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[ NNSquad ] Re: Irresponsible science and academic fraud

Title: Re: [ NNSquad ]  Irresponsible science and academic fraud

Thanks for getting me to rereading the report. In my skim I found it mildly interesting even if I felt it missed the point but now I find it disturbing. While these comments focus on the negative aspects of the report I’m far more interested in being proactive and viewing the conclusions as a chance to improve our approach to educating and connectivity.


In trying to keep my comments short and pointed I didn’t explore the issues in full depth. Though I used a provocative title this doesn’t mean there aren’t valid points in the various “broadband” reports. The Duke report does make the point that providing more exposure to the world via “broadband” can be very distracting just as TV was in the 50’s and, well, 10’s. How can we make these opportunities rather than liabilities?


I’m influenced by Seymour Papert’s view of educators as guides helping students to learn how to learn and showing them a path. The report, though, seems firmly planted in a world where the purpose of education is to increase test scores and educators see the real world as nothing but a distraction.


I strongly agree with you that computer access is not a magic bullet. And magic bullets aren’t magic bullets. And if the report stopped there then it might be making a reasonable, if not novel, point.


But the conclusion doesn’t stop there:

·         It blames the parents. But these are the very households where the parents themselves need help so it ends up blaming the victim rather than seeing an opportunity for improving the children. It’s a reminder that educating students is difficult if we don’t take into account the context. Shouldn’t we address the disadvantage instead of using it as a reason to further disadvantage them?

·         “Maximizing test scores”. Sad and very disturbing comment on what education has devolved to. Testing has a place but making education about testing and nothing but testing is the best way to move the US from leadership to trailing edge. Yes, I’m worked up about this. Another point Papert made is that students need to learn to debug their test scores. But are we making test score the terminal phase of education rather than part of the process?

·         “Computer literacy” and “job opportunities”. Are we talking about education or training? Is the only purpose of going to school to get trained for a job? Like the terms “broadband” and “digital divide” the term “computer literacy” is used without defining it or, it seems, understanding it.

o   Perhaps we should use terms like “computing literacy”, “knowledge and information engineering”, “critical thinking” etc. That would make it very clear that these skills are fundamental to learning. How could you learn if you don’t understand the basic concepts of debugging your understanding?

o   Computer use and a connected world are givens. Trying to pretend they don’t exist is willful ignorance.

o   As you note too often we confuse computer literacy with “keyboarding”. How many schools teach word processing as a typing process rather than using a tool that allows you to organize and rework information and do research? Keyboarding does have a place – according to other studies (which I cite but now fear may be just as flawed) show that typing improves the ability to write because handwriting is an impediment to _expression_. Simply using the keyboard is a basic skill. How did we get to the point that it’s viewed as anything more than playing the role that cursive writing played in the distant past?

o   If students are protected from the Internet at an early age why should we expect them to become knowledgeable and adroit self-educators when they get to high school?

o   Are elementary school teachers up to the task of educating students for today’s connected and ambiguous world?


To the extent that exposing students to a large world hurts their education we should see this as an indictment of the education system rather than as a call to keep students ignorant of the world.


This is a report that first does harm and doesn’t get to the positive recommendations.


This is the start of an interesting discussion. It touches upon the central question of what this Internet is and the role and methods of educating in a connected world.


From: Atkinson, Robert [mailto:rca53@columbia.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 06:15
To: Bob Frankston; Frank Coluccio
Cc: Ed Pimentl; Lauren Weinstein; oia@lists.bway.net; nnsquad@nnsquad.org
Subject: Re: [ NNSquad ] Irresponsible science and academic frau


I look forward to your essay.  I’ve read the study. It says a couple of things about 5th-8th graders that make intuitive sense:

  • personal computers and internet access in the 5th-8th grades can crowd out the development of other learning skills, including math and reading
  • this is a particular problem in households with little or no parental supervision or control.

In other words, computers and internet access are not a “magic bullet” for educational achievement, particularly for the disadvantaged students, and, in certain circumstances, can be counter-productive.  An earlier European study reached similar conclusions about “crowding out” and suggested that over-exposure to computers and the internet in these early years of intellectual development produced great keyboarding skills that would prepare the students to compete for low-paying data entry jobs but not for jobs requiring intellect. It seems reasonable to consider the possibility of adverse impacts under the admonition of “first, do no harm”.

