Today, I watched an Arabic morning show. The host of the show had an ‘Education Consultant’ as a guest. He talked about five ‘digital schools’ in Lebanon. In these schools every student has a computer. He bragged how these computers replaced textbooks. He added that using computers instead of textbooks is the future of education. He claimed that schools in the west went digital (that is using computers instead of textbooks) ten years ago. He insisted to repeat using the phrase ‘fall behind’ to describe schools and countries in the region that are not digital.
This ‘education consultant’ couldn’t be more wrong. The status of schools in China and India might be worse than many Arab countries yet they achieve the best scores in the yearly international school math contest. The United State calls its education system a ‘disaster’. There are tens of American documentaries about how bad their schools are. I have been teaching college students in the US for the past eight years and I found no difference in intelligent level among students from all the different backgrounds; Arabs, Asians, Europeans, etc. Regardless of their background there are always students who are very good and others who are very lazy. Arab students, who studied using textbooks only, pursuing their higher degree in the US or Western Europe are known to be very successful. They found no difficulty competing with American or European students.
Now, I am not against using computers in schools. I actually teach computer programming to college students. I am in business of computers. But the idea of using computers to replace textbooks is absolutely not just insane but rather very dangerous. I am saying it is dangerous because the issue here is not the difference between reading a novel on papers versus kindle. It is much bigger than that.
Learning to write using a pencil develops some motor skills. I learned about the ‘motor skill’ thing couple of months ago when there was a huge debate after a school in the US decided to assign an iPad to its first grade students. Using technology is very helpful but it shouldn’t replace writing on papers. Typing on keyboards should never replace writing as a process of learning.
Unfortunately, because in the Middle East we are just user of technology, not inventor, we tend to think that using the latest technology is always good. Using computers as the only way of learning process is like never buying a child cubes to stack. Video games are good but we should buy our children books and Lego-like toys as well.
I am sure child behavior experts can add a lot to this issue. I hope parents in the Arab countries are not fooled by this digital school thing. Unfortunately, parents hear the word ‘computers’ in schools and they think ‘Yes, I need to send my child to that school.’
If you are a parent please let us hear what you have to say about using computers in schools and at homes. Do you think schools that use computers will make children smarter than schools that don’t use computers? Do you buy your kids educational toys? Like what?