Children and Computers

Children and Computers

Paolo Ferri (University of Milan, Italy)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-845-1.ch010
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Abstract

The basic assumption of our research is that in order for teachers and parents to promote an effective and critical use of new technologies in the early years (especially in preschools) they need to gain a deeper understanding of the way in which children spontaneously approach these technologies together with an improved awareness of adults’ representations and ideas (Ferri & Mantovani, 2006). Too often computers and digital technologies are introduced in early childhood contexts without adequate understanding of their cultural meanings, cognitive, and social potentials or constraints, which is particularly true in preschool settings as shown by Varisco (2002) and Albanense, Migliorini, and Pietrocola (2000).
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Research Goals And Theoretical Background

The goals of the research are:

  • Understanding the ways in which 3 to 6 children use and explore new digital technologies and interpret their meanings and functions at home and in preschool settings;

  • Exploring teachers’ and parents’ ideas and representations with regard to the use of computers, at home and in preschools, and to their educational roles;

  • Working out a methodological approach for the study of these issues in early childhood settings and for eliciting and making explicit the educational models;

  • Stimulating opportunities for dialogue and interpretation on issues like education and technologies, learning tools in the early years, collaborative learning, and so forth;

  • Developing training materials based on this approach. with computers in the early years;

  • Outlining patterns for the development of “new” media education for teachers and schools.

The basic assumption of our research is that in order for teachers and parents to promote an effective and critical use of new technologies in the early years (especially in preschools) they need to gain a deeper understanding of the way in which children spontaneously approach these technologies together with an improved awareness of adults’ representations and ideas (Ferri & Mantovani, 2006). Too often computers and digital technologies are introduced in early childhood contexts without adequate understanding of their cultural meanings, cognitive, and social potentials or constraints, which is particularly true in preschool settings as shown by Varisco (2002) and Albanense, Migliorini, and Pietrocola (2000).

On these grounds, our research focuses on exploring the way in which young children approach computers, how they relate to theses tools (both at an individual level and at a social level), what they do with them and what they think about them. Along with observing children, we aimed at understanding the way in which teachers and parents interpret the role of technologies in early childhood education and their educational responsibilities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Technology: Despite its cultural pervasiveness, technology is an elusive concept. It can refer to material objects, such as machines, hardware or utensils, but it can also encompass broader themes, such as systems, methods of organization, and techniques. It is an ever-evolving body of knowledge that both shapes and is shaped by societies. The proliferation of new technologies, such as computers, has left some people believing that technology is a determinant force in society, or in other words, that it is an autonomous agent that drives change. It would be more appropriate to discard this reductionist approach, and regard technology as one component of a multi-faceted cultural matrix, which includes social, political, historical, and economic factors that work together to spawn change. The word technology originates in the Greek words technologia (te???????a), techne (t????, which means “craft”), and logia (????a, which is “saying” or “ordering”, in the sense of arranging).

Early Childhood Studies: The early years are regarded as being the crucial time in a child’s learning and development and this course reflects the growing interest now taken by educationalists in this field. At what age should children start school? What role do families play in providing the foundations for successful learning? What sort of nursery education should we be providing? How can play be used in education? Early childhood studies draws on a range of disciplines including psychology, health care, educational studies and sociology in order to understand this formative period of our lives. If you are interested in young children and how they learn and grow, then this course will enable you to explore this fascinating stage of human development. It will also give you the professional and academic skills as well as the hands-on experience you need to work with children. Early childhood studies is offered as part of a three-year combined honours degree so you study it alongside one other subject. It combines particularly well with other courses in the institute such as: education and human development; communication, media, and culture; philosophy; religion; sport and coaching studies or performing arts.Alternatively it can be combined with any of one of over 60 other subjects such as psychology, history, or sociology.

Constructivism: Formalization of the theory of constructivism is generally attributed to Jean Piaget, who articulated mechanisms by which knowledge is internalized by learners. He suggested that through processes of accommodation and assimilation, individuals construct new knowledge from their experiences. Assimilation occurs when individuals’ experiences are aligned with their internal representation of the world. They assimilate the new experience into an already existing framework. Accommodation is the process of reframing one’s mental representation of the external world to fit new experiences. Accommodation can be understood as the mechanism by which failure leads to learning. In fact, there are many pedagogies that leverage constructivist theory. Most approaches that have grown from constructivism suggest that learning is accomplished best using a hands-on approach. Learners learn by experimentation, and not by being told what will happen. They are left to make their own inferences, discoveries and conclusions. It also emphasizes that learning is not an “all or nothing” process but that students learn the new information that is presented to them by building upon knowledge that they already possess. It is therefore important that teachers constantly assess the knowledge their students have gained to make sure that the students perceptions of the new knowledge are what the teacher had intended. Teachers will find that since the students build upon already existing knowledge, when they are called upon to retrieve the new information, they may make errors. It is known as reconstruction error when we fill in the gaps of our understanding with logical, though incorrect, thoughts. Teachers need to catch and try to correct these errors, though it is inevitable that some reconstruction error will continue to occur because of our innate retrieval limitations.

Digital Divide: The digital divide is the gap between those with regular, effective access to digital technologies and those without. The digital divide is related to social inclusion and equality of opportunity. It is seen as a social/political problem and has become increasingly relevant as the industrialized nations have become more dependent on digital technologies in their democratic and economic processes. Larry Irving, a former United States Assistant Secretary of Commerce and technology adviser to the Clinton Administration, made the term digital divide popular in a series of reports in the mid 1990’s. The digital divide results from the socio-economic differences between communities that in turn affects their access to digital information mainly but not exclusively through the Internet. Broadly speaking, the difference is not necessarily determined by the size or depth of the user group. Any digital media that different segments of society can use, can become the subject of a digital divide.

Education: Education is the process by which an individual is encouraged and enabled to fully develop his or her innate potential; it may also serve the purpose of equipping the individual with what is necessary to be a productive member of society. Through teaching and learning the individual acquires and develops knowledge, beliefs, and skills. It is widely accepted that the process of education begins at birth and continues throughout life. Some believe that education begins even earlier than this, as evidenced by some parents’ playing music or reading to the baby in the hope it will influence the child’s development. Education is often used to refer to formal education. However, it covers a range of experiences, from formal learning to the building of understanding and knowledge through day to day experiences. Ultimately, all that we experience serves as a form of education. Individuals receive informal education from a variety of sources. Family members, peers, books and mass media have a strong influence on the informal education of the individual.

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