Thursday 27th October 2016

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

Learning Through Computers

February 16, 2014 Featured Today No Comments


Late last year First Teachers focused on an article by computer guru Joshua Davis, which appeared on the web site Wired ( Davis wrote favorably of an educational innovation being carried out in India in which small groups of students were “given a computer loaded with molecular biology materials.” The students were told “there was some interesting stuff on the computer, and might they take a look.” Then the teacher left the room.
According to Davis, “Over the next 75 days the children worked out how to use the computer and began to learn.” When the teacher returned, he administered a written test on molecular biology. “The kids answered about one in four questions correctly. After another 75 days,” with some encouragement and guidance, “they were getting every other question right.” The educational consultant who put this program in place states flatly, “If you put a computer in front of children and remove all other adult restrictions, they will self-organize around it like bees around a flower.”
This consultant is now in the process of establishing five more schools in India based on this approach. “There will be no teachers, curriculum, or separation into age groups — just six or so computers and a woman to look after the kids’ safety. His defining principle: ‘The children are completely in charge’.” He is convinced that “the information revolution has enabled a style of learning that wasn’t possible before,” one that it will be far more productive than traditional methods of teacher-directed teaching.
We asked our readers to respond. Peter P. Pranis of McAllen, Texas, a frequent source of valuable insights on educational issues for the readers of this column, took us up on the offer. He writes that learning at the high school and college “can be broken into about four components:
“1. Reading textbooks and other readings, ideally before. . . .
“2. Lectures on the material covered in 1.
“3. Doing problems (math, science, engineering) or writing essays for….
“4. Recitation sessions, going over problems, and discussion groups, or seminars in the liberal arts.”
Pranis contends that “computers can do great on lectures, such as those provided by the Khan Academy. Indeed, in comparison to the lectures given in large lecture halls at many colleges, the computer version is far better.”
But, Pranis continues, “point 4 is the key to personalized learning. The computer cannot handle this responsibility. In recitation sessions, the students should put the problems done at home on the boards — to be critiqued by the teacher and class. For this to happen, the students must have worked on the material at home, on their own. How will it be possible to keep the kids from just copying from the computer and not working on the material?
“From what I have heard as feedback from college students, the faculties at our colleges seem to be getting lazier and lazier. Recitation seems to be going by the board. When I was an adjunct professor at the University of Texas in Odessa, Texas, I had the students put the problems they had done on the board. This practice disciplined the students; they seldom would go to the board unprepared more than once. Recitation and seminars should be the focus of the faculty, regardless of the extent to which they use computers in their classes.”
Pranis closes with an observation that requires our attention before we look to make computers the key to learning in this country. He points to the work of Donald P. Hayes, Department of Sociology, Cornell University, who “demonstrates in his work that K-12 textbooks were dumbed down three to four grades from 1945 to the early 1990s. This means that a 1990s high school diploma signified little more student accomplishment than a 1945 grade school diploma.” Pranis thinks it would be better to “tighten up the K-12 education” than to waste time and money on remedial courses after unprepared students are admitted to college.
On another topic. John, a reader from New York, has forwarded to us an article by Marjorie Romeyn-Sanabria from the January 31 online edition of The American Conservative ( It has much to say to those who insist that it is the responsibility of a school and a teacher to make coursework “relevant,” even enjoyable, for their students; that the cardinal sin for an educator is to make a class “boring,” that it must be “meaningful.”
Writes Romeyn-Sanabria, “The end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first have seen the rise of a new aestheticism: professional aestheticism, in which emotional satisfaction supplants the ideal of a job well done. After all, the reasoning goes, you are in your cubicle for at least eight hours a day — shouldn’t you enjoy what you’re doing?”
It is a familiar message these days. Students are encouraged to drop out of college if they don’t find it a “meaningful” experience; told that they can return to school later, “after experiencing life.” Young people, Romeyn-Sanabria continues, “are lulled into believing that we can drop out of college and leave ‘square’ careers,” perhaps in search of some vaguely defined “entrepreneurial independence.”
Romeyn-Sanabria has nothing against people seeking to go into business for themselves, as long as they have thought out what they are doing, rather than follow some romanticized dream that they will become the next Bill Gates by escaping the “drudgery” of their classrooms.
“This desire for workplace satisfaction,” she continues, “in the face of lean economic times has created an awkward tension on both the supply and demand side of the labor force. For one thing, you can’t be happy at a job you don’t have: unemployment, while decreasing, still hovers at seven percent. Secondly, the expectation of being happy at work has devolved into entitlement, following this line of thought: If I am not happy at work, then I am undervalued and must be wasting away. It’s a vaguely Marxist premise, assuming oppression that disregards the basic model of labor economics and alternate paths to better opportunities.”
She agrees: “Humans are not automata, and a value of work beyond simply putting food on the table is warranted.” But “it’s important to be aware of why one is working, to strive for a larger goal other than meeting the standard obligations. This arrangement of priorities presupposes the willingness to overlook the occasional encroachments on workplace comforts. In other words, if you hate what you’re doing, but are committed to why you’re doing it, or for whom you’re doing it, such purpose eclipses the need for the ephemeral professional aestheticism a bored worker craves, at least some of the time.
“Work is called work for a reason — it is not meant to be effortless, nor is it a method to find oneself or to have all one’s fantasies come true. It is a means to survive and fulfill one’s obligations.”
This message also applies to students. Learning is not always fun. Often it is hard and grueling work that must be endured for the greater satisfaction that will come after the subject matter has been mastered and “meaningful” (and, one hopes, gainful) employment has been secured. Students who drop courses because they find them “boring” and “irrelevant” often learn to regret their mistake. It would do parents and teachers well not to give in to this impulsive behavior.

