Friday, 27 May 2011

'Home Educators are at the forefront of exploiting technology for educational achievement'

One of my favourite people who regularly comments here, claimed yesterday that:

'Home Educators are at the forefront of exploiting technology for educational achievement'.

I am a particular fan of this individual because quite apart from any other consideration, she provides us with a textbook example of the use of language by somebody with semantic pragmatic disorder. It would be interesting to meet her child and see if there is a genetic component to this. This is however, by the by. The idea that home educators are pioneers of technology, simply means that rather than filling their homes with a lot of expensive books and teaching their children, not a few such parents rely instead upon the Internet. All the information in the world is there, right? And our children can take control of their learning by finding out what they want to know, yes? It is at times like this that one wishes to move the keyboard out of the way and bang one's head up and down on the desk like a woodpecker.

It is quite true that almost any piece of information one might require may be found on the Internet. Unfortunately, useful and true information makes up only a tiny fraction of what is to be found in cyberspace. It is dwarfed by the sheer quantity of mad nonsense there. A child wishing to find out who the first people in America were can certainly discover about the pre-Clovis controversy and the Norse settlement in Newfoundland. Side by side with this is information from the Mormons, alleging that ancient Israelites settled in North America, other stuff claiming that the Japanese visited the country before Columbus, and also a lot of really mad sites about Atlantis and the lost continent of Mu. Very few children have enough basic knowledge of history and archaeology properly to assess the rival merits of these various theories. In a book on the subject aimed at children and published by a respectable publisher, the sensible theories will be given prominence and it will be made clear that this is what most experts believe, while the crank ideas might rate a footnote. Without this guidance, children can start to fall prey to any amount of idiocy.

Another problem of course is that children most generally waste their time on the Internet anyway, spending hours gossiping with their mates and emailing each other strange images. They may assure their parents that they are researching some pet project, but this is all too often untrue.

This whole business ties in with what I was saying yesterday about the problem with home educating parents not keeping in touch with modern developments. Ten years ago, the educational world was alight with the idea that the 'Information super highway' was the way forward. This is still the predominant idea in almost all state schools, but independent ones have been a little more cautious and tended to rely more upon books. This is often reflected in their exam results. Quite a bit of research has demonstrated that computers in the classroom do not really have such a great benefit for children and can in some cases cause harm.

The reasons for home educators enthusiastically adopting technology in this way are simple to understand. In the first place, they genuinely believe them to be of great benefit to their children's education; they have swallowed the early hype and not read of the doubts which are beginning to creep in. Secondly, the majority of homes have Internet access and filling the house with hundreds of books can be expensive. Why bother, when all the information is on the net? Anyway, things are changing so fast that those books will soon be out of date anyway. Once again, these parents are probably not aware of the evidence which suggests that those children who go on to achieve academic success tend to come from homes full of books where screen time is far lower than the national average for children of similar age. The converse may well be proved true in the future; that those children coming from homes with few books and whose screen time is above average, will be predisposed to academic failure.


  1. I agree with the sentiments of this post regarding technology. The Internet is about 20% useful knowledge and 80% bull***t. Nearly all our learning is done through books with only specific assignments being done via online research.

    It was an interesting point you made about state v independant schools in relation to technology. I do think that since the dawn of technology there is far less call for children to think for themselves, less call to write neatly and less need to remember anything.

    I am not convinced though that internet access is chosen over books, certainly not in the homes of HEers that I know or know of. I think you are also wrong to assume that parents don't know the issues surrounding too much screen time- I think parents generally weigh up what the child is learning against how much time is spent online and generally get a balance.

  2. ‘The idea that home educators are pioneers of technology’ and ‘Home Educators are at the forefront of exploiting technology for educational achievement’ are two entirely different things. Why does your mind twist everything Webb?

  3. "I am not convinced though that internet access is chosen over books, certainly not in the homes of HEers that I know or know of."

    Not in my experience either. We have hundreds of books and also use the internet. However, we have discussed at length the fact that books and the internet can be wrong. We've discussed the various sources - primary, secondary, etc and how to compare and verify conflicting information. Books are often wrong too!