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Thesis Chapter 5 - Children And Computer-based Learning

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Chapter V

Advantages and Disadvantages of Computers on Children


            This chapter will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of computers on children. How they are benefiting with the presence of it and the way they acquire knowledge on its behalf, also how it influence their way of life, thinking and behavior.

            Sally Bowman Alden,  Executive Director of the Computer Learning Foundation has the following viewpoints on the advantages of computer not particularly on children but to all


            Memory Practice: Regardless of whether it is multiplication exercises or spelling, there are certain facts that children must learn through memorization in their early educations. And the key to learning these is memorization. Computer software is available to provide children with memory recall exercises -- from math facts to science definitions to English vocabulary words. Using a computer to practice facts is fun, which for most children means spending more time with the exercises. Computers are also infinitely patient, and (unlike many of us) will work with a child even if it takes 100 tries before they provide the correct response. Plus, children receive instant feedback -- no more waiting until the next day to see the results -- so children do not practice mistakes.

            Tutoring: There are times when a student needs extra tutoring help and possibly a different approach from the way that a teacher has presented the material during class. Computer tutorials offer students a new approach to the subject, as well as one-on-one assistance. Many educational computer software programs are designed to present information in a step-by-step manner and allow a child to catch up on the steps and concepts they were not able to understand in the formal classroom setting. With computer tutorials, children are free to work at their own pace.

            Experimenting: While no teacher or parent can allow children to experiment with dangerous chemicals unsupervised or to cut up cadavers to see just how human body parts fit into place, computers can. Science and math simulation software programs make these and other worlds come alive, safely, right on the screen. The programs encourage children to learn through discovery and experimentation. Even medical students rely on experimental interactive learning tools to help guide them through their courses of study. With the help of a computer, for example, medical students can run through a series of exercises that challenge them to diagnose and treat "computer" patients.

            Experimenting with computers goes well beyond the science and math lab. Asking "what if" questions about historical facts can help children draw their own conclusions -- and increase their memory and understanding of the results. At the same time, simulations allow children to pretend that they were there during different periods of history. Simulations help children develop decision-making skills, which are critical for children's futures. In social studies simulations, for example, children learning about American history can actually make decisions and, from within their computers, change the course of history for a minute and see what would have happened.


            Some students shy away from art and music because they are not immediately proficient using traditional tools. And, even though they have a wealth of creative ideas, they fail to express them because others in the class seem to be better painters or composers. With computers, all students have access to a new array of creativity tools -- from computer painting and drawing tools to musical composition and desktop publishing programs -- making it easier for them to express and explore their creativity.


            With computers, productivity is always on the rise. Word processing and database management programs help students, young and old, organize their thoughts and information. For example, if a high school student uses a computer and a word processing program to prepare a term paper, there is no problem revising the first page. Before computers, the student would have been forced to recopy the entire document, but with a computer, they simply key in the changes and reprint. By making written communications easier, computers can't help but boost our children's productivity and communications skills.


            Here's another area that students can explore with the help of a computer and a database program. Now, pulling together background information on a topic takes on new meaning. Besides the traditional resource materials -- encyclopedias, books, etc. -- there are software and computer tools that provide students with access to online database information and research reports. In addition, there are a number of research analysis and organizational tools available.


            Like the telephone, computers have the power to bring people closer together. Through networking technology, computers across the room or across the world can be connected to allow people to communicate, share thoughts and information. Children in the United States and Russia, for example, have recently established electronic "pen-pal" relationships. Through an electronic mail program and modems, students in each country can tell each other about their activities. Through these types of electronic communication links, children can strengthen their ability to express themselves in writing and prepare themselves for the increased use of electronic communications in the workplace.


            Computers can be a lot of fun. In addition to fund educational software programs, there are a number of entertainment software titles available that can keep children "working" on the computer for hours. Besides just being fun to play, many games are educational in nature and many others develop eye-hand coordination and strategy skills. Played alone, with a friend or parent, these games can also help to bring people closer together, even if it is in the spirit of computer competition.

            Computer manufacturers and software developers are doing their part to produce some state-of-the-art products that will help our children learn more, and just as importantly, to enjoy learning. The key for parents and educators is to increase a child's access to computer technology and encourage them to explore the possibilities. We invite you to participate in Computer Learning Month each October. Experience the benefits of computers for yourself, and share these experiences with your children. Together, you will discover the magic of computers and software as tools -- for learning, creativity, productivity, research, communications and entertainment.

