To the Editor:
Your May 23, 2007, article “Cheap Laptops Getting Tryouts in Small Pilot Projects” offers another example of educators rushing headlong into technology areas that need a lot more research.
It is ironic that in the same month you published this article, the main technical journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE Spectrum, published “The Technology of Text,” which discusses how current-generation liquid crystal displays (LCDs) used on laptop computers are not very good at displaying eye-friendly text.
According to that article’s author, Kevin Larson, a research psychologist at Microsoft’s Advanced Reading Technologies group, someone attempting to read long articles on a computer can find that his or her eyes hurt, head aches, thinking becomes cloudy, and, in the end, that further reading becomes impossible. Those are not symptoms that lead to a good study environment for students.
Technology certainly has a place in education, but technical limitations of the equipment make it easy to use computers inappropriately—as textbook replacements, for example—where unintended adverse consequences are almost certain to occur.
Before adopting any computer-based program, educators should review Mr. Larson’s article, which is online at http://spectrum.ieee.org/ may07/5049.
Those who teach reading also should pay particular attention to the two sidebars in the article. These may offer additional surprises.
Villa Hills, Ky.
A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2007 edition of Education Week as Technology ‘Rush’ Leaves Needed Research Undone