Pass the chalk
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.
With computers, the story has been different. Many governments have packed them into schools, convinced that their presence would improve the pace and efficiency of learning. Large numbers of studies, some more academically respectable than others, have purported to show that computers help children to learn. Now, however, a study that compares classes with computers against similar classes without them casts doubt on that view.
In the current Economic Journal, Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Victor Lavy of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem look at a scheme which put computers into many of Israel's primary and middle schools in the mid-1990s. Dr Angrist and Dr Lavy compare the test scores for maths and Hebrew achieved by children in the fourth and eighth grades (ie, aged about nine and 13) in schools with and without computers. They also asked the classes' teachers how they used various teaching materials, such as Xeroxed worksheets and, of course, computer programs. The researchers found that the Israeli scheme had much less effect on teaching methods in middle schools than in elementary schools. It also found no evidence that the use of computers improved children's test scores. In fact, it found the reverse. In the case of the maths scores of fourth-graders, there was a consistently negative relationship between computer use and test scores.
The authors offer three possible explanations of why this might be. First, the introduction of computers into classrooms might have gobbled up cash that would otherwise have paid for other aspects of education. But that is unlikely in this case since the money for the programme came from the national lottery, and the study found no significant change in teaching resources, methods or training in schools that acquired computers through the scheme.
A second possibility is that the transition to using computers in instruction takes time to have an effect. Maybe, say the authors, but the schools surveyed had been using the scheme's computers for a full school year. That was enough for the new computers to have had a large (and apparently malign) influence on fourth-grade maths scores. The third explanation is the simplest: that the use of computers in teaching is no better (and perhaps worse) than other teaching methods.
The bottom line, says Dr Angrist, is that "the costs are clear-cut and the benefits are murky." The burden of proof now lies with the promoters of classroom computers. And the only reliable way to make their case is, surely, to conduct a proper study, with children randomly allocated to teachers who use computers and teachers who use other methods, including the cheapest of all: chalk and talk.
1.We can learn from the first paragraph that __________________.
[A] motion picture has revolutionized education system
[B] Edison's prediction has been proved wrong
[C] Edison encouraged schools to install cinema screens
[D] schools are cautious about Edison's idea
2.Dr. Angrist and Dr. Lavy have done the following except _______________.
[A] comparing the test scores of students in different age groups
[B] interviewing teachers about their teaching methods
[C] launching the computer program in many Israeli schools
[D] explaining students' school performance
3.According to Dr. Angrist and Dr. Lavy, in the Israeli scheme, students didn't make improvement in their test scores because______________.
[A] other aspects of education were affected due to cash shortage
[B] it was not long enough for the program to take effect
[C] there was a negative relationship between computer use and test scores
[D] the use of computer was no better than other teaching methods
4.It can be inferred from the last paragraph that ________________.
[A] there hasn't been a proper study on this issue yet
[B] school authorities should provide proof to support the computer program
[C] installing computers in schools costs too much, but has little or no effect
[D] chalk and talk work better than computer in teaching
5.The author's attitude towards governments' packing computers in schools seems to be ___________________.
supplant v. 取代，代替(另一个)
squander v. 挥霍或浪费；放荡地花掉
purport v. 声称
Hebrew n. 以色列语；希伯来人
Xerox v. 复印
reverse n. 相反，颠倒：相反的事物或相反的方面
gobble v. 吞并；贪婪地攫取
transition n. 转变, 转换
malign adj. 有害的：具不良影响的；有害的
the bottom line 要点或关键之处；结果，结局：最后结果或声明
randomly adv. 任意地, 随便地,
allocate v. 分派, 分配
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