Chapter 8. Failure to Connect

Jane Healy walks into the school's computer room, where she sees a huge banner proclaiming, "COMPUTERS ARE OUR FUTURE!!!" Thirty-two nine- and ten-year-olds sit at the computers, pursuing their solitary math and reading tasks while a teacher and an aide lend what support they can.

Taking up a position behind Raoul, Healy watches as he effortlessly solves a few simple addition problems and then gleefully accepts his reward: a series of smash-and-blast games. When the games end, Raoul is confronted with more math problems. "Groaning slightly, he quickly solves the problems and segues expertly into the next space battle."

By the time I move on, Raoul has spent many more minutes zapping aliens than he has doing math. . . . [I] wonder if what we are really teaching Raoul is that he should choose easy problems so he can play longer, or that the only reason to use his brain even slightly is to be granted by an automaton over which he has no personal control some mindless fun as a reward. (p. 43)

Then Healy observes Dareesha, who is practicing reading skills.

Dareesha watches as a page with a few lines of storybook text appears, embellished by a colorful illustration. She examines the pictures as the cursor highlights and a voice reads each phrase of the text. This takes approximately twenty seconds; now Dareesha's face breaks into a broad grin as she seizes the mouse and for several enchanted minutes clicks skillfully on the objects in the illustration. In response, each picture animates and performs a clever act: a mailbox opens and waves its flag, flowers bend in a rhythmic dance, vegetables turn jet-propelled and zoom across the screen. Dareesha, mesmerized, laughs aloud, unfortunately attracting the attention of the aide who materializes over her shoulder. "Read me that story!" she demands. Dareesha wilts and begins futilely to attempt sounding out the words on the screen.

"You'd better try harder or you'll never pass this grade," comments the aide, moving on. Dareesha sighs, looks over her shoulder, makes a few limp passes at the words, which are clearly too difficult for her, and begins once again clicking on the pictures. (pp. 43 44)

Later, Healy chats with Dareesha's teacher:

"No, I don't have nearly enough time to give attention to each kid," she sighs. "Actually, I'm not really a trained teacher. They drafted me because I was pretty good with these machines. So I get the kids started on the programs, then I can go about my business a lot of paperwork and there are always a few of these darn things that need fixing." (p. 44)



Devices of the Soul. Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
ISBN: 0596526806
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 122
Authors: Steve Talbott

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