back to article Giving poor kids computers, internet makes them stupider

Hundreds of efforts to reduce the so-called "digital divide" could be in trouble today, as new research has revealed that giving children universal home computers and internet access actually widens achievement gaps in maths and reading between rich and poor - and causes an overall skills decline across society to boot. The …

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  1. JimC Silver badge
    Headmaster

    > sobering reading for many

    I doubt it.

    No politician pr media type every pays much attention to research like this. They just wait for another study slanted to meet their preconceptions and ignore any study that doesn't match them. To be fair that's just about the whole population, not just the polticos and journos.

  2. Dick Head

    Reminds me of the 1930's...

    ...when it was said that if the poorer housholds had baths they would just use them to store coal.

  3. LInsey

    Bit out of date

    To be fair the study is a bit out of date, I had a child at school around that time and the schools were not set up anywhere near as much as they are today for teaching children how to use a PC.

    I have one child in the last year of school now and it's amazing what she's being taught.

  4. Lee Dowling Silver badge
    FAIL

    And?

    Shock / horror factor? Zero.

    Giving a kid a pencil does not increase their IQ.

    Giving a kid a house does not increase their IQ.

    Giving a kid a computer does not increase their IQ.

    They are unrelated concepts. Admiteddly they might be third-degree-of-seperation factors that might influence the scholastic performance of a child but in general they are just a tool. If the child does not want to learn, is forced into the workplace, has parents that don't want them to learn, has been brought up with the attitude that "school is for losers, come and be a mechanic instead son", etc.etc.etc. then no amount of "toys" will fix that problem.

    The primary, main, and almost sole problem with under-achieving kids is that they are not and never have been encouraged to learn by the people they look up to - the "cool" kids in school, their parents, extended families, the neighbourhood, etc. Throwing expensive trinkets at them (without greating limiting their general-purpose nature by forcing them to be "educational" computers, without with they will only be used to play games, go on the Internet and watch videos) is like giving a jobless person a Nintendo Wii. Yes, they *could* use it to go online and find a job, but the chances are they will just sell it / misuse it for other purposes.

    Stop faffing about by putting tech into schools, colleges and homes and do what you were supposed to do - damn well teach something, to students who want to be taught.

  5. Sekundra
    Flame

    Parents

    Is there a study which *doesn't* reveal the blunt truth that your parents and upbringing are always key?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Talk to the hand, errr facebook

    "...and causes an overall skills decline across society to boot."

    Perhaps I'd better post this on Facebook or Twitter, so that the kids will actually read it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nope

      Apparently in today's society everyone thiks it's perfectly normal for parents to absolve all rights and responsibility for their kids and how they turn out.

      I feel sorry for my little boy 'cause I will tan his hide if he steps out of line too much, so he might get the piss taken out of him by his mates.

      AC cause the latter comment will no doubt mean a visit from Social Services.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      IT Angle

      This title intentionally left blank

      ..and did they?

    3. Anton Ivanov
      Flame

      That is slightly different

      First of all. A "nekkid" computer with Winhoze an educational tool does not make. It takes 200-400£+ per annum for it to be a useful educational tool (this also includes the stick portion of the carrot and stick budget).. All the digital divide programs never accounted for that one and thought that by giving computers something magical will happen. First of all the ones that have no money to buy a computer cannot afford this sum and even if they could do not know what to buy.

      Second, unless there is a parent equipped with a carrot and a stick a computer will not be used as an educational tool. It will be a time wasting toy. So not surprisingly the results will go down. Once again the stick part (and the carrot to some extent) require money. AV, content filtering, time-limit software, etc all requires either parent effort or money or both.

      So the conclusion here is fairly simple. It is often better not to give "aid" than to give half of it.

  7. JimmyPage Silver badge

    or in other words ....

    parents that take an active part in their childs education raise "brighter" offspring than parents that don't.

    So, no change there. Nothing to see, move along ....

  8. Ian Ferguson
    Stop

    Skill sets

    Hang on, since when has a child's success in life been purely measured in Maths and English?

    Even while mucking about on Facebook, these kids are learning valuable computer skills (not to mention social skills and networking with other children, a vital part of development).

