[Techtalk] improving computer usage in schools

WolfRyder wolfryder at qwest.net
Wed Feb 12 10:05:18 EST 2003

I'll second what Dan said as far as young children (I'm thinking 1 - 3rd 
grade) goes. Games and repetition are the key, from my experience. I 
disagree that young children have short attention spans. Most do, if 
they're being made to do something they don't want to do. Ever watched them 
watching cartoons? For hours?

 >I was originally going to say that computers can't really be used to 
teach small children >with short attention spans. But then I remembered 
that I had a TI99 computer that...

Our daughter, 5 years old now, has been playing games since she was 6 
months old and figured out she could move the character on the screen by 
pushing the mouse with her foot.... She has her own computer and plays all 
the learning games (sesame street, blues clues, you get my drift) as well 
as "just for fun" games.

I also think the older kids (4th - 6th grades) would enjoy a chance to play 
with a Wiki. Most schools have gifted programs and this is right up that 
alley. I say go for it and if my 2 sons had had that opportunity when they 
were in elementary to high school they probably would have been able to 
find something in the field when they graduated.

Teachers can be sold on the idea of "team work" in working together on 
projects...big, BIG selling point here. Then, down the road in several 
months, offer to set up the server ;-)

Find or get donated computer parts from older, yet good computers and build 
networks. I believe kids can never be too young to learn this. You may only 
have a handful of really interested kids, but they are there....the 
"nerds", the "geeks", the ones that don't fit it...because they haven't 
found or had physical access to the internal workings of computers yet.

It's my guess most of these kids have access to computers @ home but have 
no clue how they work inside.

>  We all have different talents: how many of us were forced to take piano 
> lessons and never turned out to be musical geniuses?

Ah, but I still can read music and enjoy it more from those first piano 
lessons. I _did_ learn something even if I'm not gifted.

>The bottom line is that computers can be used to teach and (more often) to 
>reinforce what is taught, but they are by no means indispensible.

Nothing is indispensable. But if the tools are available why not take 

>Stop thinking like a programmer. Forget about Wiki: for young children, 
>stick to drawing programs and way-too-cutesy programs written by 
>professionals, which can be used to express creativity.

See above statement about learning. Oh yeah, on a side note, our daughter 
is bilingual and playing the games in Dutch helps reinforce her 2nd 
language. This would work in schools where foreign languages are taught. 
Yes, they _do_ teach foreign languages in elementary schools (informally).

>And when the kids are older, use the text-only nature of the Internet to 
>your advantage: the Web forces you to read. Other than programming 
>classes, the only time computers really contributed to my schooling is 
>when we learned to type.

The Internet isn't just text-only anymore.  The text-only sites compete 
with flash intros, interactive games (check out Nick Jr) and music/image 
sites with a lot of noise and movement and such.

And the only reason we (the older generation) only used computers to learn 
to type is, the imagination of the teachers was limited by _Their_ 
knowledge. There weren't even computers in the schools I went to (yeah, I'm 
a dinosaur) and I learned to type on typewriters. I was introduced to 
computers as a tool in Grad School (librarian's look upon computers as a 
reference tool).

Sorry for being so verbose. I just see the missed opportunities from my 
older children and how my youngest is growing up in the technological era. 
The advantages are never too soon to introduce. Go for it!


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