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We believe, with Papert, that computers can be a rich source of these ingredients. We believe that having young children use computers in new ways -- to pose and solve problems, draw, and do turtle geometry -- can help them learn and develop mathematically and scientifically.
These days, the question isn’t if your child will be computer literate, it’s when — and how soon is too soon to start thinking about technology for children. Some experts believe that children who become computer-savvy early on are better prepared for school, while others say too much technology is, well, too much at such a tender age. Here’s how to sort through the advantages and disadvantages of being a techno-tot and figure out what’s best when it comes to young children and computers.
Research has shown that 3- and 4-year-old children who usecomputers with supporting activities that reinforce the major objectives of the programs have significantly greaterdevelopmental gains when compared to children without computer experiences in similar classrooms-gains in intelligence,nonverbal skills, structural knowledge, long-term memory, manual dexterity, verbal skills, problem solving, abstraction, andconceptual skills (Haugland, 1992). The benefits of providing computers to kindergarten and primary-grade children varydepending upon the kind of computer experiences offered and how frequently children have access to computers. Thepotential gains for kindergarten and primary children are tremendous, including improved motor skills, enhancedmathematical thinking, increased creativity, higher scores on tests of critical thinking and problem solving, higher levels ofwhat Nastasi and Clements (1994) term effectance motivation (the belief that they can change or affect their environment),and increased scores on standardized language assessments. In addition, computers enhance children's self-concept, andchildren demonstrate increasing levels of spoken communication and cooperation. Children share leadership roles morefrequently and develop positive attitudes toward learning (Clements, 1994; Cardelle-Elawar & Wetzel, 1995; Adams, 1996;Denning & Smith, 1997; Haugland & Wright, 1997; Matthew, 1997). As estimated, near the turn of the century the ratio of children to computers will be 10:1, which meets the recommended minimal ratio. In classrooms with proportionally fewer computers, aggressive behavior ma be increased (Clements and Nastasi 1993; Coley, Cradler, and Engel 1997.) Early childhood programs serve diverse populations and have different schedules, curriculums, staffingpatterns, resources, and so on. Goals for computer use and the steps that schools take to integrate computers into theirclassrooms may be completely different but equally successful. A viable beginning is for teachers, administrators, and parentsto share magazine, journal, and newspaper articles they have seen regarding children using computers. A study group of allthe individuals who have expressed interest in children using computers can then be organized. The next step is to summarizethe benefits of using computers with young children and to discuss goals for the year, including the cost of computers andteacher training. A first goal may be obtaining computers. The ratio of computers to young children is important--at most 1 to7, preferably 1 to 5. If this ratio cannot be met with the resources available, it is far better to use a set of computers in aclassroom for a month, quarter, or semester and then rotate them to another classroom. Equal access for children is essential;even the most talented teacher will have difficulty integrating computers into his or her classroom with only one computer. Tohelp in computer selection, the study group can seek out mentors who have expertise using computers. These mentors mightbe teachers currently using computers, a professor at a college, or leaders in business. The study group may also want tobrainstorm possible fund-raising activities and explore the possibility of obtaining used computers from businesses-makingsure the computers have the capacity to run software that is currently being marketed for young children.
Despite these drawbacks, the use of technology has the potential to greatly improve our lives. The sheer wealth of information available makes the internet an invaluable source of education. Computer will continue to have large role in our society, thus increasing the importance of teaching children computer literacy. As educators, we have the power to shape the experience children receive from technology. The negative effects associated with computer use can be largely eliminated through proper supervision of computer use. Thus, it is important that educators, parents, and other adults who work with children become computer literate and understand ways to guide children to make good choices with regards to computer use. WikiEducator has the resources to aid adults with this. WikiEducator networked over thousands of Educators like Open Education Resources (OER) that shares specific subject area learning modules in various grade levels, to ensure high quality education lessons is shared and available to all.