I decided to watch my 12yo son, Daniel, over the course of a week to see what computer skills he used in his everyday activities.
- He wanted to make a digital card to send to his friends who had lost their pet wallabies. He used digital scrapbooking programme and he found some photos of a wallaby via a Google image search. He then emailed the jpg file as an attachment to his friend.
- Daniel wanted to blog about his recent birthday. He started typing (using Microsoft Word) on my computer but I wanted him off, so he saved his file to the network so it could be opened on another computer – the network was down, so we emailed the file to the other workstation/computer. He opened the email, finished writing and saved it to a memory stick to take to another computer where he would be able to upload his blog. He also saved his images from my laptop to the memory stick to go with his story.
- Daniel has just started to play around with stop-motion animation. He uses a digital camera, takes lots of still photos, uploads them and files them onto my laptop and then using an animation programme puts the photos all together in sequence; if you play this sequence fast enough you get a movie! He is also learning to use Audacity to make a sound track to go with his movie.
- We are using this week to catch up on various notebooking pages that are incomplete. Daniel used Google images once again to find images about Neil Armstrong and walking on the moon. He cut and pasted these to one Word document page, so it would be economical to print out. He also created a title and journaling on Word and he’ll glue the pictures on (though he could have done it all on one Word Document, he didn’t!)
- One of Daniel’s independent activities is to practice his typing. We use a CDrom programme which focuses on drill rather than on games.
Our kids are so often on the computer that we often forget to consider the learning skills that are involved. To use a new programme they need to understand that there is a help file, and they need to be humble enough to go there and read it! When things don’t go right, they need to stop and think why, and follow through various possibilities (problem solving). To use Google, whether for information or for an image, you need to know key words. You need to understand about copyright rules and plagiarism. To send email you need to know email etiquette. To gain any competency in any of these programmes our children need to understand the value of practice and diligence.
So though the computer may well be a part of everyday life, there is still plenty of learning going on.