Computers as Tutors: Solving the Crisis in Education
First Monday


Editors' Introduction
Contents (publication schedule)

Editors' Introduction
First Monday is publishing, in two parts, Frederick Bennett's book "Computers as Tutors." The first three sections of the book appear in this, the December 1996 issue. Sections four, five, and six will appear in the January 1997 issue. This book primarily focuses on the American education system and its use of computing technology. Even though Dr. Bennett's analysis concentrates on policy and practices in the United States, we feel that his overall discussion of computers and education is of global importance. We welcome the opportunity to publish this book for the first time in First Monday. We look forward to comments from our readers on Dr. Bennett's monograph, as well as on First Monday's first effort at serial publication of a book.

Edward J. Valauskas
Esther Dyson
Rishab Aiyer Ghosh

Contents (publication schedule)
Summary (First Monday, December 1996)

Prologue (First Monday, December 1996)

Section I: A Prophecy and a Solution (First Monday, December 1996)

Chapter 1: A Prophecy Fulfilled
Chapter 2: A True Solution

Section II: Foundation (First Monday, December 1996)

Chapter 3: Crisis and Suggested Answers
Chapter 4: Basics of Education
Chapter 5: Pleasure in Learning
Chapter 6: Computers - The Answer

Section III: Why Computers are Ineffective Today (First Monday, December 1996)

Chapter 7: Problems Confronting Teachers
Chapter 8: Problems Confronting Programmers

Section IV: Computer Advantages (First Monday, January 1997)

Chapter 9: Tutoring Individuals
Chapter 10: Educating the Disadvantaged
Chapter 11: Educating Brighter Students
Chapter 12: Fulfilling the Need to Succeed
Chapter 13: Using Educational Research
Chapter 14: Directing Multimedia
Chapter 15: Eliminating Prejudice
Chapter 16: Eliminating Substitute Teachers
Chapter 17: Additional Advantages

Section V : New Teachers and Schools (First Monday, January 1997)

Chapter 18: Future Teachers - Part One
Chapter 19: Future Teachers - Part Two
Chapter 20: October 17, 2006
Chapter 21: Future Schools

Section VI: Additional Considerations (First Monday, January 1997)

Chapter 22: Grades
Chapter 23: Better Thinking
Chapter 24: Paying for Computerized Education
Chapter 25: Replication
Chapter 26: Inner-City Schools
Chapter 27: Inclusion
Chapter 28: Foreign Nations
Chapter 29: The Milieu of Change
Chapter 30: Answering Objections

Epilogue (First Monday, January 1997)

Some would argue that crime is tearing the United States apart. There is evidence that criminal activity is related to illiteracy, which will never be reduced appreciably while hundreds of thousands of illiterate students are leaving schools each year (Chapter 1). Computers could teach every child in the country to read and write in a short time. That would be a mere beginning because these machines could function in schools as private tutors (Chapter 9), building on the innate desire to learn present in everyone (Chapter 5). With computerized education, learning by all students, from the very brightest to the slowest, would improve dramatically (Chapters 10 & 11).

Computers thus far have been little more than a new gimmick in education. Despite a few examples of noteworthy computing by a tiny number of teachers, overall classroom gains with computers have been negligible. There are cogent reasons why computers, if they continue to be used as they are today, can never change education (Chapters 7 & 8).

The solution to present educational woes requires that computers be allowed to instruct children without a teacher interposed between the machine and the child. There are examples of the use of these machines in this capacity and the results have been excellent (Chapter 2).

Using computers as true instructors would change the way teachers function in education, but would not lesson their numbers nor their importance. Improved use of technology would relieve them of many of the time-consuming chores that now burden their lives. Computers would allow them to achieve much greater success in reaching their basic goal of educating children (Chapters 18, 19, & 20).

Many other benefits would flow from computerized education including fulfillment, in all students, of the basic and universal need to succeed (Chapter 12), effective use of educational research (Chapter 13), dramatic reduction of racial and sexual prejudices (Chapter 15), and elimination of substitute teaching (Chapter 16). Moreover, computerized education would allow and foster smaller, neighborhood schools and make busing anachronistic (Chapter 21).

Full use of computers in education would also provide ancillary advantages: grades could be eliminated (Chapter 22), better thinking by students would be enhanced (Chapter 23), new ... and many of the difficulties connected with inclusion would be resolved (Chapter 27).

Finally, computerized education, once accepted, would make it possible to eliminate illiteracy, not only in the United States, but in every nation in the world (Chapter 28).

