Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A. | 4/22/2005 12:22:17 AM
Although some early childhood educators still have doubts about the importance of computer use by preschool-age children, the argument really is a moot point, according to LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe, who says the reality is that children are steadily gaining access to computers in homes, child-care centers and schools.
"The most important aspect of computer use as it relates to children is the software choices that parents, caregivers and teachers make," Gioe says, stressing, "Research indicates that children who have access to developmentally appropriate software show developmental gains while those using inappropriate software show delays and developmental losses – especially in terms of creativity."
According to Susan Haugland, author of "Selecting Developmentally Appropriate Software," certain criteria must be looked at when choosing computer software for young children.
Gioe says the criteria spelled out by Haugland are crucial to determining the developmentally appropriateness of computer software for children, and she explains them this way:
–Preschool children have a wide range of abilities and skills and therefore may use computer software differently. The concepts taught by the software must reflect appropriate expectations for the age of the children it was designed for. Children should not have to adapt to meet the demands of the software. The joy of learning should be the reward of computer usage.
–Young children must control the computer experience rather than the computer controlling it. Navigation throughout the site should be easy for children. Children learn through trial and error as they explore the experience the software has to offer. It also is important that the software allows for the children’s work to be printed. Printing provides a product that children may take with them, and it allows a sampling of children’s work which can be used in a portfolio.
–Verbal directions as well as visual prompts help children navigate programs with easier success. Picture choices help make options clear to children and help guide children through the program. All software should have the capacity to teach ideas, concepts and knowledge that will help children apply and remember new information.
–Children should be able to operate computer software with a minimal amount of adult supervision, although adults may need to assist with loading software and guiding children. Teachers, parents and caregivers should encourage children to use the program to solve problems, which, in turn, will enrich and expand knowledge. Peer tutoring also promotes computer use success and facilitates social and language development.
–Software should be non-violent! It also should demonstrate social values, cooperation, caring, sharing, expression, friendship and family. Software should include people of diverse ethnicities, genders, cultures, ages and abilities. It should reflect different countries and customs. Software should depict realistic objects and reflect all of the world’s wonderful differences – thereby helping children to learn how the world works.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.