Introducing children to computers

Shepherd Chimururi Cool Lifestyle Correspondent
Introducing children to computers is proving to be a herculean task. Thousands of computers are gathering dust in many homes and schools as parents and authorities are failing to find the formula to introduce children to computers.

The confessions are the same at every workshop that I facilitate – teachers appear lost on what to teach children and how.
There is a world of difference between teaching a child and an adult.

It is a proven fact that children learn from the known to the unknown. This applies also to computer education.

Children’s previous exposure to technological gadgets plays a vital role, a child who have been allowed to operate a technological gadget before like decoders, TV remote control, mobile phones etc are more ready to relate with the computer and the mouse in particular.

Although prior exposure is an advantage, sometimes it becomes a challenge to change what the child knows.
Take for example how a TV is switched off by a remote control, a child will expect the same to apply to the computer.

If given an instruction to click an icon on the screen, the child will lift up the mouse and point the screen instead of moving it on a surface. In the same vein, a child used to touch-screen devices like tablets, smartphones etc, will most likely want to touch the computer screen not the mouse.

Debate is still ranging on what age or what intellectual skills a child should master to enable him or her to operate computers efficiently. Pre-readers, that is children who can not read or write words or numbers have to first grasp knowledge of colours, shapes, and counting.

Make the children understand the concept by demonstrating patiently what and how you want them to do the activity. Children learn more through modelling.

Communicate with the child in the language they best understand. If you feel there is a challenge in understanding or in following your demonstration, assist them by physically holding and directing their hands.

The concept of clicking within the boundaries, how to choose tools and where to apply them needs patience. It is at this point that eye-hand coordination works alongside fine motor skills and controlling body rigidity.

Stiffness of the body or fingers in children is usually a result of nasty family experiences like being beaten when found operating a remote, being verbally abused or threatened when found attempting to operate a parent’s phone.

Banning your children from using home technological gadgets is not a solution.
Instead you should teach them how to handle them properly. Encouragement is the best motivating strategy when the children will be taking time to understand or develop a needed skill.

For effective motivation in a classroom setup, let the knowledgeable student teach and demonstrate to others.
Always monitor the use of appropriate technological terms, although without difficult jargon. Avoid words like erase or rub instead of delete.

The computer lessons will be explained in the light of other easily understood lessons given to the children. For example, children may be familiar with colouring and thus be introduced to an interactive colouring software to do the actual colouring but using a computer.

If the children had done shapes in class, they may also be introduced to a software that can do the same. The golden principle is – anything that can be done in the book can be done on the computer.

This means children should be able to draw, colour, paint and scribble on the computer. The secret is in using age appropriate software.
Another important factor is the equipment.

Please use child-sized mouse which they can easily be gripped in their palm. Chairs and the desks should be proportional to the height of the child.

Shepherd Chimururi executive director – Dzidzo Inhaka Audio Visual Learning. Mobile:+263 772 608 276

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