Clifford Stoll & Computers in Education

05 May

Clifford Stoll – what a truly fascinating man!  Have you heard of him? I stumbled across a TED talk by Clifford Stoll this afternoon.  He was inspirational.  Every cell in his body oozed enthusiasm for sharing with his audience.  I was drawn to what he had to say.

In his TED talk he mentioned briefly that he was against the push for more technology in the classroom.  Well that got a reaction from me.  I was all ears.  You see, I’m of the same thinking and I’ll admit that I often feel like the lone voice in the wilderness on this one.

Ironically, I googled around to learn more about what Clifford Stoll had to say on the topic.  I found this 1996 talk that he gave about technology.  While very dated, and somewhat proven incorrect, I believe the heart of what Clifford wanted to share with us was still true – yes, technology is a useful tool but it has its price.  Before we embrace it wholehearted without question, particularly where our children are concerned, we need to consider the price, the sacrifice, the loss.  And there is one.

Since an hour or so of watching Clifford Stoll bounce around and deliver his talk, is not nearly enough, I hunted further and found one last video.  This one is a little more current (2004) and seems to suggest a personal swing away from technology all together.  I’d be curious to know if he’s found a workable medium with technology in 2013 or whether he still advocates a total avoidance, particularly for children.

All Tech’d Out: Computers in Schools – Inner Compass from Calvin College on Vimeo.

Since I’m a book person at heart I was delighted to find that Clifford Stoll has written a book on this topic, called “High-Tech Heretic:  Reflections of a Computer Contrarian“.  Of course, it’s been ordered and is making its way to a plane as I type.

I certainly don’t hate technology.  I embrace many elements of it.  My criticism is towards the push to include more technology in schools as the answer to the failing education system.  Ipads and interactive online lessons as the solution to unmotivated students.  Laptops and educational apps as the key to teacher job satisfaction.  Really?!  Clifford Stoll believes these things are just one more thing that stand between the teacher and the student; distancing the student from a mentor who could inspire them to greatness..well assuming you had a great teacher.  Perhaps the money would be better spent encouraging enlivening people like Clifford Stoll into the classrooms.

How is this relevant to the homeschool?  Oh it’s very applicable, in some cases we’ve pushed the limits further than schools have.  In the near future I doubt technology will replace the teacher entirely in schools; however there are busy homeschooling parents who actively seek to replace their educational responsibilities with a computer screen.  It’s commonplace to hear online classes and subscriptions listed as first choice curriculums.  Sadder still to note that some families rely on these entirely.

No, technology in education isn’t bad.  It’s how we use it that can be unwise and even dangerous.  At the end of the day it is only a tool and a far inferior tool than a close relationship between teacher and student.  If education is not the filling of a pail why do we endorse and use products that merely drip information into our children’s brains for them to acquire, ‘enjoy’ and interact with.  If education truly is the lighting of a fire, we need to be right beside our children igniting their flames of curiosity and creativity.

And if you don’t know how, just watch Clifford Stoll – a man with overflowing passion and more enough inspiration to share around.  An amazing man!


Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Technology


7 responses to “Clifford Stoll & Computers in Education

  1. Erin

    May 5, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Agree 100% with you!! Though I do use technology more with my teens, it is not to replace books nor the teacher. I’m distressed when I hear of hsing parents who sign up their 4yr olds for online classes for all subjects

    • Tracey

      May 9, 2013 at 10:53 pm

      I like to think of it as a tool but not as a replacement. We do on and off use it, particular with son number 1. I’ve been thinking a lot about what he says about thinking. Kids like technology as it doesn’t require them to think as much as real school work. I think that’s so true. Technology makes work seems like fun. But as soon as the fun wears off they don’t want to do it anymore. I hear so many parents say technology is wonderful as it’s the only way they’ll get their kids to do the work – A bit like hiding their vegetables in their meal to make them eat it. Somethings wrong if we have to do that.

  2. Jen C

    May 7, 2013 at 5:44 am

    Fascinating man! I wonder if his kids are home educated?

    • Tracey

      May 7, 2013 at 6:06 am

      I was wondering the same thing. They’d be the perfect candidate.

  3. Elsa

    May 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Wow. I’m exhausted, but thoroughly entertained, after just the first video. Wonder how he did in primary school? I’m sure he would have been a candidate for ADHD today. He really does seem like an amazing man. Will watch more. Thanks Tracey.

    • Tracey

      May 9, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      Oh he would definitely be drugged to the eyeballs if he was in school nowadays. And if he was at school nowadays, what would those ADHD drugs do to his brilliant mind?!
      Interesting… if school was a jigsaw, and the teacher and classroom were the baseboard of that jigsaw, why do we always assume that the pieces/students are the wrong fit. Why can’t it be that they weren’t meant to fit in that jigsaw? Why do we continue shaving off their edges to jam them into the holes? Not going to make a pretty picture in the end and those pieces will be totally ruin for the picture they were meant to make in creation.
      I hate labels that are put on kids. Please, never anyone call their child an ‘aspie’ in front of me. My heart breaks for that child every time.
      Why do we all have to be the same? *Shaking head at the world.*

      • Elsa

        May 10, 2013 at 10:19 am

        Very true Tracey. I’m with you on that one 100% I had a chance today to watch the last video. I’m going to have ds14 watch both of those I’ve watched as well. Really brilliant man.


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