+    +    +

Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about this and other educational issues. The e-mail address for First Teachers is, and the mailing address is P.O. Box 15, Wallingford CT 06492.

Share Button

2016 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican: Cremated bodies may not be scattered

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2016 / 09:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released an instruction Tuesday regarding burial and cremation, reiterating the Church’s teaching that cremation, while strongly discouraged, can be permissible under certain…Continue Reading

Pope’s climate message failed to sway Catholic conservatives: study

Pope Francis’s landmark statement on climate change and his call for more work on the issue failed to sway conservative American Catholics, according to a new study. The report, from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, concluded that…Continue Reading

Live From New York Should a Catholic Vote for Hillary or Trump?

Almighty God has been very good  in giving us as the day’s Gospel passage that of Our Lord’s famous admonition to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but to God what is God’s.” I say that in view of the…Continue Reading

Catholic university blasts ‘Unborn Lives Matter’ posters as ‘bigotry,’ bans them on campus

CHICAGO, Illinois, October 18, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – College Republicans at DePaul University were prohibited by the university president from displaying posters on campus advertising their group with the pro-life message, “Unborn Lives Matter.” Vincentian Father Dennis Holtschneider indicated to the…Continue Reading

For Archbishop Chaput, ‘Catholic Spring’ group did untold damage

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 14, 2016 / 05:53 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput did not enjoy his first and only encounter with two leaders of Catholics United. “It was an interesting experience,” Archbishop Chaput recounted in his Oct. 13 column…Continue Reading

The anti-Catholic Catholics (and the bishops who support them)

Yesterday Ross Douthat of the New York Times embarked on a lengthy Tweetstorm —21 tweets in all—questioning whether it’s accurate to refer to the leaked emails from the Clinton campaign as evidence of “anti-Catholic” bigotry. Douthat—who is no friend of…Continue Reading

The next ‘deplorables’? Clinton campaign rips ‘backwards’ Catholic beliefs in leaked e-mails

