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With reference to evidence from psychological research, evaluate the significance of working with computers for children's learning in the classroom

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Introduction

With reference to evidence from psychological research, evaluate the significance of working with computers for children's learning in the classroom The role of technology in childhood education is a controversial topic, and both parents and educators have concerns about the potential benefits or harm to young children. Critics contend that technology in schools wastes time, money and childhood itself by speeding up the pace and cutting down on essential learning experiences (Cordes & Miller, 2000; Healy, 1998). Proponents suggest that children should have the advantages that new technologies can offer. There is also some concern that modern technology is not being used in the best ways, or obtaining the expected results (Healy, 1998). This essay will review the considerations for technology use in childhood education and will address the question of whether computers can replace more traditional teaching methods. Both critics and proponents of computers in the classroom agree on the importance of the early years in a child's physical, social-emotional, language, and cognitive development. Perhaps the area of development most researched in relation to computer use has been that of cognitive development and the question of how modern technology is affecting children's minds. Are computers being used to enhance and hasten cognitive development, or are they detracting from and inhibiting intellectual growth in some way? ...read more.

Middle

There has been much research around Papert's claims for the cognitive benefits of Logo. Hughes (1990) asserts that programming in Logo does not in itself result in enhanced problem-solving capabilities, but cognitive gains are more likely to be observed when the experience is carefully structured by the teacher. Whilst most evaluations of the impact of Logo has focused on individual cognitive skills, it is has become apparent that working with Logo opens up possibilities for social interaction (Clements and Nastasi, 1988). Similarly, studies by Mevarech et al (1991), Blaye (1998) and Light & Glachan (1985) have indicated that children work better in pairs (peer facilitation) in all types of learning, whether with computers or not. Perhaps then peer facilitation is one of the best ways of learning, with both children in the same ZDP, and a teacher available to scaffold if need be? Nevertheless, Papert's contention was that the potential of the computer in aiding development lay not in it's use as a tool for teachers, but "on the contrary, it's potential lies in extending children's control over their own learning" (Light, 1987). Whist this may be true for older children, using technology to follow paths of learning they might not otherwise come to using a traditional print resource, can the same be said of pre-school and primary school children? ...read more.

Conclusion

A study by Sherry Turkle (1984) has proposed that there may be differences in the cognitive styles of boys and girls that affect the way in which they relate to computers. Working with computers today requires formal analytical skills, which evidence suggests are masculine skills. If this were true, girls would need to be helped to overcome social conventions and to adopt approaches to computers using their own strengths and cognitive skills. It may also be significant that the metaphors and images used in the presentation of a task are more suited to boys than girls, and that context exerts a critical influence on cognitive performance and its relative difficulty for the different sexes. Conclusion Technology is a tool that can provide another way for children to learn and make sense of their world. Computers can be used in developmentally appropriate ways that are beneficial to children, or they can be misused, just as any other materials can be misused. Furthermore, just as pencils do not replace crayons, but rather provide additional means of expression, computers do not replace other methods of learning, but add to the tools available to children to explore, create and communicate. When used appropriately by skilled teachers, technology can support and extend learning in valuable ways and can increase educational opportunities. The key is finding the balance and knowing how to align the elements of a healthy childhood with the unique capabilities offered by technology. ...read more.

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