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Book Review


"This book explains why computers have failed to alter education until now, how they should be employed, and the startling advances their appropriate use will bring"... "Effective computerization in education will happen eventually, simply because the advantages are monumental."



Title: Computers As Tutors
Author:
Frederick Bennet Ph.D.
Publisher: Faben, Inc.
www.fabenbooks.com

About the author: Dr. Bennett has taught at the college and university levels, he earned a doctoral degree in psychology and is a professional computer programmer.

This book introduces the computer into the benign role of a tutor. The word tutor conjures up visions of extra study usually after school. Somehow the individualized attention is clouded by the fact that more study time is required. The individualized attention provided by the "ideal tutor" can provide exceptional advantages for learning and the "ideal tutor" should possess the following attributes:
1) the ability to prevent undue repetition
2) enough time to provide true individual attention
3) the flexibility to instruct a little differently for difficulty in grasping a point.
4) always starts the next class exactly where the previous one ended
5) encouraging attitude
6) never chastises
7) infinite patience
8) non-judgmental
9) non-prejudicial

Tutoring should not be confined to after school hours, rather the author makes a case for every student to be tutored during regular school hours. Also, that the computer with appropriate software is the "ideal tutor" and this combination is the essence of a successful formula that will solve the crisis in education. He begins the book with "This book explains why computers have failed to alter education until now, how they should be employed, and the startling advances their appropriate use will bring"... "Effective computerization in education will happen eventually, simply because the advantages are monumental."

To support his hypothesis, the author sights the following case: "The school board in Indian River County in Florida confronted the problems that accompanied keeping at-risk students in regular classes, and they looked for a solution. A new use of computers was suggested: remove these students from regular classrooms, and let the machines teach them. This program was first established in Vero Beach High School in 1987. To become candidates for the program, students had to be behind academically and unable to graduate with their class. They also had to be seriously considering dropping out. Consider, that the students selected had been a constant disruption in class for many years." Could the "ideal tutor" make any difference or was this to be another colossal waste of time? The retention rate of these "at-risk" students skyrocketed, they collectively enjoyed a new sensation previously foreign to them "school can be fun", and students began to learn at an accelerated rate. Would these students be allowed to graduate, if the material were learned by the end of the school year? The amount of material to be learned appeared to be overwhelming and to graduate, they had to make up, not lost months but vanished years. Would the rules for graduation stifle their progress or would the students measure up as in the movie Stand and Deliver? The results are in the book.

The power of the computer as a tutor is further displayed by its multimedia capabilities the author says "The full potential of interactive multimedia presentations is awesome. Teachers indirectly compete for the attention of students with highly talented actors and writers who bombard pupils with entertaining films and TV programs outside schools hours... material that is cleverly written and superbly delivered. Children have grown accustomed to being entertained." Appropriate content displayed in a compelling format and appealing to more of the senses can fulfill this potential. The author says "schools have adopted the attitude that children must accept teaching as it is, even if it is sometimes uninteresting." The rational that supports this statement is that children are the recipients of the education that they have to put up with imposed teachers and teaching methods.

The introduction of the computer in the benign role, of a tutor will have caused a turbulence of epic proportions. Teachers defending their roles, administrators defending their staff, educators defending their system, teacher paraprofessionals defending their jobs, parents confused about the best way to educate their children.

The author does a very good job of explaining the reasons why the use of the computer in this role will work without confusing the reader with the myriad of objections that may occur from the education sector. In summary, the education system has to learn to adapt not its students.

Who would benefit from reading this book? Everyone.

Look for a follow-up to this book review soon. The software mentioned in this book will be explored and evaluated, an interview with the author will be published, and any new information will be presented. END

 

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Educators
F. Bennett, PhD

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