Discussion for Elixir or Snake Oil: Revisiting the Debate over Computers in Education.

For each of the issues to be discussed at CSCL 1999, we have primed the discussion with one or two representative quotes from the "critical literature" (see the bibliography page on this site). We invite you to send in your response to this issue. You need not, of course, respond directly to the particular quotes that we have chosen if there are other issues that you feel are more important or interesting; and you are welcome to send something in even if you don't necessarily plan to attend the CSCL conference. We will act as moderators for the discussion and update this site regularly prior to the conference.

5. That computers foster a shift toward trivial, ephemeral, or perhaps even objectionable educational content.

"I see a parallel between the goals of 'Sesame Street' and those of children's computing. Both are pervasive, expensive, and encourage children to sit still. Both display animated cartoons, gaudy numbers, and weird, random noises. Both encourage passive acceptance of a medium that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Both give the sensation that by merely watching a screen, you can acquire information without work and without discipline. And both shout the magical mantra: 'Here's the no-effort, fun way to learn!'

I disagree. Learning isn't easy. It's often not fun. It takes work and discipline. Dancing numbers and singing frogs can't teach arithmetic. Glitzy computer programs can't teach children to treat others as they would have others treat themselves."

-- Clifford Stoll, Silicon Snake Oil, p. 147

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