Computers urged for preschool, kindergarten lessons

January 30, 1994|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Staff Writer

Writing fairy tales, drawing dinosaurs, creating puppets, laying out a city -- all are activities a computer can bring to preschool or kindergarten classrooms. And yesterday about 60 Maryland teachers and day care providers attended a seminar on including computers in the daily classroom experience.

"Ten years ago, many people felt computers had no place in the classroom," said Barbara Shelton, director of the child development program at

Villa Julie College, which co-sponsored the daylong event with the Maryland Committee for Children.

"But now many have realized that it's impossible to stem the tide of technology and, more importantly, there are now limitless jTC possibilities for using technology in classes," she said.

Computers present several difficulties for teachers, said Bernadette Caruso, a teacher in "Computers as Partners," a research and teaching project at the University of Delaware. Ms. Caruso was the keynote speaker yesterday and directed several workshops.

New technology can be expensive and some teachers feel intimidated by computers, she said.

"Most of us didn't grow up with computers. We feel awkward using them at first. Let's not let that happen to the children in our classrooms," she said.

When computers appeared in classrooms, critics were concerned the machines would decrease interaction among children and that the children would sit passively in front of them, waiting to be taught.

But, Ms. Caruso said, that's also what some education experts said when chalkboards were introduced to classrooms in 1855.

The trick is to avoid inappropriate uses of technology, as well as choosing good software programs, she said.

Cost-effective software programs are those that "grow" with the child, or have varying levels of difficulty. Other worthwhile programs stimulate interest so the child continues to experiment because of the joy involved, Ms. Caruso said.

She criticized programs that limit the number of mistakes a child can make. One program asks the child to count the candy canes on the screen. Every time the child makes an error the computer makes a "raspberry sound." The exercise ends after the child makes two mistakes.

"Now imagine having someone make a raspberry in your ear when you were trying to learn," she said.

The idea is not to have computers replace traditional elements of child development such as blocks, paints and crayons, but to use computers to bolster lessons learned throughout the school day.

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