    I'm not sure this is really such a bad thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      An utter load of bollocks

      Facebook? NO technical learning, whatsobloodyever -- unless you also think that reading a newspaper somehow imparts paper-folding skills. What "social skills"? Networking? No. Just look at the churn rate. Kids are conflating "number of friends" with anything meaningful.

      Between them, maths and English are a great way to measure success -- at least until "Facebooking" becomes a college major.

    2. Doug Glass
      Go

      New Concept

      Ever hear of "time waster"? As former high school teadher I can assure you too much wasted time means too little study and that means lower marks. Not lower intelligence just lower marks on "traditional" school subject examinations.

      Now if they just tested the kids on navigating facebook or keyboard thumbing they would obviously do well. But then, a drunk tested on staggering would make a pretty good score too. As would a cat for meowing.

    3. steviesteveo

      Computer skills?

      The computer skills you learn while messing about on Facebook involve how to work Facebook. The only sort of people for who that is a career advantage are people who are working in social media right now and it would be a marked negative for pretty much anyone else to write "good at Facebook" on their CV. You're not exactly seeing kids submitting patches to kernel.org here.

      Socially it's not as if the poor children were sitting alone in their rooms before they had a computer. "At least they're networking with other children" is a real Hail Mary pass when defending reduced grades after getting computers. It's kinda like saying that someone who failed his exams because he was playing football all the time at least got some exercise. It's fine if he eventually goes pro but otherwise it's not so helpful. Ideally we'd have poorer kids socialising with other children and also scoring roughly the same as richer kids at school.

      I can see why you'd complain if they'd used English OR Maths but they've got both and that seems fair enough. That's a broad test. At this level performance in sciences or technology classes is down to rote learning and your grade from gym class really doesn't matter

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    So...

    Are we sure that it isn't actually No Child Left Behind Act?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Child_Left_Behind_Act

    Because I know several teachers from USA, and they curse it like there's no tomorrow.

  10. geronimo hashbucket

    Meh

    It hasn't made me any.... oh, look, badgers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIyixC9NsLI

    1. Bullseyed
      FAIL

      @AC (of course you'd hide...)

      Uh oh, looks like DailyKos found this article.

      If I was a teacher, I'd hate any legislation that points out when I'm doing a terrible job too. Teachers lobby for technology in schools for the same reason why parents and babysitters love tv and the teletubbies. They can sit the kids down in front of a piece of technology and completely ignore their job. Teachers demand computers in the classroom so they can go sit behind their desk and read a magazine or a book and let the computers do the teaching for them.

      Instead of saying technology makes kids more stupid (at least in America, stupider isn't a word...) I'd wager that computers and other technology make teachers and parents of poor kids less responsible than they already were.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: Bullseyed

        While I don't disagree with you completely, I think that classrooms are a thing of the past. When I was in school (through 87,) the first five-to-ten minutes of class was spent absorbing all of the material for the 1-hour class, and the rest of the time was spent goofing off. If I could have taken tests to advance on my own schedule, its possible I could have graduated two years early (with the exception of geometry.) Instead, I sat bored for most of the day.

        If they could have stuck me in front of a computer and said, "study this and take the test", i would have had it made. The problem is designing a learn/testing system that requires material to stay in the brain for longer than the length of time it takes to pass a test.

    2. Doug Glass
      Go

      I See ....

      ... you're "Up" to the task.

    3. Doug Glass
      Go

      And...

      ... I was one of them. You're exactly right. "No child left behind" did little more than award a meaningless certificate to someone whose butt warmed a chair for four years.

      I had a choice, teach to the 10% who would never get it, teach to the 10% that would get it no matter what or teach to the 80% that actually benefitted from instruction. The 80% got my effort and so it was with all the schools I was ever associated with. New teachers hungry to save the world did so for maybe two years. Then realizing they had no life, a crumbling family situation and little to no community support had a change of heart. Was that the best thing ro do? No, but teaching to the 80% was the least of all the evils.

  11. Nigel Whitfield.

    It's not computers

    As alluded to by others, the big difference is not about computers. It's about attitude - and especially that of the parents.

    If the parents view education as something that someone else will do to their children for them, rather than as a process with which they should be engaged, then the children will inevitably suffer. A few may persevere, with the help of an inspirational teacher. But faced with parental indifference, many more will just struggle.

