Can Computers Educate?

By:  Sam Blumenfeld
06/19/2012
       
Can Computers Educate?

The question is, should the computer be used to replace the teacher in educating students, or should the student merely learn how to use a computer? Has the computer become merely another edu-fad that neither teachers nor students know quite what to do with? Many believe that, with or without computers, the teacher is still the most important person in the classroom.

This article was written on a Dell computer, programmed by Microsoft. I stopped using a typewriter years ago when I found out how easy it is to use a word processor, where errors can be easily corrected, and revising text is as easy as pie. Since I am a chronic reviser of just about everything I write (and rewrite!), I consider the word processor to be a Godsend. So, I have nothing against computers and technology, since I find myself a happy beneficiary of this wonderful advance in human capability.

I have also surfed the Internet and gleaned much useful information from the Web. Friends have sent me information, which they have gotten off the Internet and printed out. Accessibility to data is the great gift of the Internet, which keeps expanding each day. For example, just today I received an email commenting on an article of mine posted just the day before. They had found it on a blog that covers the particular subject I was writing about.

But when it comes to a need for an in-depth study of a subject, books are still the greatest depositories of knowledge and wisdom that we have. Books are the most convenient permanent carriers of knowledge. You can carry them anywhere, and you don’t need batteries or an outlet or a modem; you can flip through pages, look things up in an index, or slowly and deliberately absorb the words and thoughts of others who speak to you through the printed page.

There are few things more beautiful than an antiquarian book, written a century or two ago, yet speaking directly to the reader from across time in the voice of a human being long departed from earthly existence. You can’t get the same feel, the same connection with the past through a computer. The computer can show you a picture of an antiquarian book, but it doesn’t give you the experience of holding that book in your hand, reading its ageless story, being drawn back into time past. An antiquarian book is indeed a time machine.

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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)

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