Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A. | 4/21/2005 9:33:03 PM
Computers have become an integral part of our lives – and they have benefits for adults and children alike!
But those benefits are magnified for children if they are exposed to computers at the right age and if that exposure comes in an effective format, according to LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.
"Many parents seek child-care environments that include computers," Gioe says. "But they really need to also look at whether computers are being used appropriately."
Gioe says teacher training is essential for computers to be an effective teaching tool.
"Training in the form of workshops or conferences allows teachers to build skills and develop strategies that allow them to integrate computer use into their existing curriculum so that children benefit from the activity," she explains.
The LSU AgCenter expert says most researchers recommend that children begin using the computer at age 4.
Prior to 4 years old, children learn better through the use of their entire bodies, according to Gioe, who says younger children are very active, and the attention they pay to activities varies greatly.
"Computers are thought to delay the developmental skills of crawling, walking, talking and, most important socialization when they are introduced to very young children," she cautions. "But when children are developmentally ready to explore computers, teachers often find the computer center is a valuable activity where learning can take place."
Gioe stresses computer use in a child-care or school environment should act as a tool to reinforce concrete experiences, allow children free access and be a time when children and the teachers interact with each other.
"The beginning computer experiences should allow for children to experiment and explore with the computer – just to see what will happen," she says.
Research indicates that there are benefits for 4-year-old children who have had experiences with computers, according to Gioe.
"When children use the computer as a supporting activity to reinforce major objectives, these children have greater developmental gains in intelligence, nonverbal skills, long-term memory, fine motor skills, verbal skills, problem solving and conceptual knowledge than 4-year-old children who did not have access to a computer," the LSU AgCenter expert explains.
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.