    Of course, that raises other interesting questions about why parents don't participate more, which are probably far beyond the scope of El Reg.

  12. envmod
    Troll

    duuuuurrr

    why is there this mis-guided mantra that everyone is equal in every aspect? some kids (and adults) are thick as shit. get over it. not a problem, just the way things are... dish out a load of laptops to a broad range of pupils and guess what? the bright ones are going to use them constructively and as a learning tool and the dumb ones are going to piss about and watch porn. i could have fucking told everyone this years ago.

  13. me 10
    Unhappy

    grammer, grammer

    Jeez, get it wright! Its more stupidir! (does any1 no y thiers a red line under stupidir~???)

    "yestirday I couldnt spill "inganir", today I still cant spill inganir and now I r 1"

    1. Doug Glass
      Go

      Funny ....

      ... I understand every thing you said. But some people are just ignernt. I guess after years of teaching I gould read hen scratchings. I also understood the kid who put a giant black dot on the test paper when i told them all to indicate period on the paper. He thought he was being funny with a six inch black spot. He really thought I want a smaller spot.

  14. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!
    Pint

    Sounds familiar

    Haven't we all used this line before:

    "Mom, Dad can I have a computer? Oh yeah they are really educational and I could use it to help me with my homework!"

    Ahhh, Manic Miner and neglected homework, those were the days.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Yet another obviouse bit of research...

    Just like giving kids who cannot do basic maths a calculator, or the current trend of giving those who cannot (or will not) write with a pen a Laptop.

    The number one issue with modern education is that it is run entirely by true academics, most of whom could not function outside of the academic world and would probably never manage to hold down a real job. As a result we have people in education who do not understand the difference of recalling some information and actually understanding what it means.

    These are the same morons who spout crap like: “You no longer need to teach facts, as you can just look it up on the internet.”, these people don't understand that apart from the internet being full of incorrect information, the same could have been said for centuries, as since there have been books; “you can just look it up”.

    What we need is a complete U-turn on the use of computers in schools, (particularly as most teachers don't have a clue how to use them correctly) as stop wasting tax payers money upgrading them every year or two.

    Get teachers to use the good old blackboard and demonstrate how to write by hand, do long-division and use basic tools like rulers and compasses. Then insists all kids do likewise in their books. That way the teacher will see the working out, see the spelling mistakes, and see the hand writing and know who did the actual work.

    The biggest thing that needs to change in education is simply to be honest and accept that, “everyone is not equal”. Write truthful honest school reports; I am certain that most parents don't know that teaches are prohibited from writing anything negative in them “as it may make the child/parents feel bad”. Have exams that are hard to pass, making failure a real option and just throw out the utterly pointless exams. Like entering children for 4 separate GCSE's in ICT; these are used to make the school look good in the league tables as almost anyone can pass these no matter how dumb they are.

    For every Faraday, Hook, Newton or Einstein there are many thousands of Forest Gump's.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And just who is paying for this peice of junk research?

    Others have posted before me how ignorant this research is and I for one hope it is purposefully slanted because if it is not then I suggest the researchers be stripped off any academic awards they have. So children from poorer homes become more stupid than their richer counterparts as soon as a computer is introduced into the home eh? Does this apply to poorer homes where books are introduced? the Authors or researchers of this report fail to understand that any interaction by children with media such as the internet or books is a positive chance even if sometimes without supervision for them to learn something. Others try to falsely alarm us that that the introduction of IT into schools is replacing rather than enhancing proper methods of teaching. Such claptrap has always allowed the savvy wealthier families to continue to pull he wool over all our eyes and control everything. No doubt this was commissioned by some right-wing conservative harping on about big government and there so called unwanted intrusion into our lives. Well if small they did such a great job how come big government keeps making a reappearance? Give the children all the aids you can, Try to make a plan and supervise them, and watch them astound you as they influence how technology develops in the future. If this is being reported correctly then it is a complete subversion of the truth which is that a computer is a tool which will provide better access to information and knowledge for a child or anybody else for that matter and what we should really be looking at is how to supplement the free kids pc's with some solutions like after school pc usage classes or parental lessons on helping your child make the most of the digital age rather than the suggestion that a pc in poor homes makes even more stupid people....

