Fool's Gold
by Marlene Resnick
Article #2 in our series on Parenting
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Marlene Resnick, M.A. is President of Parenting U International, an organization dedicated to helping parents and professionals work with children and families to do the best job possible. She is a parent who has been involved with parent education for over twenty years. You can order her book by clicking the link below:

If They Only They Came With Instructions
A Guide for Parents
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FOOL'S GOLD

A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood

By The ALLIANCE FOR CHILDHOOD  -  Edited by Collen Cordes and Edward Miller

"We need to continually examine what succeeds and fails, and why. And we should do so before we deploy any technical approach on a grand scale."    —Michael Dertouzos, director of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science

This publication, which is available for $8 from the Alliance For Childhood, P.O. Box 444, College Park, Maryland 20741, is a worthwhile investment for any parent concerned about the increasing emphasis placed on technology for childhood learning.

It is full of research that provides substantive reasons for parents and teachers to be concerned about the unquestioned and growing use of computers for early childhood learning. It is also well written and easy to read.

The book provides an important perspective, which has not been put forth in popular literature and begins by asking some important questions.

WHAT DO CHILDREN NEED IN ORDER TO BECOME EXCITED AND ENGAGED LEARNERS?

 

1. Children need strong personal bonds with caring adults.

2. Children need time for active physical play.

3. Children need face-to-face conversations with more competent language users.

4. Children need focused attention.

5. Children need time for unstructured play.

6. Children need time and opportunity to engage in the arts.

HOW DO CHILDREN LEARN ?

 

1. Children learn with their whole bodies.

2. Children learn when there is strong emotional rapport, and excitement.

3. Children learn through human touch.

4. Children learn through rich human interaction at home, in school and in the community.

5. Children learn in the context of relationships.

ULTIMATELY THIS REPORT STATES THAT:

 

1. The high-tech approach to early childhood and elementary education is shrinking the time
    and money available for the simple technologies that are far more developmentally appropriate.

2. Expecting beginning writers to poke a letter key on a keyboard and then passively watching as the
    letter appears on the screen may actually hamper the process of learning to read and write.

3. Young people 4-18 years old spend an average of 4 hours and 45 minutes per day, outside of
    school, plugged into electronic media of all kinds.

4. Educational Psychologist Jane Healy says, "Teachers find that today's video immersed
   children can't form original pictures in their mind or develop an imaginative representation."

There are clear warnings that computers may be harmful to your children's health. Potential risks include a list of physical, social, emotiona, intellectual and moral hazards. Some findings indicate that there are risks to creativity and intellectual development due to the focus on cognitive development that is out of context with social, physical, emotional and moral development. Some of these findings indicate that creativity and imagination, which are critical to intellectual insights and sophisticated problem-solving are stunted by the constant use of computers by young children. As the use of computers lead to isolation, children can suffer in language and literacy development. The one constant factor in studies of language and literacy competence, is the need for supportive social interaction with more competent language users. Poor concentration and little patience for hard work may also result when children are used to the instant gratification of computerized "education," and often learning takes place without a meaningful context. This publication takes a look at the full-speed-ahead policy of pushing computer technology into lower and lower grades, with a higher and higher price tag. The conclusions indicate that this policy is not going to benefit our children. Instead of spending $15 billion a year for computers as an influential presidential commission has recommended, alternatives are proposed.

THE SUGGESTED STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG CHILDREN ARE:

 

1. Reducing class size.

2. Raising teachers salaries

3. Funding the aides, counselors and mentors that children need.

4. Repairing and renovating dilapidated school buildings.

5. Building the 2,400 new schools needed by 2003.

6. Reviving art, music, gardening, libraries and hands-on experiences of all kinds.

CRITICAL NEEDS FOR OUR MOST DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN:

1. Eliminating lead poisoning.

2. Providing quality childcare for the working poor.

3. Insuring access to health care for all children and their parents.

4. Making quality preschool programs available to all children.

AUTHOR'S ADDITION:

 

1. Making parent education as well as parent support in numerous venues available to all parents.

Fool's Gold is an important voice of caution in the thunderous din of high tech companies who are pushing their computers, software and hardware into the educational system. It is a powerful voice addressing the insanity that rushes to create super children who are smarter and better prepared. But we need to ask, better prepared for what?

The kinds of age appropriate learning that are so critical in the early years have to do with the connection between the hand, the eye, the body and the brain. This is learning that takes place in the context of relationships. How do children learn to deal with emotions in healthy ways? How do children learn cooperative play? How do children learn to problem solve and to address differences? How do children learn to be active creators in their family and in the community?

These questions can only be addressed in the process of engaging with others. The development of a child's creativity that is active does not evolve in front of a computer screen.

This is not meant to imply that computers are not highly creative in many ways, however they are not highly creative for young children who need to be actively engaged in exploring the world with their full bodies, and in movement. The importance of social and emotional development in young children is at the core of the concerns expressed in this very important book.

Computer technology plays a very important role in the learning process of older children and adults, but young children need to explore, engage and learn about themselves, their feelings and their gifts in the context of activity on their own and with others.

In my extensive questioning of kindergarten teachers, they all repeated the same litany. "Send me children who know how to play with others, who have learned some self control, who are excited about learning and who can cooperate. I can teach them what they need to be successful in academics, but I can't teach them what they need to learn if they haven't learned how to control their anger, how to deal with other children, how to cooperate and if they aren't excited about learning."

Let's make sure that our children have the opportunities that they need to learn and not get carried away by the needs of an industry.

Marlene Resnick

President of Parenting U International

"I've probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody on the planet. But I've come to the conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What's wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent."

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, in Wired Magazine


For more resources and help with parenting issues contact me at:   parenting@dwij.org

* Marlene's book is available directly through parenting@dwij.org and is posted in The Well, our on -line store.

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Editors note:

Marlene's segment is an opportunity for parents and professionals to explore issues regarding parenting and the challenges we all face in raising children. This series invites you to network, dialog, and problem solve on a number of topics. We look forward to your participation.

Dr. Stephen J. Bavolek, founder of The Nurturing Programs wrote: "Your book is terrific and is very compatible with the philosophy of nurturing."
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