Talk to the author


Table of contents


Computer Myths and Realities


Like this Book?
Hear about more


The most commonly heard selling points for computers in schools—and what the author discovered to be true in classrooms across the country.


False Promise: Computers prepare youngsters for the increasingly high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

Oppenheimer's rebuttal: "Education's technology promoters have the situation backwards. Students actually do not need extensive computer experience to handle technology's challenges (employers prefer teaching most of those specific skills themselves). What employers do look for is an extensive set of people skills: the ability to listen and communicate; to think critically and imaginatively; to read, write, and figure; and many other capabilities that schools are increasingly neglecting." (Chapter 6Computer Literacy: Limping toward Tomorrow's Jobs)


False Promise: Computers improve both teaching practices and student achievement.

Oppenheimer's rebuttal: Educators, parents, and politicians frequently invest in new education programs, both high-tech and low-tech, based on highly questionable research put forth by the technology companies. For example, Renaissance Learning, the nation's largest purveyor of reading software, has built its success on what it maintains is a solid array of research proving that its programs increase student achievement; however, independent researchers have found their methods stunning in their dishonesty. (Chapter 9The Research Game: Faith and Testing in Las Vegas)


False Promise: Increasing the number of computers in the classroom will decrease the "digital divide" between the rich and the poor.

Oppenheimer's rebuttal: For decades, most media attention on the subject of computers in schools has focused on efforts, led by both government and private interests, to close what's been called "the digital divide." (The term ostensibly describes the situation wherein poor children have less access to high technology than wealthy children do, and thus fall increasingly far behind.) In reality, this campaign has increased the true divide between rich and poor, by putting poor students at further intellectual disadvantage. By and large, computers have given schools an easy way to neglect the hard work of teaching and learning, replacing it with shortcuts and high-tech tricks that have entranced both teachers and parents. What we've done, Oppenheimer argues, is "fool the poor with computers." Aggravating these intellectual inequities are continuing financial inequities in the schools, which have widened in recent years. (Chapter 2Fooling the Poor with Computers: Harlem, New York)


False Promise: Computers are necessary to bring students valuable connections with a global education community.

Oppenheimer's rebuttal: This pursuit operates on two fronts: through encouraging student research on the Internet, and through online "Distance Learning” courses—the latest craze in high-tech schooling. Despite the allure (and cost-effectiveness) of online courses, students frequently complain that these classes are not interesting, and only increase their sense of isolation. As for Internet research, problems of control here are serious. Schools are now required by law to purchase "filtering" software that protects children from illicit material. But many schools can't afford these systems, which can cost $50,000 for a tiny district. When schools do pony up the cash for filtering systems, the software often doesn't work, and students regularly hack through it anyway. (Chapter 2: Fooling the Poor with Computers; Chapter 3Breaking Down Rural Isolation: Hundred, West Virginia; Chapter 8: The Spoils of Industry Partnership)


Download Q & A with Todd Oppenheimer (36kb pdf)

Home | About the book | About the author | The Back Story | Reviews | Computer Myths and Realities
Meet the characters | Table of contents | Sources & Bibliography | Links | Blog | Talk to the author | Excerpt | Buy the book
Press Gallery