Technology, and the ability to use it effectively, has become an essential part of daily life. Parents who recognize this fact are acting to teach their children how to use technology and to integrate it into other learning activities. Skill and comfort with modern technology can certainly put young students a step ahead of their age group. However, a number of questions present themselves. Children should get an early start with technology, but how young is too young?
What technologies are effective teaching tools, yet safe for children to use? How should technology be balanced with other activities? Sorting out these questions depends on your particular family or classroom, but this article will help you think through the issues while providing examples of technology-based education.
Computer use is the most vital technology skill for children to learn. Preschool age is an excellent time to get children started on the computer. A great place to begin is within the bounds of a special computer program. Let’s assume you are teaching your child in a home environment. While sitting at the computer, set the child on your lap. You may want to introduce concepts such as the on and off buttons for the computer and the monitor at this time. If the child is comfortable and eager to learn more, enter the program you want to use.
Many television shows now have interactive websites, so if your child has a favorite program, consider starting there. Recognizable characters, music, and themes will encourage further interest. The Nick Jr. website is an example of this type of site. It has a number of games and activities related to television characters as well as some helpful resources for parents. There are several other good websites designed to provide children with interactive games that can teach as well as entertain. UpToTen.com is an example that also has programs for teachers and schools. Games can be categorized by the types of skills they hone, the kind of learning emphasized, or the computer skills required. Kid Info is a good website that lists more quality interactive websites for young children.
Start by controlling the mouse yourself and showing the child some of the fun activities that are available. When the child is ready, place his or her hand on the mouse with your hand on top, so the child experiences what it is like to control the program. Depending on the child’s age and personality, you can either stay to play through some games together or you can let the child explore some by him or herself, while remaining accessible in case any questions or problems arise. Over time, increase the child’s independence within the program, allowing him or her to find and select favorite games and characters. These programs are great for helping kids pick up things like colors, shapes, and creative skills while having fun.
By grade school age, children should begin learning the basics of running a computer as well as some fundamental programs like Microsoft Word and Paint. By using these programs, children can become familiar with mouse and keyboard skills and can learn how to work with files and folders. This WikiBooks page has some quick lessons for Paint. A simple tutorial for a word processor can be more difficult to find. An additional issue is that this type of program will seem much more like work than play. Try showing a student the basics yourself, then assigning tasks that involve things that the student enjoys. There have also been efforts to teach grade school and middle school students using the ubiquitous handheld system, the Nintendo DSi. If you are interested, here is a quick list of top educational games.
This is also the age group when the internet can come into play. Allow a child to build independence online very gradually over the course of years. Teaching internet safety is crucial. You may want to create separate user accounts on your computer so that the child can have a special place to save his or her files while your important files remain in your profile, protected by a password. Once your child is interested in an email account, you will want to supervise this as well. Give the email address to relatives so they have a new way to stay in touch. Over time, transition from an email password that only you know to one that you both know and finally one that only your child knows. Be sure to teach the dangers of spam email as well. If you plan on keeping tabs on your child by reading emails or checking the browser history, talk to him or her about it. If a child is not aware that you are looking at these things, your supervision may feel like a violation of privacy.
Computer programs and the internet can be excellent teaching tools. Children should start discovering computers and learning from computers at a young age, but only with proper supervision and guidance. Whether you are in the classroom or at home, you can make a big impact by instructing a child on the safe use of technology. A final point to keep in mind: kids with disabilities have a lot to gain from technology skills. Many children find computers easier to understand than social situations, so working with technology can give them a sense of control as well as some vital self-confidence.