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  •                                  NETFUTURE
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #138                                                November 7, 2002
                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
               Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
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    Quotes and Provocations
       High-Profile Doubts about Classroom Computers
       Ellen Ullman on Artificial Unintelligibility
    Mindlessness and the Brain (Stephen L. Talbott)
       Have you been nice to your two hemispheres today?
       Technology Does Not Make Us More Vulnerable (Michael Goldhaber)
       Response to Goldhaber (Langdon Winner)
    About this newsletter
                             QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS
    High-Profile Doubts about Classroom Computers
    That eminent news weekly, the Economist (Oct. 26, 2002), has now
    pronounced editorially -- and emphatically -- on the billions of dollars
    spent in order to "clutter classrooms with terminals and keyboards".
    These billions, the editors note, were "spent on a hunch", and the hunch
    turns out to have no apparent justification.  In an accompanying story
    about a new study in Israel (which purports to show, among other things,
    "a consistently negative relation" between computer use and math test
    scores for fourth graders), the magazine writes:
       Back in 1922, Thomas Edison predicted that "the motion picture is
       destined to revolutionize our educational system and ... in a few years
       it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks".
       Well, we all make mistakes.  But at least Edison did not squander vast
       quantities of public money on installing cinema screens in schools
       around the country.
    Actually, I wouldn't trust that Israeli study any further than I trust all
    the other studies supposedly elucidating the role of the computer in the
    classroom.  Social science research, in general, remains primitive when it
    is undisciplined hackwork, and even more primitive when it tries to ape
    the "hard" sciences.  And, in any case, the proponents of wired classrooms
    will hardly be fazed by the latest report.  They will doubtless respond
    (with some reason) that, in order to get a really good education out of a
    computer, you can't just drop the machine into a conventional classroom.
    The computer imposes its own distinctive requirements upon the entire