Essay on Computer and Education

Computer and Education of Children

The role of computer in education has been changing since it was introduced to public use in early eighties. Nowadays, arguments about introducing more information technology equipment into education of children or having a reasonable control of it bother not only parents but professional educators, psychologists and sociologists countrywide; moreover this problem has spread in recent years to other developed countries. Computer can be a great facilitator in education process, but contains risks as well and one should be careful not to overestimate its role in children’s education.

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David Gelernter in the article Computers Cannot Teach Children Basic Skills states that importance of computers in education is exaggerated, moreover, intensive use of computers in early childhood education might result in low thinking and critical skills of children in the future, as computer substitutes all functions of mental activity that have to be developed during this age in order for kids to develop gradually. (Gelernter, 1997)

According to the researches, when computers are extensively used in early childhood, they prevent kids from developing their imagination, mental abilities, and analytical skills. Latest reviews show abilities of American children to perform basic analytical skills of arithmetic as well as in writing and reading are decreasing. They have the computer to do the spell check, and multimedia features are directed on passive audio-visual perception of information. (American Federation of Teachers, 2003)

Teachers, as well as their pedagogical competence and professionalism are more valuable than technology and equipment. To blindly rely on the educational success due to new technologies is absurd, but to undervalue their use would be a fault as well. “Technology can help tailor instruction to the individual needs of students; improve instructional management; support teachers and their professional development; connect student learning with the real world and schools to the home and community; and expand time for learning beyond the traditional school day”(Riley, 1994, p.57). It would be impossible to reach progressive achievements without adequate academic preparation of teachers, and basically this has to be the matter of the main concern for educational authorities.

However, it is obvious that computer education is necessary and should be introduced to children on an early stage. Children will need computer skills throughout their lives, so in the childhood they need to learn to use computers as a tool, develop appropriate computer skills, and become safe, competent computer users. Some children start using toy computers before they even go to school and by age of 12 they are already professional PC users. (AFT, 2003)

Current research, as highlighted in the February 3, 1997 edition of Time magazine article entitled “Fertile Minds”, states that “From birth a baby’s brain cells proliferate wildly, making connections that may shape a lifetime of experience. The first three years are critical.” (Nash, 1997) So obviously early computer experience helps children form connections for lifetime use. This education should be taken very seriously and done carefully, not overwhelming children with the new reality of computer world. (AFT, 2003)

In early childhood computers can help children develop important academic skills including letter and number recognition, shapes and colors, pre reading skills, phonics, spatial relations, auditory and visual discrimination, and much more. In the later stage, computers can improve the pedagogical process, improves the skills of students, eases the work of teachers and raises future professional skills of students, and make studying more diverse and enjoyable. (AFT, 2003)

Some researchers suggest that children under 3 years old should not use computers. Computers simply do not match their learning style. Children younger than 3 learn through their bodies: their eyes, ears, mouths, hands, and legs. Although they may return over and over again to an activity, they are full of movement, changing focus often. Computers are not a good choice for the developmental skills these children are learning to master: crawling, walking, talking, and making friends. Educators can start introducing computer gradually from the age 3. (AFT, 2003)

Children 3 and 4 years old are developmentally ready to explore computers, and most early childhood educators see the computer center as an important activity center for learning. Children need enough time to experiment and explore. Teachers nee to intervene when children appear frustrated or when nothing seems to be happening. Often just a quick word or two, even from across the room, reminds children what they need to do next to reach their desired goal. Providing children with minimal help teaches them they can operate the computer successfully. In addition, by observing what children are doing, the teacher can ask probing questions or propose problems to enhance and expand children’s computer experiences. (Nash, 1997)

As children enter kindergarten and the primary grades, it is important that they continue to have access to a computer center with a library of developmentally appropriate software. Children need opportunities to make choices about some of their computer experiences. In addition, kindergarten or primary-grade teachers will want to use the computer for more directed activities that match their learning objectives. (Nash, 1997)

To minimize the risks that computers may pose, it is important not to leave a child one on one with a computer. Human factor is very important in the educational process. There has to be a face to face interaction while teaching, there has to be a dialogue, critical thinking and analysis while educating, not a blind perception of information. (AFT, 2003)

Computer is only a tool to facilitate the educational process. That is why to reach desired equilibrium between the role of a teacher and computer is essential to give advantage to a teacher in the practices that require the development of thinking skills, the development of analytical and speech skills and the development of formulating and expressing personal viewpoint as senseless machine would never perform that. Computers can be extremely helpful in children’s education, but they cannot substitute a teacher. The most positive use can be derived only using a computer as supporting tool in the educational process.

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