Flickering Mind Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology
By Todd Oppenheimer
(ISBN #: 0-8129-6843-3)
(ISBN #: 1-4000-6044-3)
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Addressing some frequently asked questions.
Listen to Todd Oppenheimer's debate on NPR.
A new and controversial book argues that computers have done far
more harm than good to education
"Do not, repeat not, let the word 'technology'
in the subtitle scare you. Oppenheimer, a veteran investigative
journalist, knows how to explain complicated topics clearly. He
uses scene-setting and anecdotes regularly, sometimes elevating
the writing from clear to compelling."
-- The Seattle Times
"An informative, insightful, and broad presentation
of public education's ongoing struggle for survival in competition
and in collaboration with all the next new things."
-- The Christian Science Monitor
"Evenhanded, judicious, and observant: a valuable
contribution to the literature of education."
-- Kirkus Review
"This is the most important book of its kind
since Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities, and it carries
the same torch—telling us what's really going on inside
the public education system. The Flickering Mind is a powerful
work and a must-read for anyone who cares what will be within
the minds of the next generation of Americans."
-- Gregg Easterbrook, author of The Progress Paradox
"A splendid book, humane and smart, with
the authority that only comes from lots of patient reporting.
For those who care about children, this is an important—and
impressively sensible—guide to what has gone wrong with
schools and how we can put matters right, if parents and educators
can get free of inflated promises."
-- William Greider, National Book Award nominee and author of
The Soul of Capitalism
Above: cover art by Jamie Keenan
Below: A San Francisco fifth grader shows Oppenheimer the virtues
of low-tech learning. Photograph credit: Bart Nagel
One fall day, I watched a group of 11th
graders in Worcester, Massachusetts, engage in what was
billed as an inventive civics project at Worcester's Accelerated
Learning Laboratory. The ALL School, as it's commonly called,
is the flagship institution of the "Co-nect" program,
the only one of the big, national school reform initiatives
to organize itself around modern technology. On this particular
day, a social studies class was working on reports about
the powers of Congress, constructed as Power Point presentations
(named after Microsoft's ubiquitous business-presentation
product). The reports were nearly finished, and the teacher
was feeling pleased with the results. When I asked to see
one, she steered me to a young man whose report she felt
was in particularly good shape. Sure enough, as the student
clicked through the presentation, I was immediately struck
by the clean graphics, the strong colors, and the digestible
writing. Then, suddenly, he was done. This was the extent
of his report. But its content was no deeper or more complex
than what one commonly sees in civics papers done elsewhere,
with pencil and paper, by seventh and eighth graders. Mystified,
I asked the student how he'd used his time. He estimated
having spent approximately 17 hours on the project, only
seven of which had been devoted to research and writing.
The rest went to refining the presentation's graphics.