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – “Conservative Catholics” are the latest Americans to be smeared by members of Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign, leaked emails revealed on Tuesday show. Catholic beliefs are bashed as “backwards” and conservative Catholics…Continue Reading

German Bishop’s New Proposal: “There Exists More Than Man and Woman”

The Catholic Church in Germany seems to be becoming more and more unbounded in its proposals. In the recent past, for examples, the official website of the German Bishops’ Conference,, has reported about the idea to have women cardinals; about…Continue Reading

Cardinal Sarah presents counter-vision to Francis as he launches new book

After being reprimanded by Pope Francis over the summer for calling on priests to face east while saying Mass, Cardinal Robert Sarah is refusing to back down and is becoming a rallying point of opposition to this papacy.  The Vatican’s…Continue Reading

Massachusetts’ highest court grants full parental rights to unmarried gay woman

BOSTON – The Mass. court that paved the way for same-sex marriage in the United States ruled Tuesday that an unmarried gay woman whose former girlfriend gave birth to two children through artificial insemination has the same parental rights as…Continue Reading

Shunned for supporting natural marriage, former Mozilla CEO is back with new browser

SAN FRANCISCO, September 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The former CEO of Mozilla has released a new Internet browser called Brave. Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript, continues to lead the technological revolution with Brave, an innovative concept in Internet browsers.…Continue Reading

Lay Catholic Group: Tim Kaine’s Radical Views Stem From Embrace of Liberation Theology

An organization of committed lay Catholics is challenging Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, who’s invoking his Catholic faith and the words of Pope Francis as a basis for his radical positions on abortion and marriage, as well as his…Continue Reading


Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Enter Comments Below

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “An Introduction To The Problem Of Euthanasia”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 23 of The Facts of Life, a 150-page treatise on all of the aspects of euthanasia, e-mail him at + + + We have covered the definitions of the varieties of…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Father Gerald Murray, Blasts Clinton for Not Apologizing for Staff Emails, Suggesting Pope Francis Supports Her

A Catholic priest said Friday on Fox News that he is very disappointed Hillary Clinton didn’t apologize for her campaign staff’s anti-Catholic remarks during her appearance at the Al Smith dinner. The annual Al Smith roast-style fundraiser for Catholic charities was held Thursday night in Manhattan, and featured both candidates for president. Father Gerald Murray, the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City, was also incensed that Clinton suggested that Pope Francis was endorsing her…Continue Reading

Cardinal Kasper: Can the ‘remarried’ now receive communion? ‘Yes. Period.’

October 24, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — In a recent publication of the German journal Stimmen der Zeit (Journal for Christian Culture), Cardinal Walter Kasper published an article calling Amoris Laetitia a “paradigm shift” in the Church’s teaching. “Amoris Laetitia: Break or Beginning” is the title of a recent scientific article by Kasper in which he analyzes the post-synodal exhortation and provides his opinion on the right hermeneutic in reading it. In the first part called “Discussion…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood rips proposal to require father’s consent for abortion

SOUTH CAROLINA, October 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) is walking back suggestions it made last month that fathers of pre-born children consent for their mothers to abort them. The proposed regulations would possibly update abortion accident reporting requirements, requirements for abortion licensure, “complaint reporting, patient rights, infection control,” “record maintenance,” and “fire and life safety requirements,” according to the SCDHEC, which is accepting public comment on…Continue Reading

Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput welcomes ‘smaller church’ of holier Catholics

(RNS) In a stark prognosis for contemporary Catholicism, a leader of the conservative wing of the U.S. hierarchy has said that “a smaller, lighter church” of fewer but holier believers is preferable to one that promotes inclusion at the expense of traditional orthodoxy. In a speech delivered Wednesday (Oct. 19) at the University of Notre Dame, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput also suggested that many prominent Catholics are so weak in their faith that they ought…Continue Reading

Kansas archbishop blasts Kaine: He’s an ‘orthodox’ Democrat but a ‘cafeteria Catholic’