            Given as the above are advantages of computers and there are also disadvantages. One of the disadvantages are in focus of health, in Impact of Computer Use on Children's Vision.

             When first introduced, computers were almost exclusively used by adults. Today, children increasingly use these devices both for education and recreation. Millions of children use computers on a daily basis at school and at home.

            Children can experience many of the same symptoms related to computer use as adults. Extensive viewing of the computer screen can lead to eye discomfort, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches. However, some unique aspects of how children use computers may make them more susceptible than adults to the development of these problems.

            Children often have a limited degree of self-awareness. Many children keep performing an enjoyable task with great concentration until near exhaustion (e.g., playing video games for hours with little, if any, breaks). Prolonged activity without a significant break can cause eye focusing (accommodative) problems and eye irritation.

            Accommodative problems may occur as a result of the eyes' focusing system "locking in" to a particular target and viewing distance. In some cases, this may cause the eyes to be unable to smoothly and easily focus on a particular object, even long after the original work is completed.

            Eye irritation may occur because of poor tear flow over the eye due to reduced blinking. Blinking is often inhibited by concentration and staring at a computer or video screen. Compounding this, computers usually are located higher in the field of view than traditional paperwork. This results in the upper eyelids being retracted to a greater extent. Therefore, the eye tends to experience more than the normal amount of tear evaporation resulting in dryness and irritation.

            Children are very adaptable. Although there are many positive aspects to their adaptability, children frequently ignore problems that would be addressed by adults. A child who is viewing a computer screen with a large amount of glare often will not think about changing the computer arrangement or the surroundings to achieve more comfortable viewing. This can result in excessive eye strain. Also, children often accept blurred vision caused by nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism because they think everyone sees the way they do. Uncorrected farsightedness can cause eye strain, even when clear vision can be maintained.

            Children are not the same size as adults. Since children are smaller, computers don't fit them well. Most computer workstations are arranged for adult use. Therefore, a child using a computer on a typical office desk often must look up further than an adult. Since the most efficient viewing angle is slightly downward about 15 degrees, problems using the eyes together can occur. In addition, children may have difficulty reaching the keyboard or placing their feet on the floor, causing arm, neck, or back discomfort.

            Children often use computers in a home or classroom with less than optimum lighting. The lighting level for the proper use of a computer is about half as bright as that normally found in a classroom. Increased light levels can contribute to excessive glare and problems associated with adjustments of the eye to different levels of light.

            Also disadvantages are the tendencies that a child may expose to internet obscenity, pornography and sites that are harmful to minors. And so with this, there are regulations being implemented to prevent children committing such acts. 

            The Children's Internet Protection Act was signed by President Clinton on 21 December 2000 as part of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and its companion legislation, the Neighborhood Children's Internet Protection Act, require that schools and libraries receiving federal funding through either the Universal Service (E-rate) subsidy of network access, Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) or title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now meet certain requirements in order to continue to receive funds.

            In summary, it requires libraries and schools receiving any element of funding which supports networked Internet access to address the following: Internet safety policies addressing minor access to "inappropriate matter" (to be defined by local agency);  Minor safety when using electronic communications provided through the local agency; Unauthorized access; Unauthorized disclosure of personal information about minors; and, Restriction of minor access to harmful materials. Agencies receiving funds must conduct a public hearing on the Internet Safety Policy. They also must certify they have implemented use of a "technology protection measure" that blocks or limits Internet visuals that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors (when used by minors).

            Agencies that do not receive such funding are not required to adhere to these regulations.  Despite the title of the legislation, the filtering of visuals so defined is required for children and adults. The filters may be disabled for "bona fide research or other lawful purposes". If an agency receives E-rate funding, only adults are entitled to "bona fide research"; if an agency receives only ESEA or LSTA funds there appear to be no age restrictions on who may conduct "bona fide research". If a library receives E-rate funds and LSTA the library should assume only adults have the right to request the filter be disabled. The act provides no definition of "bona fide research or other lawful purposes." The act does not extend any protections to the authorized staff person allowing such access if the end user is offended by any material encountered accidentally. The lack of protection, common for librarians affected by local Harmful to Minors legislation, coupled with the vague expression "bona fide research" would certainly produce a chilling effect on active professional practice. A similar chilling effect would impact the library patron required to justify their right to research any particular topic unencumbered by a particular viewpoint.