    1. Turtle

      Wow!

      Wow! Someone who writes in the way that the comment "And just who is paying for this peice of junk research?" is written automatically undermines the support of the cause that he (or she, or, most likely, it) is attempting to strengthen. Geez, learn to spell (or have the brains to use a spellchecker), learn how to write coherent sentences, learn the function of "paragraphs" and, in general, try to hide that fact that you are basically a ignorant conspiracy-monger who, while certain that you know everything about everything, actually understand nothing about anything.

      1. Doug Glass
        Go

        I Suggest ...

        .. you take your own advice.

    2. Gav
      Go

      Really educational

      To be fair, Manic Miner played a not insignificant part in setting me off in the career that supports me & my family..

      So yeah, in my case it really was educational. But that just proves the point. It's how you use the computer that counts, just giving someone one is not going to make them any smarter.

      Didn't do a whole lot for my homework though. Those were the days indeed.

    3. RichyS
      WTF?

      WTF?

      Christ. Where your poor parents given a free laptop when you were young?

      Otherwise, how do you explain this poorly worded, grammatically suspect drivel?

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      AC@15:07

      25 lines. No paragraphs.

      Your point?

    5. Doug Glass
      Go

      You Are

      Along with me.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No feckin title needed

      Sorry, got to kick you along with everyone else. Your last sentence had 97 words in it, with no punctuation (apart from an incorrect apostrophe). I couldn't even read it. This sounds like a very worthwhile piece (yes, piece) of research.

      I speak as a parent who knows exactly what kids actually do on computers. Offspring #2 has been banned from using MSN, after seeing what it did to offspring #1.

      Read the article again, any try not to project your own preconceptions on to it.

  17. Shusui

    @ me 10

    Er ... you're joking, aren't you?

    1. me 10
      Happy

      naw

      I git me a 6th grade edumacation an can cypher to tin! aint know stu-pid moran dont cha no!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Badgers

    Who'd have thunk it

    Giving a thick, chavvy child a machine that calculates maths for them and corrects their spelling & grammar results in them not being very good at numbers or reeding and wrighting?

    Research, eh? I ain't being funny or nuffink but where would we be without it, innit though, you get me yeah?

    1. Doug Glass
      Go

      Uh Huh

      And creates clerks in stores who can't make change because they lack the skill to do simple math in their heads. You know, your bill is $18.21 so you give the checker a $20 bill, two dimes and one penny expecting to get back two $1 bills. Sorry I can't do the monetary math in any other system but the US, but the idea is to not have a pocket uill of coins by making up the odd coinage yourself. And when I do it they, to a person, ask am I a scientist or something. I reply no, I just learned how to add and subtract as a child and found it useful knowledge to retain.

      1. A J Stiles
        Thumb Up

        Yes

        I used to live not far from a branch of Kwik Save and I would play an interesting game with the checkout operators' heads by adding up my purchases as I put them in the trolley, then silently handing over the exact amount before they announced it.

        Most of them thought I had superpowers.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Rouning up the change

        Urgh, I've given up doing that in shops. It's something I learnt to do from older people in the 1970s - when tills were mechanical and didn't tell the monkeys operating them how much change to give back. It was just 'normal' for people to hand over a note and some coins so that the change was a nice round number that could be given in one coin or note. And the people on the tills just dealt with it automatically without any steam coming out of their ears.

        But as you say, these days trying to be clever like this just blows their tiny little minds. You end up holding up the queue because it throws them so completely and they end up giving you the wrong change, so in the end you give up and just hand over a note, and get a handful of shrapnel in return.

        In fact, on one occasion, I gave an extra 13p in coins so that my change should have been exactly £1. But instead of handing me back one coin, the dope made up 87p in small change, dithered for a moment and then added another 13p in more small coins! I asked if she could give me a pound coin instead and she smiled and laughed, thinking I was making some kind of joke about ending up with so many coins. I didn't bother pursuing it. What was the point.

        Another one I've noticed is that if you try to get rid of a lot of coins in your pocket at the till rather than just hand over one large note, they often assume you've handed them the right money and don't give you any change. When you ask where the 4p change is, they look like you've just entered them into the Stephen Hawking String Theory competition. It may look a bit miserly chasing up 4p, but that's not the point. It's the fact that these people are so dumb that they can't even count coins in the first place.

