Computers No Substitute for Teachers

No one would deny that a computer is more appealing to students than a textbook or a lecture. But like the phone company ads that promise us ``a revolution is coming,'' ``A Technology Revolution in the Classroom,'' Oct. 17, is short on specifics concerning the ``dramatic changes in pedagogy'' offered by information technology.

The computer is an excellent teacher of rote skills: memorization of vocabulary (I use the computer in this way in my ancient Greek classes), math practice, ear training, etc. It is also used as a replacement for the encyclopedia, the typewriter, and the United States mail. But rote learning is the most primitive of pedagogical functions. What teachers provide, aside from the mysterious ``higher order thinking'' the article mentions, is simply the ability to tell what is unimportant - something no amount of fiber optics will ever do.

I have seen my wife, who teaches at a Friends School near Philadelphia, required to spend close to $2,000 of her own earnings to buy a laptop computer and then be expected to invent ways to use it in the classroom. Computers do not by themselves guarantee more learning. To fault the teachers for not finding ways to use the technology is to put the cart before the horse. I hope that future installments of the series will describe realistically projected uses and speak with actual teachers and students. Christopher Francese, Swarthmore, Pa. Swarthmore College

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