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High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian Hardcover – 31 Oct 1999

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 33 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Stoll Knows What He's Talking About 4 May 2000
By David Gardner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Clifford Stoll's worries about the (mis)use of computers in education ring true. Like him I am no computer Luddite and, as a university teacher, make extensive use of computers. However, he is right, there is no substitute for a certain amount of hard slog when it comes to learning. A lot of multimedia software attempts to make learning fun and there is nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn't trivialise the learning process.
There is much of value in this book but for me the most important part was Stoll's thoughts on the differences between hypertext and "real" text and just how detrimental an effect those differences can have on the reading habits and abilities of young people. I also enjoyed Stoll's exposé of the eagerness, at many levels of government throughout the United States, to install technology at any cost. This demonstrates a lack of understanding among officials who should know better. Often, it seems, the funding of technology in schools becomes a political gambit.
Stoll points out that there is little need to emphasise the learning of technology within the curriculum, especially at the expense of other subjects, because young people pick it up so easily anyway. I think it wouldn't be too strong to say that he views a large part of the US policy on computers in schools as crazy. He puts a lot of strong arguments to support this view.
This book is easy to read and it will certainly give you a lot to think about. It is worth reading (if you aren't too busy surfing the web).
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Skeptical view on use of computer technology esp. in educ. 8 Nov. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Stoll shares his skeptical and sometimes cynical view on the use of computer technology in education and society in general.
I found the part on education a bit repetitous and thought that Stoll could have shortened it after the first couple of chapters he tried to make his point (or condense into less chapters). The part on computer technology and society is more general and covers several loose topics (PowerPoint and the grey mass of presentations with non-essential gadgetery!)
His insight is refreshing and somewhat daring in a time you seemingly should not speak 'against' computer technology: It sometimes feels you are either on or off in the current trends regarding the Web and computers in general. Stoll simply asks questions on the blind use of computer technology and makes us think about it (I happen to agree with him a lot), but he isn't against it: he also thinks there are a lot of good uses but computer technology should not become the goal, only a means to get where we want to go.
Unfortunately, I found commentaries like "Uh, right." below the level of competence of Stoll as a writer. He explains and tells other stuff so well, so he should not have to fall back on short (cheap) comments like that.
I give 3 points for the book (it is not great nor badly written; well above average) and 1 point for the refreshing and daring view on computer technology.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
It Tears Away The Velvet Curtain Of Oz Technology 11 July 2000
By Mark Valentine - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Maybe this is not the right forum to discuss a book that debunks the internet, but I presume that you have enough sense to read between the lines here as with Stoll's book.
More than his writing style, I enjoyed his perspicacious understanding of how computers and everything related to high tech has radically changed our society and individual lives. For some odd reason, we never challenge new gadgetry, we just assimilate it. But for everything we gain, we lose something.
I particularly enjoyed the first half of his book, in which he challenges using computers in our public schools. It is a high cost, low benefit formula. (Read Jane Healy's books, Failure To Connect and Endangered Minds, if you want to follow-up on this topic.)
In the second half of his book, he rattles technology in general, and although his tone sounds at times like the whiny Andy Rooney, his message needs to be heard, particularly his chapter on Library management.
If the title appeals to you, you will like the book; he's a radical from the inside. This book should be a companion to Bill McKibbon's The Age of Misinformation and Jerry Mander's In The Absence Of The Sacred.
This is a quick, scatalogical read, friends, and worth it.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Street-wise commentary on our love affair with computers. 9 Nov. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Non-conformist Cliff Stoll, previously having taken on computer hackers and silicon valley, points his street-wise chatter sites on the educational use of computers. Stoll is concerned that the computer has drained resources instead of providing quality education. While admittedly a big user of computers (even to the point of keeping his old Mac for a fishtank, which is admittedly also being a recycler instead of a waste generator) Stoll finds numerous examples of the use of computers which does not enhance the learning environment. He intersperses his own anecdotes with quotes from seasoned educators. In the end, you have a humorous rendition of a serious matter, namely, how much better learning by our youth is being accomplished by the reliance on the computer and its web-based technologies, as opposed to instilling in our youth an earnest desire to comprehend the world within which they live. Not to mention the ability to think for one's self.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
We need more people like Cliff in the teaching ranks. 30 Aug. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a public school teacher I can attest to the fact that Cliff really knows what he is talking about. I think that he'd make a fantastic High School teacher and he knows more about education than half of the ED school professors that I had in college.
Cliff's basic thesis in this book is that we are spending way too much money on computers in schools in an effort to appear up to date. He brilliantly argues that learning is a difficult process requiring hard work from both the students and the teacher. Too often, he argues, we are seduced by the idea that computers will somehow make this process simple and painless.
He presents his material with humor and persuasive arguements. I find that his points were well thought out and argued well.
For example, he rails against the idea of teaching kids how to make multi-media presentations. He points out that these exercises take a tremendous amount of time to create, and the amount of material learned is neglible.
I once sat through a workshop where a student produced power point presentation was displayed. This was supposed to be a stellar example integrating technology to history. What the kid did was make a power point movie to the tune of Billy Joel's "We didn't start the fire." It had all the images that Joel mentions in his song, but I thought. Did the kid really know who Chairman Mao was, who Ho Chi Mihn was, and all the other people and places mentioned? Or did he just go out to the web, download the images, and paste them into the song? Stoll's book argues against just this sort of junk, and is should be required reading for all school superintendents
Sadly, this book will probobly go unnoticed in the educational policy marketplace. Peopl who will wonder why more and more of are children's test scores are declining and why kids are having to take remedial courses in college should buy Stoll's book. The answer is staring at them in the face.
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