condition !
- It makes you dumber if you use it
for stupid chatting,watching porno,
or playing video games or poker for
long times !

Education is still the same , but the techniques have changed. ( markers instead of clay , computers instead of paper, internet instead of libraries etc...)