Technology and Children:
The Possibility of a Costly Myth
Parents and educators everywhere have fallen under the spell of technology. Many people see early computer use as a way to assure that their child will achieve financial success in adulthood. Unfortunately, few people have questioned the benefits of early computer use and there are few studies that show that children benefit from computers. There have been numerous studies and books in recent years that have raised important questions about computer use. Most reports do not call for the extraction of computers from the classroom. They do encourage the public, however, to become more aware of how computers are used and whether they are an effective learning aid for children. The following links address some of the issues that educators are now becoming aware of.
This web site takes on timely issues that affect today's children. Currently on their homepage they have posted an article about helping children deal with the events of Sept 11. Although they fund many projects, one of their main projects is the Alliance Computer Project. Under this project they published a 99-page report titled Fool's Gold: A Critical Look at Computers and Childhood. This report tackles many questions ranging from whether introducing computers at a young age will assure high-paying jobs in the future to whether computers really "connect" children to the world.
The report is followed with a position statement put together by educators and psychologist nationwide. The statement gives a list of steps that they believe need to be taken to stop further harm to children and to repair the harm that has already been done.
This site also offers links to other articles dealing with the possible hazards of introducing computers to pre-school children.
This site is now hosted by Arizona State University's Education Policy Studies Laboratory, however, the studies were originally done at UW-Milwaukee's Center for the Analysis of Commercialism in Education.
www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/ceru.htm Visiting this link in the site will give you access to a number of annual reports the center develops each year. The reports most interesting to the subject of children and computers are the reports dealing with trends in school commercialism. Their third annual report, commercialism@school.Com discusses how businesses are using electronic marketing to create brand loyalty at a young age. Many tech corporations hope that the increasing demand to have technology in the classroom will provide an "open door " for not just their technology but also their constant advertising. The fourth annual report takes a deeper look at this subject. The 2000-2001 report, Buy Me! Buy Me!, states that tech companies know that school districts are in a constant struggle to keep up with the increased demand for all things technical. With this knowledge, the reports warns, in the coming years companies will make a harder push to exchange their merchandise for the ability to advertise to students and parents.
This site is unique because it focuses on children from birth to eight years old. With the increased worry over "cyber-tots" this site can help guide confused parents and concerned educators. The site includes articles and research on a variety of topics ranging from appropriate software to appropriate furniture (a subject that is starting to get a lot of attention).
This site, hosted by the Software and Information Industry Association, is one of the few places that you can find a report suggesting that computers aid children's learning. They released a report last year on the Effectiveness of Technology in Schools. The Educational Market Division of the association sponsored this report.
www.siia.net/divisions/education/default.asp This division is a group of "400 member companies whose common business interest is to publish educational software for the preschool, K-12, special education, post-secondary and adult education markets."
This is a helpful resource for parents and teachers. The site provides in-depth software and web site reviews. The reviews include price, description, appropriate age range and a developmental rating which is explained quite thoroughly. The site also includes links to other web sites as well as many articles and research pieces. One article focuses on health hazards that children might be facing by using technology. Another tackles the issue of the importance of adult interaction while children are using the computer.
This site is not terribly unique in anyway but it does offer an extensive discussion board that parents can use to post questions and offer feedback. http://www5.kidsource.com/forums
American Academy of Pediatrics site about the Internet and your family. The site offers advise on web site content, time limits, age limits and posture.
This site focuses on the hazards of a poorly designed child's work station. It also offers helpful advise on correct posture. There are even pictures that show "conventional arrangement " and "improved ergonomic arrangement" for children of various grade levels. The site also provides suggestions of equipment that will help children avoid health hazards such as the "Little Fingers" keyboard.
This article makes an argument for why schools should start investing more money into work stations for kids. The article explains that a bad work station can put a child at high risk for the development of musculoskeletal disorders.
Highwired shows how computers can be a useful resource for students and educators. Highwired encourages high schools to create web sites to support clubs, activities, academic classes and sports groups. It also allows students to create personalized web pages where they can be updated on school assignments, school news and sports scores. They can also use the space to create a calendar and IM friends. The site also offers resources to help with homework and school projects.
The site also offers ideas to educators on how to incorporate technology effectively into the classroom. It also allows for a forum for educators to discuss various techniques they have used and have been successful with.
One important thing to be aware of when searching for helpful and unbiased sites is that some software companies try to blur the line between marketing and advise. For example, if you go to the site www.education.com you might think that you are visiting a site that will provide unbiased information on learning and software programs. However, the site is actually hosted by JumpStart, a leader in edutainment software. The web site offers many on-line activities for children as well as lesson plans and ideas for educators. As long as the browser is aware that the site will be pushing JumpStart, as well as their other software lines, the site can offer some useful suggestions.
Other commercial software sites:
If you are trying to find a neutral site to provide helpful opinions on software try www.childsoftpress.com.
Children's Software Press "was formed in 1992 with the mission to provides, parents, teachers and school administrators with timely, succinct and unbiased information on educational software and tech issues for kids aged 2 to 18."