Review: Failure To Connect

Failure To Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds - for Better and Worse by Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., ISBN 0-684-83136-8

Having sat in on at least one session where the educational content of a soon-to-be best-selling "edutainment" product was reverse engineered into the marketing literature, it isn't hard to convince me that computers as an educational tool have been dramatically oversold.

As schools cry for money, better certification, lack of funds for art and vocational education, they spend billions on computer labs which are out of date in three years, and hire people with technical skills to run them, ignoring the lack of teaching qualifications or even desire to work with children.

As a product of a Waldorf school, with its avoidance of technology, you'd be hard pressed to convince me that we need to help our kids get a jump on the equivalent of better TV remote handling skills.

Even in the school library, where you'd think that encyclopedias on CD-ROM would be a godsend, licensing restrictions make the 20 volumes of a paper edition vastly more useful to the teachers and librarians willing to plan their curriculum accordingly than a license which gives one computer at a time access.

Alas, while Failure To Connect brings up all of these points, and more, it fails to make a convincing case, or even an entertaining read. Routinely the book spends a chapter denigrating a technology, only to end with bullet points of "things you should look for when buying this technology for your child". And my hogwash detector kept going off at "a study has shown" sort of ambiguous references; if you're going to refer to it, bloody well reference it.

On the whole the book was quite disappointing, it's not, for instance, a reference that I'd pass off to the pro-technology in education forces in my local schools because I can't argue for many of the points it tries to make.

Save yourself the $25 and the time spent reading it.

Wednesday, December 30th, 1998