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Do computers have the potential to change the way children think?

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Do computers have the potential to change the way children think? Children's access to computers in recent years has improved dramatically. IT is included in the school curriculum and every child has the opportunity at some point during the week to work on a computer. How this new technology impacts on a child's development is an important issue. Papert (1980) believed that through programming computers children's thinking could be changed. An alternative view is that computers provide an exciting, stimulating and collaborative medium through which the curriculum can be taught. This essay will consider each of these ideas in turn with a view of reaching some tentative conclusions as to how computers may impact on the development of children's thinking. Papert (1980) helped develop a programming language called Logo. As part of this program children are able to program a robot to draw their instructions. Papert viewed the robot as an object with which the children could think. This program allows the child to explore mathematical shapes and concepts and involves them learning to speak mathematics to the computer. This programming of the robot requires the child to learn to think firstly about what they will need the robot to do and then to sequentially write the program into the computer. ...read more.


Papert focussed on the individual cognitive development of the child however, results from studies have shown that Logo has an effect on a child's social interactions. Hoyles and Sutherland (1986) claim that the experience of working with Logo can enhance the child's social interactive learning. One aspect which has concerned society is that computers are individualistic and could this be impacting detrimentally on a child's social and communicative skills so this is a surprising result. This is the next area to consider when considering if computers do have the potential to change the way a child thinks. Sheingold et al (1984) compared children working with Logo and children working without computers. They found that there were more interactions between the children working with Logo. These interactions varied from collaborating and helping each other to just stopping casually at the computer. The next point to consider is whether children learn better through these interactions. A number of studies have been designed to explore this area. Mevarech et al (1991) compared two groups of children using arithmetic software. One group worked alone whilst the other group worked in pairs (of similar ability) ...read more.


Overall the computers seemed to have a positive impact; however more research and conclusions may still need to be drawn from these pilots. These positive points for the use of computers in the classroom setting have implications for teachers and schools. Firstly there is a large cost involved in providing all children with their own laptops. Another aspect to consider is the teachers own knowledge in this area and the change to the planning and delivery of lessons. Even if not every child has their own computer there are advantages for each classroom having a number of computers so that children can have access outside their timetabled IT lesson. The use of computers in the education of children appears to be having a positive impact. The research seems to indicate that rather than changing the way children think computers provide a fun and motivational environment in which the children can learn the school curriculum. The view that the teacher is passive and the child can learn by discovery learning does not seem to be supported by the evidence. It appears to be more through interactions with peers and adults and structured taught lessons where most progress can be made in a child's learning. ...read more.

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