Schools prize technology over true learning

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


Re: “State’s public schools accelerating into 2018,” by Mark Johnson, Dec. 22:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, is oh-so excited about where North Carolina’s public schools are headed he can hardly stand it. Personalized instruction without overburdening already frazzled teachers is just one method to improve learning, he claims.

The only way this can be accomplished is through the increased use of computers and programs that track each student’s progress. Does learning take place for the average student under those conditions? Students I tutored prior to relocating here told me privately that they learned much less on a computer than if they had direct instruction from a caring professional who could see them as an individual and not a case number.

Most students are unwilling to forgo the ease with which they can scam the system by switching screens and looking for the answer, then cutting and pasting the information without it ever having it make a stop in their brains. If that is the definition of learning, then I guess oodles of knowledge acquisition must be taking place.

If, however, we use the old-fashioned definition of learning requiring memorization of facts, analysis of said facts and then reaching conclusions based on memorization and analysis, “learning,” in the classical sense, does not occur.

Parents concerned about students’ lack of general knowledge, vocabulary and reasoning ability should petition the school board to eschew the use of computers and move back to the tried-and-true print textbook without spiffy graphics and attention destroying hypertext, chat apps and access to movies. By reducing the number of distractions, young people will be able to utilize their brain power to focus deeply on written text and rely on their own intelligence, which will be much more satisfying than gaming the system.

And, as always, jettison the new-fangled methods for teaching reading, and return to what never goes wrong — phonics.

Phonics works every time it is used. If the students are freed from the cognitive burden of sight words and guessing and use the tools of phonics, testing scores will go up without the need of expensive interventions and remediation at every grade.

Julia Yancey