            Another variation based on the source of the funds (E-rate or ESEA) is related to the actual monitoring of computer use. E-rate funding requires the active monitoring of computer use by children, particularly their online activities; ESEA funding has no such requirement. The legislation does not indicate if such monitoring is intended to be physical, i.e., over the shoulder monitoring, or electronic, which would involve secretive monitoring of behavior.

            While obscenity and child pornography are not protected speech, the harmful to minors definition would include areas of heretofore protected speech. But, given the unsophisticated nature of the filtering software, it cannot discriminate between obscenity and protected speech, or child pornography and protected speech, if the particular images are not verbally identified in some way as obscene or depicting children engaged in sexually explicit activity, or if the source is not identified as a source of sexually explicit materials. Protected speech is obviously (a) included in the legislation and (b) swept up in the exercise of the restrictions.

            To "prevent the abuse of children who are made to engage in sexual conduct for commercial purposes, " This legislation eliminates a class of speech from any type of First Amendment protection, in order to extend personal and individual protection to minors unable to determine the full scope of their activity for themselves. It is the clearest demonstration of an overriding government interest in restricting speech, even as that speech is restricted to visual depictions: "Here the nature of the harm to be combated requires that the state offense be limited to works that visually depict sexual conduct by children below a specified age. The category of 'sexual conduct' proscribed must also be suitably limited and described."

            Generally, it can be concluded that children and computer-based learning is an essential ground to maintaining and achieving school’s standardization and modernization.   Today’s era speaks up of new technology and information super highway.  With this, countries like United Kingdom, is benefiting from the existence of this wonderful invention, the computer. It has been explored from the study that before UK is led the world in computer based learning. Having almost of their schools, both high school and elementary one computer as part of teaching. Yes it has also mentioned that UK met downfall and they did not maintained the goal of computerization after a decade but eventually they are still moving toward the realization of their goal.

            In the existence of computers in their learning institutions, it can be said that children are advantageous with the help of computers. Online libraries had been arisen and are beneficial in terms of knowledge gaining, computer know-how, mind enrichment and computer literacy.  Children now tend to touch the modern and fast moving world with their knowledge on computers. Now that schools offer computer courses for very young children, the more the children will be able to access better knowledge enhancement.  The more the children are digitally aware the more the children will be wrapped by the needed information they can’t just easily be absorbed from merely browsing the thick pages of their books.   

            Like the International Children's Digital Library plans to offer 10,000 books of 100 titles from 100 cultures by year 2007, that will allow children to read them on desktop computers, laptops and mobile devices.

            This eclectic library lets children hunt for books based on what color their covers are, how they make them feel, what kind of characters they depict and under categories that adults might find rather strange. One of its goals is to test novel ways of navigating the pages with graphic rather than textual cues.

            An equally key goal is to bring together publishers, librarians and software developers to explore thorny copyright issues that arise from making books publicly accessible on a Web site. Nobody knows how the traditional public library concept of book-lending will play out in the digital arena, where material is more easily copied.

            Children under the age of 14 helped design the library, working with professors to figure out what kind of new visual aids might help youngsters explore books more easily.

            Such library as this may be able to help children of all ages be knowledgeable enough to face his learning tasks and competitive enough to face his greatest fear in school.

Reference and Bibliography

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Chow, K.L. & Stewart, D. L. 1972. Reversal of structural and functional effects of long-term visual deprivation in cats. Experimental Neurology, 34: 409-433.

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Papert, Saymour.  1996. Computers in the Classroom: Agents of Change The Washington Post Education Review Sunday

 Paper, Seymour. 1993 Preface to The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer Basic Books (New York)

Papert, S. 1999 Papert on Piaget article appeared in Time magazine’s special issue on "The Century’s Greatest Minds," page 105, March 29, 1999.

P. L. Blenkhorn, "The RCEVH project on computer assisted learning", The British Journal of Visual Impairment, IV(3), pp. 101-103, 1996

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San Francisco Chronicle,  2002. "Online children's library makes searches easier"  University  of Maryland institute for advance computer studies accessed on 20/4/2003


The Children's Internet Protection Act  signed by President Clinton on 21 December 2000 as part of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)


Computers in British Schools: 2000.  A Brief History accessed on www.readingonline.rog/international/medwell/history.html accessed date: 20/4/2003

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