        Next time I might try handing over £1.57 in small coins when the bill is £13.48 and see if they even notice... And *still* ask where my 4p change is!

  19. Thomas 4
    Headmaster

    This is not breaking news

    ...to anyone that has played any online game recently (i.e. within the past 4-6 years). The former Warcraft guild I was in had an English teacher as a Guild Leader and woe betide anyone that used "l33tspeekz" in guild chat.

    I'm no English teacher myself but merely looking at the alphabetical diahorrea that passes for English online makes me weep.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    Hello? Social networking != computer skills

    @ Ian Ferguson: I'm sorry, but kids using inane social networking sites are not learning anything valuable at all.

    What computer skills do you think are required to log on to myFace? When most of them are flummoxed if the order of Google search results is temporarily not what they expect?

    What it means is that the only written word these deprived individuals ever see is the vacuous mis-spelled drivel spewed out by their equally backward peers. It's no wonder that the standard of education continues to fall, even many teachers these days have difficulty communicating in their mother tongue!

    The problem we have with our society is that people are now too used to pushing a button and getting a reward. Just like rats in an experiment, they will keep hitting the lever and getting their food pellet until they suffer an obesity-related death. Unfortunately, computer games only reinforce this mentality. No-one understands any longer that in the real world effort is required in order to achieve desirable goals.

    Most kids today are brought up in an environment where the parents have a don't-care attitude towards life. They are taught to respect nothing and that they will be handed everything on a plate if they refuse to contribute. So, the cycle perpetuates itself. Pop sprogs off at 15 (or younger), sit on your arse and get paid for it, your children will do the same because they don't know any better. At least in the UK, there is no incentive to raise oneself out of such a situation, hence, decline continues.

    I really feel sympathy for teachers these days. Those that do want to do a decent job, have a serious uphill struggle ahead of them. Let's hope we don't get ill when we are elderly and frail, no doctor saying "I can haz scalpel?" is coming anywhere near me!

    Let us hope for a return to the halcyon days of intelligence, understanding and co-operation... I fear man's greatest achievements are fading into history behind us.

  21. Andy 6
    Alert

    on the plus side

    on the plus side, all them kids with PC's. . . . . . . . COD4 is helping keep teenage pregnancies down . . .

    1. Doug Glass
      Go

      Yeah Right!

      The older men they mean online then in real life know to use a rubber.

  22. Number6

    Games and Reading

    It was actually a video game that encouraged my son to make the effort to learn to read. When he first started playing it, I'd read out the on-screen dialogue/instructions for him. then I started being 'busy' and turning up after a few few minutes. The disruption to smooth game-playing obviously irritated him to the point where learning to read it for himself was the easiest way forward. Now he's more likely to be found sitting reading a book (mostly non-fiction, which is a bonus) than playing a computer game.

  23. Andrew Oakley
    Grenade

    Makes them stupid...er?

    I like El Reg's assumption that poor == stupid already, and that therefore computers must be making the children stupid-er, rather than perhaps being responsible for making otherwise intelligent poor people become stupid in the first place.

    1. A J Stiles
      FAIL

      Um

      Oh, dear, here come the bleeding-heart brigade.

      Well, sorry to disappoint you, but there is actually a strong correlation between poverty and stupidity. Smart people don't stay poor for long.

      Refusing to blame the victim is doing them a disservice, if it's actually their own fault.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Echos of my mind

    "Vigdor and Ladd compared maths and reading scores before and after acquisition of a home computer and against other students without one."

    If that means poor versus poor then the study shows it's a distraction which shows up in test scores and bright kdis regulated use of computers lessens the damage so the gap widens. Like the research on parents giving alcohol to children or allowing them to drink at home.

  25. Efros
    Thumb Down

    Interesting

    Given the subject of the article, one might have thought that the contributors to this forum might have been a little bit more careful as to their spelling etc. Sadly this is not the case.

    As for NCLB, fundamental error in the law is assuming that every child has the same potential as far as education goes. Someone really needs their arse kicked over that one. It should have been call NPCMNE, No Parental Commitment Means No Education. Schools and teachers can only do so much, without the support and, lets face it, discipline given and applied by a functional family unit the kid hasn't got a bloody chance. I've seen a few struggle out of the mire but on the whole their ambitions and aspirations are screwed before they even start. The only thing they have going for them is the chance that sometime later after their teenage years they will realize that they need some qualification or other and will return to education when their motivation will take them through.

