Home is a great place to start teaching children how to use a computer responsibly. Chances are, they can handle it. In fact, they might know more about computers than you do. Kids in more than 12,000 U.S. school districts currently work with computers at school.
Computers at home
One in four students has access to a personal computer at home, recent surveys say, and that number continues to grow. By using software that makes learning fun, the computer can compete against television and video games while educating your child.
Broderbund’s “Carmen Sandiego” series, for instance, surreptitiously teaches kids about geography and history while they play detective.
The latest computer craze, CD-ROM drives, holds a wealth of educational information. These special disk drives can assess an enormous amount of reference information. A “U.S. History on CD-ROM” disk holds the text of 107 U.S. history books, as well as 1,000 pictures. Another disk contains the complete series of Simon & Schuster Monarch Notes: study guides for more than 200 classics.
Children learn computer literacy every time they sit at the keyboard. Consider the following ways to challenge a child’s imagination:
Let the kids use a desktop publishing or word processing program to print a family newspaper, or to create signs for a garage sale.
Subscribe to an online service. By using a modem and the telephone lines, children can send electronic mail to other kids across the nation, read news designed for kids and play games.
Computers in the classroom
Not long ago, computers were absent from many classrooms. “Many teachers had a fear that computers would take their jobs away” says Al Horne, CEO of APC Technology Group. That fear began to slip away when teachers saw how computers could make life easier in the classroom.
“Computers make learning more fun and exciting,” says Leslie Eicher, spokeswoman for Jostens Learning Corporation. Jostens sells a complete, integrated learning system to help teach students reading, writing, language arts and mathematics from kindergarten through 12th grade. The plan’s met with considerable success: more than 6,000 of the nations’s school districts use some of Jostens’ software.
That figure could rise. Despite the current budget problems, schools spent $1.5 billion on instructional technology in 1991. That figure’s expected to rise to $2.4 billion by 1995, according to “Educational Technology Trends ’91-92” published by Quality Education data in Denver.
By Gary S. Dannenbaum
Betty Ann and Bill Menser are guiding Albuquerque’s children into the computer age. The couple, computer technicians and program designers by trade, keyed into the need to educate children bout computers. In December 1991, the Mensers opened Futurekids in Albuquerque. They offer computer classes for children 3 1/2 to 13 years old.
“Our maximum class size is four children, but we will start a class for one child,” Betty Ann says. “We teach about the computer, how it works, how to handle diskettes, how to care for a computer and how information is processed through a computer.”
Pan Radler of Albuquerque searched a year for a computer school for her 8-year-old son, Anthony. Futurekids was her answer.
“What I thought would be just a one-month session, as a birthday present, turned out to be a continuous thing, because he loves it so much,” Radler says. “I noticed he’s learned things that I haven’t learned, and I’ve been using computers for around 10 years,” Radler says.
Kathy Lang of Corrales, N.M., has two sons enrolled at Futurekids. “Four-year-old Zachary is eager to learn. He is learning the alphabet and his numbers through his computer lessons at Futurekids,” she says. “He is having so much fun that he doesn’t realize he is learning.”
Children at Futurekids learn at an age-appropriate level. “We keep it fun,” says Betty Ann. “If they are working on something that’s really hard, keyboarding for example, we bring as much interest and excitement into it as we can. We make it a little competitive and they have goals to reach.”
Younger children enroll in the “Mommy and Me” classes – a 30-minute class, four time a month. The rest of the classes run approximately one hour, four times per month.
“The experts say that by the year 2000, children had better be computer literate, and that’s not just booting up a video game,” Bill says. “So we decided to do something about it.”
Software for Kids
West Coast warehouses are chock full of software that makes learning fun for children. Look for: Availability of products is limited to stock on hand.