Computers in Education
Computers in Education
Electronic devices used to enhance, facilitate, or support learning activities.
Since the 1980s, computers have been widely available in schools, libraries, and a growing percentage of U.S. households. In fact, the percentage of U.S. public schools that had computers grew from 77.7% in the academic year 1984-85 to 97.5% in 1993-94. For the same two academic years, the number of students per computer dropped from almost 63 in 1984-85 to 11 in 1993-94. The National Center for Education Statistics tracks data on computer use by students, both at school and at home.
A summary of their findings for 1984 and 1993 appears in the accompanying table.
Experts in education are actively involved in developing ways for students to use technology to improve education. There is no single application that is universal to all classrooms. In some settings, students use computers for simple word processing—that is, to type reports and other documents and to print out the results. This application allows students to revise and edit easily. Educators have observed that some students are more likely to produce revisions when working on a computer, since a computer makes it much easier to redraft a sentence and produce a new printout when compared with producing a handwritten copy. Some parents and educators express concerns about the impact of computers on handwriting; students who use computers don't get as much practice in the skills required for legible handwriting.
Another classroom application of computers is for information gathering and research. Encyclopedias and other reference works are available on CD-ROMs, which can be searched by the student using the computer in his or her classroom or school library. With increased usage of computers, many students are learning to type at an earlier age. Traditionally, students learned to type in high school or later, but the students of the 1990s begin "keyboarding" as soon as they have access to a computer, often in the preschool years. Formal keyboarding skills are taught in elementary schools, beginning in the second or third grade.
Another application of computers in classrooms is for so-called computer-aided instruction (CAI). Interactive programs provide practice in such basic skills as
|Use computers at school||Use computers at home||Use computers at home for school work|
|Source: U.S. Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 1994.|
|—Percent of total, 1984||27.3%||11.5%||4.6%|
|—Percent of total||59.0%||27.0%||14.9%|
|—Percent of pre-K and kindergarten students||26.2%||15.6%||0.6%|
|—Percent of students in grades 1-8||68.9%||24.7%||10.8%|
|—Percent of students in grades 9-12||58.2%||28.7%||20.9%|
spelling, math computation, and word recognition. Other programs capitalize on student's curiosity and motivation to use computers to teach such curriculum subjects as history, archaeology, geology, and cultural history. For example, a program may allow a student to type in a phrase and have it translated to hieroglyphics; another offers an opportunity to explore digitally the studio of French Impressionist painter Claude Monet.
Educators have identified the following advantages for the use of technology in teaching: many students enter school with a strong familiarity with technology; technology allows information to be presented in short segments, using visual and audio stimuli, which addresses the short attention span of young learners; using technology more closely approximates the way humans learn through experiences. Some disadvantages or barriers to the use of CAI in schools are: computer equipment is expensive; the individualized nature of computer use limits small-group or full class instruction possibilities.
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Paperi, Seymour. The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. New York: Basic Books, 1993.
——. The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap. Atlanta, GA: Longstreet Press, 1996.
Protheroe, Nancy, Elizabeth Wilson, Lorene Kluge. The Internet Handbook for School Users. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service, 1994.
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Tison, Cindra and Mary Jo Woodside. The Ultimate Collection of Computer Facts & Fun. A Kid's Guide to Computers. Carmel, IN: SAMS, 1991.
The Imagination Machines. An Explanation of the Role of Computer Technology in Arts Education and the Impact of the Arts on New Electronic Learning Tools. Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for Education in the Arts, 1991. (One 1-hour videotape.)