Book Review

Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom


Reviewed by Leonard H. Elovitz
Coordinator of Graduate Programs in Educational Leadership,
Kean University, Union, N.J.

Billions of dollars have been spent over the past 20 years to provide technology and wiring to our schools. In Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom, Larry Cuban, professor emeritus at Stanford University and past president of the American Educational Research Association, explores whether these expenditures were worthwhile and whether they should be continued.

Cuban, a former superintendent, begins with the assumption that “if technology were introduced to the classroom, it would be used; and if it were used, it would transform schooling.” He tested that assumption by studying computer availability and use at the preschool, high school and university levels in Silicon Valley, Calif.

In his research design, he sought to answer the following questions: How do teachers and students use computers in the classroom? Have teaching and learning changed with the availability of computers and other technologies? Has this investment been worth the cost?

Cuban concludes that the availability of technology has not brought about fundamental changes in the nation’s schools. Although incremental changes can be identified, computers have not transformed the way teachers teach or students learn. Therefore, computers in the classroom have been oversold and underutilized. However, he feels that the concern about the number of computers in the classroom is not as important as the attention that needs to be paid to the “social and civic role that schools perform in a democratic society.”

In the current economic climate, school district administrators must make difficult decisions regarding the expenditure of limited funds. This book provides a lot to think about in reaching those decisions regarding the acquisition and use of technology.

(Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom by Larry Cuban, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2003, 250 pp. with index, $14.95 softcover)