    @ AC "

    Yet another obvious bit of research... #

    For every Faraday, Hooke, Newton or Einstein there are many thousands of Forrest Gumps."

    I'm not usually a spelling/grammar pedant but come on.

  26. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Just like a book is useless without the ability to read....

    a computer is fairly useless to someone unable to program. You need to teach people how to do more with their computers than watching porn.

  27. Tim Jenkins

    Appropriate Technology Rulez 0k

    Bet their ability to locate dvd rips, torrented mp3s and gross-out p0rn was hugely improved though, and frankly, what else will they ever need to know?

  28. Tim Jenkins

    Yer tis

    Incidentally, for those of an older generation who can still read whole sentences at a time, the report is (currently) available here:

    http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/events/colloquia/Vigdor_ScalingtheDigitalDivide.pdf

    (and advanced graduates of Numberology might like to note the date on it. This is 'news'?)

  29. heyrick Silver badge

    Fallacies.

    "Thus computered-up poor children actually become dumber than they would have been without the tech."

    ONE. No, I think you'll find, at best, the children that approach learning as something important will get SMARTER than those who doss away time on a computer. Having a computer (or a p()rno mag) won't make you dumber, you just might not get as smart as the kids who are developing.

    TWO. That apparent assumption that a good grounding in English and Maths is key for being smart. I know people who can recite pretty much everything written by the Bard word for word. They have jobs as theatre actors, but never made it big, so they're out of work as much as in it. They aren't stupid as they can talk at endless length about the themes and meanings and deconstruct every last word, but to say they're in touch with reality would be giving too much credit. English? I bet they aced it. Maths? They took apart the speech patterns too, using a mathematical basis. So I guess they're okay with maths. Society? That's a flunker...

    THREE. This study is pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook? It's how old? It's how relevant?

    FOUR. That giving a child a computer will automatically make them into better students. Hell, I got a BBC micro and the first thing I did was take it apart and learn about its insides and what made it tick. I guess marginally more useful than playing Elite, but a far cry from what it was expected to be used for - writing essays etc. A kid with a computer and no direction from elders is going to find blasting aliens more fulfilling than homework. That's a no brainer!

    FIVE. Failing to make a distinction between upper class households where education will be taken seriously, and "those poor" where, through neglect of generations or apathy or basic lack of resources, education will be a less important part of life. I knew a girl from a poor family who wasn't a dummy but never bothered and was never encouraged to bother. She quickly became a teenage mother and didn't need to bother... I could say "what a waste", but maybe she sees it differently?

    I like to think of myself as a reasonably smart guy, but I prefer oven meals to cooking anything. This, no doubt, goes back to a childhood of ridicule for showing an interest in cooking. Oh no, girls do cooking, boys fiddle around with cars. Nobody ever came up with an actual reason WHY a bloke cannot cook (indeed, many of the current bunch of TV cooks are male). There is a lot more to a balanced education than the ability to read, write and add up. Knowing how to live is arguably the most important. The ability to interact with people (isn't being bad at this a Geek stereotype?). The ability to articulate an idea in words? The ability to not only "learn" what you are taught, but to *understand* it. This is. in a way, the Wiki-problem. Wiki is full of information. The internet as a whole is stuffed with it. But information is not knowledge, and it sure isn't understanding. Wiki has taught me many things (though, I must shamefully admit to a current addiction to TVtropes :-) ), however in order to LEARN from Wiki you must join the dots for what it is you are trying to understand, otherwise it is just a group of factoids with about as much relevance to anything as soundbites to political discussion...

  30. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I seem to remember a quote

    Something along the lines:

    There seem to be more stupid adults than stupid children, so what happens to the children?

    Education?

  31. OrsonX
    Headmaster

    Sovieso

    Having done some teaching I discovered:

    - the kids are geniuses on the PC, they can do everything

    - the kids can't read or write and have never opened a BOOK

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But, but...

    ...why should poor kids be any less dumb than rich kids?

