A reader who signs in as “Democracy” posted the following:

Part 1

As some have noted, technology is a valuable tool. The problem is that it’s too often misused, and not necessarily for the better–– think texting and selfie-taking while driving, political and corporate hacking, nanosecond stock trading.

Anyone who’s become relatively adept at using technology knows something about becoming involved in multi-tasking.

Consider the following, reported in 2008 by Christine Rosen:

“Numerous studies have shown the sometimes-fatal danger of using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving, for example, and several states have now made that particular form of multitasking illegal. In the business world, where concerns about time-management are perennial, warnings about workplace distractions spawned by a multitasking culture are on the rise. In 2005, the BBC reported on a research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, that found, ‘Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.’ The psychologist who led the study called this new ‘infomania’ a serious threat to workplace productivity.”

The threat to workplace productivity is not made lightly. Rosen added:

“One study by researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions among office workers; they found that workers took an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or answering e-mail and return to their original task. Discussing multitasking with the New York Times in 2007, Jonathan B. Spira, an analyst at the business research firm Basex, estimated that extreme multitasking—information overload—costs the U.S. economy $650 billion a year in lost productivity.”

Public schools are not exempt from this cautionary information.

In his 2003 book, The Flickering Mind, Todd Oppenheimer wrote that
technology was a “false promise.” That is, all too often technology is no
panacea to improving learning and often undermines funding that might have
gone to reducing class sizes, and improving teacher salaries and facilities.
Based on his many classroom observations, Oppenheimer said that “more often
than not” classroom use of computers encouraged “everybody in the room to go
off task.” He noted that a UCLA research team investigating results from
the Third International Math and Sciences Study (TIMSS) reviewed video from
8th grade math and science classes in seven different countries. One
difference stood out: while American teachers use overhead projectors (and
increasingly now LCDs), teachers in other countries still use blackboards,
which maintain “a complete record of the entire lesson.”

A recent Texas study found that “there was no evidence linking technology immersion with student self-directed learning or their general satisfaction with schoolwork.” And the New York Times reported recently on classroom use of technology in Arizona, where “The digital push aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom.” As the Times reported, “schools are spending billions on technology,even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.”

But it is quite beneficial to the companies that peddle computers, software, and technological gadgetry. And the big push now is for “technology-enhanced instruction” and “innovation” and virtual schools (on-line instruction).