Selecting Software for Young ChildrenFor young children to use computers successfully, select software that is developmentally appropriate, that is, consistent with how children develop and learn. Researchers agree that software for young children should:
These characteristics fit the way that young children learn.
Adult participation and guidance are important. Monitor the amount of time children spend at the computer, and talk with them about their activities. Involve young children in selecting software that matches their interests, and try not to overwhelm them with too many choices.
Open-ended and Programmed Learning SoftwareChildren learn by experiencing, and so need to be interactive with the computer. Open-ended software gives children the opportunity to
Appropriate software should help children reflect on what they already know. Children using open-ended software showed gains in many important areas, including intelligence and nonverbal skills. They showed more wondering and hypothesizing, problem solving, collaboration, and motivation, and a more positive attitude toward learning.
Programmed learning or drill-and-practice software resembles electronic worksheets or flashcards. Non-developmental software encourages more competitive behavior, and can discourage creativity and exchange of ideas. Such programs should be used for limited amounts of time, not as the major focus of computer use.
Select Software with a Purpose in MindSoftware should support the curriculum; it does not provide the learning. Drawing programs, children's graphing programs, and storywriting software are examples that rely on the child to do the creating.
To use computers effectively, select software that supports your goals and philosophy of teaching, enhances the curriculum, and helps children solve problems independently.
Even young children can use children's drawing and writing programs or visual reference materials to be active and creative. These programs are well-suited to educational use. Computer games and "edutainment" programssoftware that claims to educate while entertainingdo not add to the educational experience of a child and are not necessary in this setting.
Software can influence cooperation and motivation, as well as how children interact with each other. Think about the experience you want children to have or the learning you want to build on, and select software carefully to encourage certain types of learning experiences.
Software Evaluation and Review Resources
Educational Technology Consortium
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