Sep 11

Laptops for kindergarten students

A new pilot has just started in Canada (link) to supply 4 year old kindergarten students with laptops, to be used in the classroom. During the pilot, the computers will be used “in both reading circle and outside the building to explore nature”.

Huh, what is that I thought? Exploring nature with a laptop?

Anyway, the people behind it find it important that “from the beginning, children will experience the technology that will be a part of their lives”. Well, it’s debatable whether that is something desirable, there’s lots of technology that you don’t want your child to experience at age 4: Game consoles, certain websites etc.

I encourage the use of computers in classrooms as a helping tool, but for kindergarten students to walk around with laptops (think about the weight they have to carry around!) sounds to me like one step too far. Although the mentioned “enhancements in their intelligence, non-verbal skills and problem-solving” are undoubtedly substantial, it probably does not help their social and emotional development. Guidance by a skilled teacher in this experiment will be very important.

Nevertheless I’m curious how this pilot works out, and whether these children are really better off later in life. The people behind the idea claim that “The younger they’re exposed to it, the better”. Well, I guess only the future can tell.

Sep 04

Educational software

In recent years, computers have become an integral part of everyday life. Now, more people own computers than ever before, and the numbers continue to rise. As a result, children are learning how to use computers in school at a much earlier age than ever before.

There is a wide array of educational software available for children of all ages. This provides you, the parent, with many options when choosing educational software for your children. Since many educational games have been shown to help children learn and improve their skills in many subjects, these games have become an important part of a child’s learning experience. But choosing the right educational software makes all the difference. For this reason, it is essential to take care when choosing computer software for your children.

The best educational software is designed by people who know how children think. By nature, children like to see, touch, and interact with a thing in order to learn about it. This same concept also applies to computer software. For this reason, interactive applications have become so prevalent. Among these, there are many different types of software applications. Some are actual simulations, while others are open-ended creativity tools. There are also a number of structured activities available for the computer such as puzzles, tutorials, and reference titles. They are made by the 700+ publishers that specialize in educational items.

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Aug 28

Starting kindergarten later

There is a growing trend towards starting kindergarten later, sometimes at the age of 6 or later. Most parents who hold their children back at home, do so because they think their child is not ready for kindergarten. In their opinion, their child will be stronger (socially and emotionally) and smarter if they wait longer.

A recent study examined the academic results of students who started kindergarten later. Of course older children were performing better than younger students at first, but eventually they had similar academic test scores throughout elementary and middle school. So their ‘advantage’ over younger children had worn out by the time they were in grade 8.

As a result, by the time these late kindergarten students have finished their academic paths, they start working a year later. Also, parents have an extra year of childcare costs if they delay entry into kindergarten.

In my opinion, children should attend kindergarten as early as possible. The possitive effect that older classmates give them (setting higher standards, getting help from older students) is too valuable.

I wonder what your opinions are about starting kindergarten early or late!

Aug 07

Teaching statistics

I was looking for information of teaching jobs on the website of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and found some interesting statistics that I wanted to share with you:

In the USA, of all occupations in the elementary and secondary school category, there are 64,000 preschool teachers, 160,000 kindergarten teachers, 1.4 million elementary school teachers, 640,000 middle school teachers, 1 million secondary school teachers, and roughly 400,000 special education teachers.

Impressive numbers. However, I was more stunned when I noticed the number of management jobs (almost 300,000) and other occupations in this category: There is a grand total of 8.4 million people working in elementary and secondary schools, including financial managers, marketing managers, lawyers, school bus drivers, cooks, dishwashers, librarians etc. So, roughly only two thirds of all the people working in elementary and secondary schools are actually teachers.

Some other interesting statistics are that 80,9% of the elementary and middle school teachers are female, and of all preschool and kindergarten teachers even 97,3% (!) are female.  Where are all the men you wonder 😉

Jul 28

Audio cassette tapes in the classroom

Last week I posted a message about the utilization of new media on primary/elementary schools. I then thought of some reasons why the usage of internet and computers is still relatively small. After speaking with some teachers, I found out there are at least two other good reasons:

1) Money. Let’s face it, although governments all over the world claim that they want to invest more in education, most schools just don’t have the money for computers. Often schools rely on volunteers that can organise IT related matters for them.

2) Change can be hard. A lot of teachers have been doing their own ‘thing’ for years, repeating the same stuff every schoolyear. They feel comfortable with it, and also the lack of time prevents them from working with computers and discovering ‘new media’.

A great example of these reasons in real life is the usage of audio cassette tapes in classrooms. Yes, audio cassette tapes, they are still being used!  While most consumers threw out their cassette recorders somewhere in the late Eighties, schools and teachers are still relying on them heavily.

Is there no money for cd players, or is it that teachers don’t know how cd or mp3 players work? Didn’t anyone explain them what streaming media is? Or aren’t new teachers trained in these things on graduate schools and universities?

 

I really don’t know what the reason is. What I do know by now, is where the term oldschool comes from 😉

Jul 16

New media in your classroom

I read a newspaper article today here in the Netherlands about the usage of new media in primary/elementary schools. Although the article mentioned a distinct rise in internet and computer use in general, it is currently only used in 26% of all schools. Granted, it has risen from 15% last year, but I still think it’s a low number.

When I look around on the internet, I see lots of sites with useful materials or even online software that is just sitting there waiting for teachers. So why aren’t we using it here in the Netherlands? Other sources tell me that the usage of new media in English speaking countries, especially in the US, is much higher. 

I think the main difference is scale: English is of course spoken all over the world, and as a result the number of interesting websites is always higher for the English language. Another reason is probably the non-existence of homeschooling here in my country. Everybody goes to school, it’s a small country and travel times to schools are always short. Therefore I can see a less need to create online learning opportunities.

I wonder how this situation is in other countries. I am keen to learn how the use of internet and computers is in your country!

Jul 13

New game: More and less

There’s a new game on the site: ‘More and less’:

This game consists of 4 sheets with numbers, 4 sheets with objects and 8 sheets with 4 ‘questions’ each.

Print, cut out, and laminate all the cards. The children have to indicate which of the 2 objects on the question cards there are more of. They do so by placing the bigger object card next to the question card.

To make it more difficult, have the children count the number of objects on a card and let them place the applicable number card next to it.

Good luck in your classroom and have fun!

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