What is all hoopla about children needing to be exposed to computers and Internet? Let me share my experience.
My child isn’t a genius. Most aptitude testing has revealed that she is of average intelligence. But somehow this child has managed to consistently score above 90th percentile nationally on Iowa Test of Basic Skills—98th and 99th percentile in math. And, on Georgia’s sixth grade Criterion Referenced Comprehension Test (CRCT) scored 450 out of 450 on reading section, surprising given that math has consistently been her strongest subject. We have just received her scores on eighth grade CRCT with a score 422 on reading portion showing previous reading score was no fluke and exceeding on every other portion of test. She also scored a 92 on Georgia’s End-of Course Test for Algebra I. In short, she is doing quite well academically in school.
I’m not sure of exact reasons for performance on these tests, although I believe a lot of it has to do with her hard work, consistent effort, and my persistence as a parent. That persistence has included using every resource I can find and afford to help my child excel. Many of those resources have been on Internet.
Friday night found us in front of computer playing at a website based upon “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” game. The differences are that all questions are related to science, we can’t actually win a million dollars, it’s absolutely free, and my daughter and I are players. It isn’t unusual for us to spend a couple of hours playing this game. I am always amazed by how much she knows as her age as well as how much I seem to have forgotten at mine.
Many years ago while developing and teaching Air Force training courses for U.S. Space Command, I became fascinated with use of computers in learning. Also while working in training area, I became a fan of basic premises of Thorndike’s Laws of Learning. Although some would characterize them as almost forgotten and even sometimes discredited, I have found laws to be helpful in flagging what works and what does not in educating my child as well as adults and youth in other programs I have managed. I have realized much success incorporating essence of those laws of learning and computer technology as I have dealt with my child’s learning. Thorndike’s laws are pretty simple:
The Law of Readiness deals with ensuring a child is ready to learn--making sure student is fed, free from too much worry, comfortable, and well aware of importance of what is to be learned. In other words student must be prepared to learn. One exercise I have done with my child dealing with this law is researching admissions criteria for different schools. We have also compared costs of different institutions. We found sites like CollegeTours.com, a site providing loads of information and virtual tours of different college campuses, to be a handy reference for this exercise. We have even gone as far as to look at scholarship requirements using scholarship databases such as CollegeNET.com and CollegeIsPossible.org. We have been doing this since sixth grade. By understanding requirements now, hopefully, we won’t be running around in junior and senior years trying to get things in order. It is awfully difficult to bring up that grade point average in a couple of semesters, especially if young person is stressed by time constraints. Getting my child prepared now is my way of ensuring we are prepared when time comes. A worksheet for this exercise can be downloaded from my website YouthPlay.org.
The Law of Exercise relates to making sure that practice is part of study routine—especially when dealing with essential facts and rules. The Internet and various software can be very useful in providing repetition in a not-so-routine manner. Games like Basket Math at ScienceAcademy.com where your child actually makes a hoop each time he or she gets correct answer can make rote learning of multiplication tables a tad more interesting than just repeating multiplication tables over and over.
I remember clearly when I began to dislike math—a subject I had loved until, I believe, I ran into wrong teacher. I remember my worst days in school. I remember my best days. I remember teachers who were creative and inspiring and know that best skills I possess today are in areas they taught. That is Law of Effect at work. I look very hard for sites that are good learning websites and share them with my daughter. I don’t want her to be turned off by sites that are really advertising monsters, just enticing you to a point of enjoyment and then launching an advertising scheme where you must make a purchase before you can go any further. Certainly I understand that many websites survive through their ability to sell products, however I believe this can be accomplished without bait and purchase gimmicks.
Goodness, have you ever tried to unlearn something you learned how to do wrong? This is Law of Primacy, which states that what is learned first is learned best. You really have to make sure that resources that your child uses are good resources. Every textbook is not a good textbook; every website is not a good website; and every teacher is not a good teacher. And assuming that these tools are good simply because they exist or because school system uses them can cause your child a world of harm. A parent really has to do more than have these tools available. If you tryout a piece of software or an Internet resource and you cannot follow instructions, then there is a very good chance your child may not be able to effectively use resource either. And same rule applies with other resources as well. Some sites such as Math.com and MathForum.com gave really simple step-by-step instructions to concepts my child was learning in school, yet I had long forgotten. I was able to refresh my memory and to get her on track using these resources.