KANSAS CITY, Kansas, October 17, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, has lambasted Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine for supporting abortion on demand while simultaneously touting his Catholic faith. Kaine is an “orthodox” Democrat but only a “cafeteria Catholic” who picks and chooses “the teachings of the Catholic Church that are politically convenient,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann wrote in a devastating critique of the Virginia senator. “It was painful to listen…Continue Reading

Restoring The Rightful Place Of The Supreme Court In American Government

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bi-monthly] in Crisis. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of…Continue Reading

Time To Pray Unceasingly . . . The Catholic Church Is Under Attack

By FR. MICHAEL P. ORSI The Gospel reading for Sunday, October 16 was Jesus’ parable about the persistent widow demanding of a corrupt judge that he render a fair verdict on her claim. The judge gives in “lest she finally come and strike me.” It’s a humorous anecdote which Jesus turns into an illustration of…Continue Reading

A Movie Review . . . Coming To God In An Unconventional Way

By REY FLORES “I see you dressed in white. Every wrong made right. I see a rose in bloom. At the sight of you (oh so priceless). Irreplaceable, unmistakable, incomparable. I see it all in you (oh so priceless).” The above are the closing lyrics for the song Priceless by country duo For King &…Continue Reading

A Disillusioned Marxist Professor

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK I spent much of my adult life observing left-wing academics who professed a fondness for socialism in one form or another. Some were my professors, others colleagues. More than a few were New Left Marxists who spoke openly in admiration of Mao, Fidel Castro, and the Sandinistas. One woman I taught…Continue Reading

The March To Totalitarianism

By DONALD DeMARCO Hannah Arendt, best known for her denunciation of totalitarianism in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, has made the comment that “the aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.” Totalitarianism can appeal only to the unthinking masses. A true education, let it…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 Letter… Forbids Catholics To Vote For Hillary Clinton Under Pain Of Mortal Sin

(Editor’s Note: Below is a commentary The Wanderer is reprinting with permission from Catholics 4 Trump [catholics4trump], originally posted on October 11. All rights reserved. Catholics 4 Trump makes the case that a vote for the pro-abortion Hillary Clinton is objectively grave matter. Note the contrast between Trump’s and Clinton’s abortion stands in the third and final presidential debate on…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Pray Always And Never Grow Weary

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK A moment of dawning experience when I was young gave birth to a nearly perfect prayer. This farewell to innocence of which I speak was a blessing. In the light of it I came to know the presence of God through His goodness which is the heart of prayer in the life of faith. I…Continue Reading

What Is Faith?… Other Attributes Of God

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA Part 8 “I love thee, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2). The enthusiasm with which the psalmist praises God our Lord comes from his knowledge of God’s…Continue Reading

Confirmation In The Economy Of Salvation

By DON FIER Part 2 In the introductory paragraph of its section on the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Roman Catechism [RC], promulgated in 1566 by Pope St. Pius V soon after the Council of Trent, are the following words: “If there was ever a time when the Sacrament of Confirmation needed to be explained carefully, that time is now. All…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: J.H.T. of North Carolina, a deacon who has been a witness to the “liturgical wars” of the past half-century, has recommended an “extraordinary book” — Peter Kwasniewski’s Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church — that he says should be read by all Catholics, clergy and lay, who…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Colman Of Kilmacduagh

By CAROLE BRESLIN Ireland, the Emerald Isle, a green country of lush fauna, friendly people, and beautiful views — if you can find a clear day — has a rich and troubled heritage. It is a land full of the lore of elves, fairies, and, most important, Catholic saints. Numerous books have been written about the many Irish saints and…Continue Reading

Blessed Giuseppe Puglisi

By CAROLE BRESLIN When a society is riddled with evil and corruption, the worst thing we can do is to remain quiet. If we truly believe in God, then it is our obligation to do all we can to save the souls in danger of being lost in such a society. The threats and dangers of this world are not…Continue Reading