A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood
By The ALLIANCE FOR CHILDHOOD - Edited by Collen Cordes and Edward Miller
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?
HOW DO CHILDREN LEARN ?
ULTIMATELY THIS REPORT STATES THAT:
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:
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.
of Parenting U International
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, in Wired Magazine
* Marlene's book is available directly through firstname.lastname@example.org and is posted in The Well, our on -line store.