From this report’s CONCLUSION:

“This evidence is consistent with the view that internet service, and technology more broadly, is put to more productive use in households with more effective parental monitoring of child behavior.  For school administrators interested in maximizing achievement test scores, or reducing racial and socioeconomic disparities in test scores, all evidence suggests that a program of broadening home computer access would be counterproductive.  Of course, administrators may have other goals aside from improving math and reading test scores. Computer literate students may enjoy improved job opportunities later in life, or may be poised to take better advantage of online resources once their internal mechanisms for behavioral regulation have fully developed. ... It is not clear, however,
whether computer literacy actually leads to better employment outcomes, and also not clear whether access to home computers in the early secondary school years is critical to later computer literacy. [p.35]”

On 6/28/10 6:16 PM, "Bob Frankston" <Bob19-0501@bobf.frankston.com> wrote:

The more I think about it the worse these studies are. They are fraudulent. If do real science and try to isolate the factors you’ll find that the one factor most antithetical to these results is the broadband business model. I argue that keeping that service-based pricing out of the home was a key enabler what we’ve gained from today’s connectivity.
I can understand companies proffering marketing bad studies as marketing hype – that’s their job. But when academics get in the business that’s irresponsible and even fraudulent. Sometimes it’s just a result of sloppy work, especially with statistics which get tricky. In statistics people can also fall back an accepted practices such as significance testing even if they turn out to be very problematic.
But these kind of studies, Duke is far from alone and I haven’t look at this one in particular, have no such excuse. They are simply a race to publish and prove their thesis. This is also normal part of the grant process – you better know the answer before you “waste” the government’s money on “research”. I put all this in quotes to emphasize factors that prevent discovery.
I’m mulling an essay on this. The general topic is too deep and pervasive but focusing on broadband might be useful for making the point.
Too bad people don’t understand science and see it as discovering the one true truth rather than refining our ability to deal with an ambiguous world. The idea of revealing the truth is more religion than science and leads us to confirm our naïve assumptions rather than challenging them.
And it leads to terrible policy decisions
From: Frank A. Coluccio [mailto:frank@fttx.org]
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2010 17:45
To: Bob Frankston
Cc: oia@lists.bway.net; lauren@vortex.com
Subject: Re: [OIA] FW: [ NNSquad ] Duke Univ. study claims universal home access to broadband would *widen* math/reading achievement gaps

Bob, you've touched on a recurring theme whose frequency and breadth is on the rise and expanding near-universally. I'm currently discussing the "NBN" prospects of several countries with their leading proponents who are holding out social agendas and attempting, whether wittingly or not, to shoehorn network infrastructure, which has already been contaminated by "broadband", to meet the contours of specific vendors' municipal applications (similar to the far-sweeping social platforms now being proffered by vendors doing exactly the same thing under the guise of CSR, or corporate social responsibility) in the most gratuitous and self-serving ways. It's pervasive. Green, smart-grid, broadband, the list goes on. This is what happens when the elasticity of legitimate enterprise reaches its limit and becomes entirely exhausted: Madison Avenue FUD.

--- Bob19-0501@bobf.frankston.com wrote:

From: "Bob Frankston" <Bob19-0501@bobf.frankston.com>
To: "Open Infrastructure Alliance" <oia@lists.bway.net>
Cc: 'Lauren Weinstein' <lauren@vortex.com>
Subject: [OIA] FW: [ NNSquad ] Duke Univ. study claims universal home access to broadband would *widen* math/reading achievement gaps
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2010 17:11:57 -0400

FYI. I really need to write a full essay on the fallacy of using these kind
of results to justify bad policies. We can think of many other policies. For
example, training people to work at MacDonald's will improve their job
prospects but nowhere near as much as educating them with skills to learn or
train themselves for whatever job happen in the future.

Settling for broadband is like getting a bad loan to buy a year's supply for
first class train tickets instead of buying a car you can afford that will
take you where you choose to go, especially to local destinations.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bob Frankston [mailto:Bob19-0501@bobf.frankston.com]
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2010 17:09
To: 'Lauren Weinstein'; 'nnsquad@nnsquad.org'
Subject: RE: [ NNSquad ] Duke Univ. study claims universal home access to
broadband would *widen* math/reading achievement gaps

The problem with these studies is that they are correct but the policy
implications are limiting. Sure broadband will improve skills. The danger
comes when we use it to justify giving away our infrastructure to service
providers. We could accomplish this an much more if we take other approaches
without the negatives of the broadband business model.

-----Original Message-----
From: nnsquad-bounces+nnsquad=bobf.frankston.com@nnsquad.org
[mailto:nnsquad-bounces+nnsquad=bobf.frankston.com@nnsquad.org] On Behalf Of
Lauren Weinstein
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2010 16:54
To: nnsquad@nnsquad.org
Subject: [ NNSquad ] Duke Univ. study claims universal home access to
broadband would *widen* math/reading achievement gaps

Duke Univ. study claims universal home access to broadband would
*widen* math/reading achievement gaps

http://bit.ly/czWVww  (Calder Center [PDF])

NNSquad Moderator

Open Infrastructure Alliance