This book has one message: schools can use technology more effectively, and for the welfare of students, teachers and the nation, they must do so.

American businesses have made gigantic strides in the competitive global economy, and a large part of their gain has resulted from better applications of technology. Schools in the United States, despite their acquisition of millions of computers, continue to waddle along as they have for decades. They waste the power of these machines and reap negligible educational benefits from them.

Meanwhile, fervent pleas from parents for improved schools result in verbal agreements from educators and politicians but no effective action or results. This dialogue has continued for years. The difficulties in education remain virtually untouched. Hope for major improvements under present conditions is little more than a fantasy.

Today's technology, if used differently, could bring advances that would improve education dramatically. Illiteracy could be eliminated, ordinary students could make massive gains, and restraints on bright students could dissolve. If computers are to be effective in schools, however, major changes must occur and that always frightens many parents, teachers, administrators, and politicians. Opposition is therefore inevitable.

Some human instructors will object emotionally, fearing that more extensive employment of technology will seriously degrade their position. Their trepidation is understandable but groundless. Although teachers will have to alter their accustomed practices, they will reach a new level of importance, will accomplish more, and will have greater job satisfaction when schools take advantage of the power of computers.

Some parents may also object to technology, fearing that an Orwellian world will engulf their children. This fear is also totally false. Computerized education, properly devised, can provide a personal side to education that is impossible today.

Despite the present retarded pace of change in schools, a real revolution can happen. Dramatic evidence of the power of effective computerized education is available in a few institutions and school districts. When parents become aware of this evidence, and when they become cognizant of what computers can do under improved conditions, they, together with other concerned citizens, can force schools to use computers properly. Schooling will become both enjoyable for children and supremely effective. Thereafter, the dire consequences of much of today's education will lessen dramatically.

The necessary prerequisite to this change is thorough discussion of what can be done. This book attempts to hasten the process. It explains why computers have failed to alter education until now, how they should be employed, and the startling gains their appropriate use will bring. I am a clinical psychologist and I recount principles of that science to support arguments favoring better use of these machines. I am also a professional computer programmer and apply knowledge acquired in that role to show the gains that technology can bring to education - gains that may seem like fantasies to anyone who hasn't studied the power and capability of this technology.

Computers can remake education. It is time to begin. End of article

Frederick Bennett

Fred Bennett received his undergraduate degree in business administration. When he finished, he thought that he would never have to be in school again. After college, he started working as a salesman and later established a book distribution business.

Idealism then got the better of him and he decided to change the world. He chose to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. It was back to school again and he received an STL (Licentiate in Sacred Theology) from the Pontifical University Angelicum in Rome, Italy. Returning to the U. S., he taught Greek and performed ministerial functions.

He returned to school again and received M. A. in counseling from the University of New Mexico, and then a Ph.D. in psychology from University of Utah in 1971. After the advanced degrees, he helped set up a treatment program for clergy with alcoholism and also worked in an inner city mental health center. In these environments, he first confronted the reality that some people without education could not get a job, regardless of how much they wanted to work.

Eventually, he realized he was not changing the world and left the priesthood. He directed public addiction treatment programs in Colorado and Florida and married a Ph.D. chemist, who was an excellent teacher. He then established, owned, and directed a group of private addiction treatment centers. He also became interested in computers and began to write programs to handle the paperwork for his company.

In 1990 he sold the business, moved to Sarasota, Florida, and began new projects. He wrote a computer program for artists, which he markets throughout the United States. He also started to think seriously about the problems in education and spent several years studying the subject. His wife's background in education was of immense help. Finally, he sought to bring together what he had acquired from his studying and education, from his experience working with people at all levels, and from his knowledge of computers. The result is this book, "Computers as Tutors: Solving the Crisis in Education."

Frederick Bennett can be reached at

The entire book is © 1996, Fred Bennett.

A Note of Thanks
My thanks go to Marge, above all, who was always so helpful and supportive as this book took shape, and to whom it is dedicated. A number of other people also offered many helpful suggestions, although they did not always agree with all my ideas. These people, in alphabetical order are Gene Best, Isa Dempsey, David Ellison, Margaret Kemner and Earl Krescanko. To all of them, my sincere thanks, and also to Paul Messink who first suggested that I put it on the Internet, and gave me so much help in getting it there.

Copyright © 1996, First Monday
Computers as Tutors: Solving the Crisis in Education by Frederick Bennett.
First Monday, Volume 1, Number 6 - 2 December 1996

A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

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