Seeing Through Computers
Education in a Culture of Simulation
The American Prospect, 8, 31, March-April 1997. Today nearly everyone is certain that schools and universities should teach students about computers, but exactly what they should teach isn't so clear. The ideal of computer literacy, of an empowering relationship with the computer, has changed dramatically since educators and their critics first began worrying about making Americans computer literate two decades ago. Originally, the goal was teaching students how computers worked and how to write programs; if students could understand what was going on "inside" the computer, they would have mastery over it. Now the goal is to teach students how to use computer applications, on the premise that if they can work with the computer, they can forget what's inside and still be masters of the technology. But is that enough? And might it be too much in some fields of education where using computers is almost too easy a substitute for hands-on learning?