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Technology: helping or hindering?

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Tabitha Rodgers

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Obsessively playing video games till well past two in the morning; this is a night known by more than a few people at Pacific University. What kind of example is being set for the 3 to 7-year-old’s in the Early Learning Community, who are already learning how to use computers and play games? Will the Internet and computer become their source of communication and entertainment?

In the College of Education’s ELC, technology surrounds the children. They have access to computers, video-cameras, cameras and now iPads are being thrown into the everyday mix.

It would be easy for these students to become reliant on the technology. There is, however, something to stop the children from becoming early on-set gamers or constant social networkers; the teachers.

In every classroom of the ELC there is the head teacher who has their Masters in Teaching and two assistant teachers. These educators are trying to keep the next generation from becoming technology-crazed adults.

According to a professor of education and director of the ELC. Mark Bailey, “technology is another form of play and we don’t privilege technology.” The teacher’s allow the students to use the electronics when it is beneficial to the lessons or activities they are involved in. If a child just wants to play on the computer all day, the teachers simply do not allow it.

Technology in the ELC is used as a way to support the learning of the students, not replace it. The computers have limited access to a handful of programs, which have been approved by the ELC to be beneficial to learning and all of the programs are interactive. Their web access is limited for the children as well, even to approved sites like PBSKids.org.

iPads, which are just now being introduced, are specifically designed for the children to help improve their literacy, numeracy and other basic skills. One program teaches letter recognition and proper methods of writing with a touch screen capability. The iPad’s are covered with rubber so as to be more resistant to child use. It also has speech-to-text recognition capabilities so the students could tell a story and the iPad could convert it into written text for them to look at afterward.

Parents of the children have voiced few concerns about the technology in the ELC. Many have praised the use of electronics. Jennifer Hardacker, a professor of media arts, commended her 5-year-old sons capability to now navigate YouTube, search for and recognize letters on the type pad and his desire to type it himself.

However, parent and director of the Pacific Information Center, Denise Giesbers voiced a concern about the technology. Giesbers said a problem with the spell check tool on computers today, is that it often only checks to make sure the word is spelled correcly, not that it is used correctly. Unless the children know how to use the word properly and can recognize which form is correct, the use of technology, which she considers to be a “double-edged sword” of good and bad possibilities, could be doing them a disservice.

She said it is up to the parents and teachers to help the children learn the differences, while still praising the ELC on helping the children to be “way ahead of the game” when it comes to technology use.

The teacher’s goal is to help students use electronics interactively instead of passively, as they would when they watch television. Although the parents have admitted computer use has increased for their kids, few are worried as long as educational and creative play does not decrease. So far parents have said their kids still like to go outside and play games with each other, despite having access to today’s advanced technology.

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