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Children and Computers (page 2)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Feb 17, 2011

Benefits of Computer Use

Research has shown that 3- and 4-year-old children who use computers with supporting activities that reinforce the major objectives of the programs have significantly greater developmental gains when compared to children without computer experiences in similar classrooms-gains in intelligence, nonverbal skills, structural knowledge, long-term memory, manual dexterity, verbal skills, problem solving, abstraction, and conceptual skills (Haugland, 1992). 

The benefits of providing computers to kindergarten and primary-grade children vary depending upon the kind of computer experiences offered and how frequently children have access to computers. The potential gains for kindergarten and primary children are tremendous, including improved motor skills, enhanced mathematical thinking, increased creativity, higher scores on tests of critical thinking and problem solving, higher levels of what Nastasi and Clements (1994) term effectance motivation (the belief that they can change or affect their environment), and increased scores on standardized language assessments. 

In addition, computers enhance children's self-concept, and children demonstrate increasing levels of spoken communication and cooperation. Children share leadership roles more frequently and develop positive attitudes toward learning (Clements, 1994; Cardelle-Elawar & Wetzel, 1995; Adams, 1996; Denning & Smith, 1997; Haugland & Wright, 1997; Matthew, 1997). 

Integration of Computers Into the Classroom

Early childhood programs serve diverse populations and have different schedules, curriculums, staffing patterns, resources, and so on. Goals for computer use and the steps that schools take to integrate computers into their classrooms may be completely different but equally successful. 

A viable beginning is for teachers, administrators, and parents to share magazine, journal, and newspaper articles they have seen regarding children using computers. A study group of all the individuals who have expressed interest in children using computers can then be organized. The next step is to summarize the benefits of using computers with young children and to discuss goals for the year, including the cost of computers and teacher training. 

A first goal may be obtaining computers. The ratio of computers to young children is important--at most 1 to 7, preferably 1 to 5. If this ratio cannot be met with the resources available, it is far better to use a set of computers in a classroom for a month, quarter, or semester and then rotate them to another classroom. Equal access for children is essential; even the most talented teacher will have difficulty integrating computers into his or her classroom with only one computer. 

To help in computer selection, the study group can seek out mentors who have expertise using computers. These mentors might be teachers currently using computers, a professor at a college, or leaders in business. The study group may also want to brainstorm possible fund-raising activities and explore the possibility of obtaining used computers from businesses-making sure the computers have the capacity to run software that is currently being marketed for young children.

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