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Log in to Witsby: ASCD’s Next-Generation Professional Learning and Credentialing Platform
March 1, 1997
Vol. 54
No. 6


Computer Bashers: Log Out

After reading a rash of articles about the use of computers in schools ("Networking!," November 1996), I noticed a frequent misconception about what we in the front lines are actually doing. Many of the writers sounding alarm bells suggest that those promoting the use of computers would like to have up to one computer per student, with students spending the better part of their day isolated before a computer screen.
Here at the Citadel Middle School, our students receive 1,000 hours of general instruction per year, of which 40 hours are devoted to computer instruction in a lab of 30 computers. We teach desktop publishing so that students can use graphics in presenting their written work. Students learn to import information from online encyclopedias or the Internet; to program Web pages in HTML; to produce pages for a Web site (including information on a business they might choose to work in); and to produce an animation sequence using HyperCard (showing, for example, movements of heart valves and muscles). Students often help one another with more complex procedures, the "experts" circulating from classmate to classmate.
We recognize technology's great limitations, particularly in the extremely important area of students' interactions with teachers and peers. Most students, in fact, still prefer to spend formal education time engaged in noncomputerized lessons. Nevertheless, computers are excellent tools for helping students collect information efficiently and present their thoughts and ideas about that information. The Internet is quickly becoming the central repository for humankind's knowledge, and in a few years, most library books will be digitized and available online. Pen and paper are no longer the tools of effective information presentation.
—Lance Read, Computer Teacher, Citadel Middle School, Coquitlam, Canada

No Diversity in New Options?

While I appreciated your devoting an entire issue to charter schools and school choice ("New Options for Public Education," October 1996), I was disappointed with the inaccuracies in several articles and in the charges that were not backed up with research. For example, citing a 1996 American Federation of Teachers report, John O'Neil said 226 charter schools are now serving students. But Arizona has 172 charter schools, California has had 100 for more than a year now, and Michigan had 45 last year. You also say that charter schools operate independently of their local school district. Not true. Several have been authorized by and must report directly to their local district.
My second disappointment was the lack of diversity of opinion: Most authors were pessimistic about the potential of charter schools to improve public education. And, for the most part, they failed to cite the reason that people want charter schools and choice: People are extremely dissatisfied with traditional public education.
Most of us have had enough of the excuse that teachers cannot attempt innovative approaches for fear of leaving other children behind. In fact, by any measure, public schools hold the record for leaving children behind—look at the test scores, the violence, and the lack of parental involvement. Lifting restrictions to allow innovations, while increasing accountability and decreasing bureaucracy, cannot help but improve the lot of all children.
It was telling that the majority of authors were education consultants and establishment people. Perhaps next time you could include articles from people like LouAnn Bierlein, representatives of large chambers of commerce, legislators who have led the fight to pass charter school legislation, and parents and teachers who are working hard to implement new choices and visions for families and students.
—Linda Sharp, Anchorage, Alaska

An Open Mind

I want to compliment you on the content of Educational Leadership. I am the administrator of a conservative Christian school and hold views that are probably contrary to those of most ASCD members and most of your authors. However, I generally find in your magazine a very fair, even-handed treatment of educational issues, with almost no derogatory attacks on conservative Christians. I especially appreciated the articles on home schooling (October 1996). They did not make home schoolers out as radicals or unreasoning fundamentalists as so many secular writers do. In fact, your authors regularly exhort public school leaders to listen to conservative Christians in their communities.
Although I don't agree with all your articles, they always provoke me to think through my positions. Keep up the good work.
—Rodney N. Kirby, Headmaster, Cherokee Christian School, Woodstock, Georgia

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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