Are computer skills an optional subject in school anymore? Their pervasiveness into so many aspects of our lives these days has had me feeling like the answer to this question was a definite no for a long time. However, I have recently seen several articles and even a story on my local evening news arguing that computers can ‘get in the way’ to a degree that is greater than their benefit.
I just cant seem to wrap my head around this. It seems to me that not including computers and technology in the classroom puts students at a great disadvantage. Computer skills, to my mind, are a great method for integrating problem solving and creative thinking skills. Communicating via computer is also a necessity in just about every workplace I can think of. Denying students such fundamental skills seems almost as disastrous as not educating them at all.
Then we have all the studies that point to technology helping students improve their classroom experience. One of the primary influences for my recently completed thesis was a study out of Scotland showing that using a Nintendo DS game dramatically increased maths attainment (story link). My research also looked at the integration of digital spaces into more ‘traditional’ educational television shows. The online playground that accompanies PBS’s Sid the Science Kid TV show offers a wonderful ‘hands-on’ opportunity that potentially enhances the learning possibilities of the TV production dramatically.
While I can understand technology that is not used well detracting from a classroom learning environment, the evidence seems to point to inclusion being better that abstention as a whole. Therefore, when I was directed to an article on Good Education titled Should 3-Year-Olds Learn Computer Programming? my answer was ‘why not?’. I think the article is right – it will help integrate technology as a problem solving tool, introduce computers in a way that may improve the number of students later studying computer programming, and be a fun, educational activity. I wish programming had been this much fun when I was learning!