Although research on the use of computers in education plods along slowly compared to the progression of the technology itself, there are already positive correlations between children’s education and computer use. If employed effectively and within a comprehensive educational program, computers can: help a student increase critical thinking skills, allow for customization and learning based on the individual students’ interests and pre-existing knowledge, aid in memorization through interactivity, enhances collaboration among students who are not in the same geographical location, and can simulate complex or real-life tasks. In short, programs that incorporate computer use and technology for learning are many times, more effective than instruction that does not.
The use of computers for learning does not need to stop once school lets out. Creating a home ‘computer learning center’ for your child will create an environment that encourages learning outside the classroom. To create an educational home computer environment, you will need to do the following:
The physical computer workstation. Your child will need a comfortable computer desk. Because children are smaller than adults with a shorter reach, it’s important to find a desk that’s ergonomically designed to fit his/her body. We found several high-quality, affordable options at Versa Products, Inc. (an American manufacturer or classroom tables with adjustable heights and various desktop sizes that sell direct to the public). They will also need a comfortable chair.
Buy a computer. If this isn’t a computer that will be shared by the whole family (for example to be used for financial management, online shopping, etc.), don’t spend a lot of money. The computer needs to be reasonably fast with a high-speed internet connection, but it doesn’t need extra hard drive storage space or other fancy features available for exorbitant prices.
Make the computer internet-safe. Your child will need internet access for research purposes and email. The internet allows children to explore new places and learn things they wouldn’t otherwise. But the internet can also be a dangerous place for a child with the prevalence of easily accessible adult websites, chat rooms, etc. Take time to block inappropriate sites, create filters, and actively monitor the history of the sites visited after your child is done with his/her session on a daily basis.
Buy appropriate software. Scott Foresman and Scholastic are two of our favorite educational software companies that offer a wide range of subjects for student education.
Set rules. Although the computer is a tool to enhance education and exploration, too much of even a good thing can reduce its benefits. Children still need to be involved in group activities with other children and adults (in-person) as well as physical activities and non-computer play. The American Heart Association suggests limiting computer activities at home to no more than two hours per day. If those two hours are well spent doing internet research or playing educational games, that amount of time should be sufficient. Encourage your children’s learning by taking an interest in their progress on games and becoming involved in a conversation about interesting topics they’ve discovered.