  33. John Savard Silver badge

    Wasting Time

    It's not at all surprising to me that disadvantaged children might achieve even less well if they have new ways of wasting time. However, not having access to Wikipedia, for example, is a disadvantage, and not being computer-literate will be a disadvantage as well.

    I suspect the professors work is accurate, but it shows only short-term effects, not long-term ones, and so making the policy decision to abandon closing the digital divide based on it would be a mistake.

  34. cphi

    what about science and history

    Doesn't surprise me that maths and reading skills decline. They're both skills rather than knowledge based and can't really see any educational value from a computer. I wonder though about the scores for subjects like history, geography and science. Wikipedia, Google Earth, Hyperphysics, myriad of specialist websites, etc would be astonishing resources. I certainly wish I'd had access to them when I was a kid.

    Also I wouldn't discount the socialising value of access to Facebook et al. Irrespective of what you think about them, they are the predominant socialising tools for young people and the effects of being excluded on account of poverty must be pretty devastating.

  35. elderlybloke
    Linux

    The kids get better education now

    than I got when I was at school.

    I started during the Great Depression and finished about a year after WW2 ended.

    I reckon that anything I learned was not because of the teachers, but in spite of them

    I regarded them as a waste of space and I still do.

    Had to wait until I got to a Technical College while in my 20s to get teachers worthy of the name.

    School days were not the good old days for me.

    My grandson is having a much happier time and is learning sfuff that was not taught and probably not known then.

  36. Chris Long

    All about the parents

    The more I read about this type of research (rich vs poor), the more I realise that the researchers are (probably willingly) confusing correlation with causation. Yes, children of wealthy parents do better in life, but that's just a correlation.

    A perfectly reasonable hypothesis would be that committed, intelligent, hard-working people tend to be both wealthier and better parents, while lazy, selfish, unintelligent people tend to be both poorer and worse parents.

    One would expect a certain amount of so-called 'social mobility' from the children of the occasional committed, hard-working but poorly-educated parents, but many children are just doomed to repeat the mistakes of their own parents and remain stuck at the bottom. Giving them a free computer won't fix that.

    It's an unavoidable corrolary of the welfare state's provision of free services (like education) that some people will abdicate their own responsibilities to their children, believing that it's all taken care of. Schools should be continually reminding parents that their kids are learning all the time, only 30 hours per week of which is spent at school - for the other 138 hours, they're learning from their parents.

    Of course, teachers aren't allowed to say that to obviously-bad parents for fear of offending them.

    1. A J Stiles
      Flame

      Fear of offending

      "Of course, teachers aren't allowed to say [that parents have responsibilities] to obviously-bad parents for fear of offending them."

      That, I suspect, is a big part of the problem: fear of offending.

      We seem to have lost sight of the fact that just occasionally, someone might actually *deserve* to be offended. The truth of the matter is, there are a few ineducable little scrotes out there; and the lack of any triage in schools is letting them drag everyone else down to their level.

  37. Boring Bob

    To sum it up

    Want to learn, will learn. Don't want to learn, won't learn.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wAT U meaN? I R not sootip!

    FaceBook R me freund!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    I Have The Answer

    Okay, I have AN answer, but that doesn't sound as dramatic.

    No Graphics Chip.

    If games and youtube and pr0n are the problem, why not a kinderputer with a strictly character-based screen? You don't actually need a GUI for a word processor or spreadsheet or even a browser (when Oi were a lad, WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Lynx in a terminal, mutter mutter mutter). A monochrome reflective LCD screen, ARM chip, and console linux (or FreeDos) would be everything they need for the schoolwork they actually *do*, and be even cheaper than OLPC.

    1. steviesteveo

      That's a really, really good idea

      You only need any sort of power in a machine like that if you're seriously complicated work, which really isn't likely (and if you need a quad core computer to run your geological simulation, that's cool, you're probably not in school any more) so you could simply have whatever processor is just fast enough to run a network connection, a couple of virtual terminals and a keyboard at the same time. You don't even need a it to connect to a printer in this day and age, because the teacher can print it out if they want.

      I agree with the Linux suggestion. I think it shouldn't just be DOS machines that someone found in a cupboard, it should be genuinely modern command line based machines.

      Now, -that- would be teaching computer skills.

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