The article is all about what David Gelernter thinks on how the computers affect the classroom set up. According to him, they have the ability to help students in a variety of ways if used in the appropriate manner. However, they could also be a disaster if utilized in the wrong manner.
Gelernter has put forward three arguments that work towards discouraging the use of computers in schools. The first argument is that it results in the reduction of literacy levels among students. According to him, computers tend to reduce cogency of public debate, dismiss linear argument and promote shallow romps when it comes to the information landscape (Muller 187). Gelernter uses multimedia as an example to support his argument. Its function is to combine picture, sound and text in a single package. Instead of students having to read books, they watch them being performed on screens by varied actors. Such experiences make the books seem boring in the eyes of students, and they no longer want to read them. He compares their appearance to that of a dusty piano presented to a teenager that already owns a Walkman (Muller 187). Gelernter second argument is on the effect of reading skills. He uses hypermedia as an example to elaborate his argument. Hypermedia entails the aspect of converting a book into a hypertext that is displayed on the screen. It has the effect of making readers concentrate on the words as opposed to the story. The writers are not only interested in putting the words together, but they also strive to make them ‘tasty’. The problem here is that students will understand varies details entailed in a piece of writing, but will not understand the main purpose of the writing or the main points (Muller 187). Gelernter’s third argument is on basic skills. He uses “Allow Me” programs to raise his argument. These are programs that help students check grammar and spelling mistakes and fix them automatically. He also argues that things like calculators should be banned at some levels of schooling. According to Gelernter, such programs only hinder students from improving their basic skills.
I disagree with most arguments in this article because Gelernter has used several fallacies in an attempt of trying to argue his ideas. Among the fallacies used is the broad generalization. This aspect is vivid whereby he assumes that use of computers in classrooms tends to affect all students in the same way. This is not true since students have been programmed to respond differently when subjected to a similar stimulus based on various biological and other reasons. He has also used the fallacy of oversimplification when he asserts that ‘allow me’ programs only result in the reduction of students’ basic skills. The effect of these programs goes beyond this since there are other areas that they might help students positively like time-saving so that they can concentrate on developing other relevant skills. Gelernter has also used a hasty generalization in his argument on why Japanese students are better than American students when it comes to mathematics. It is not true to claim that the use of calculators in junior high school is the only reason behind this. There students who have passed through this curriculum and they are very good with mathematics. There is also a usage of dictor simpliciter fallacy by the author. This is where he argues that due to the negative effects that computers have on students, they should only be used during relaxation or recess periods. He tends to forget that there are some classes that can’t be taught without computers. Gelernter also uses a slippery slope fallacy. This is when he asserts that not knowing how to correct spelling mistakes makes one a semi literate. It is like asserting that a single event will result in a catastrophe.
In conclusion, I liked the article. I agree with the premise that computers in classrooms could be good or bad to students based on how they are used. However, I disagree with Gelernter’s arguments that try to showcase the negative effects that computers in classrooms have on students. This is because of the many fallacies used in his arguments as I have elaborated in the paragraph above.
Muller, Gilbert H. The Brief McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues across the Disciplines. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.
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