Quite often I’m asked to speak to groups of adults on the topic of computers in education. Most of the parents in the audiences seem to feel rather at a loss about how to encourage learning in the home situation. We’ve now reached the stage where a vast number of homes possess a computer of some kind, many of them bought in the hope that they will assist the children with their school work, or help them to cope with life in this high-technology age. Parents, however, are becoming increasingly concerned that the machines tend to be used in the main for game-playing — usually arcade games.
Another worry is that girls seem to show less interest than boys in computers, and this is of particular concern to those parents whose daughters are aiming for a career in a modern office where techniques rely heavily on computers. It’s hard to alleviate worries such as these, as there is really no simple answer.
Young children often enjoy a large amount of parental support when it comes to using computers, and some of the early learning games reviewed this month are certainly of the type to encourage parent/child involvement. Older children, however, tend not to be given this kind of support, being left very much to their own devices. Programs like Special Agent and Car Journey are helpful in letting parents see the sort of related activities their children can be directed towards.
Instead of taking a back seat, the adults may even be encouraged to work with their teenagers on the games. Certainly all children ought to have the chance to develop keyboard skills at least, and this means moving away from arcade games and joysticks. I do wish, though, there were more programs designed to appeal to girls — publishers please note!