TECHNOLOGICALLY SUPPORTED LEARNING – What Some Children Think

TECHNOLOGICALLY SUPPORTED LEARNING
What Some Children Think

The vast majority of educators are very earnest people. They want what is best for children and are committed to quality educational outcomes. Educational technology has evolved hugely, particularly in recent years. We have come a long way in a very short time.

When I commenced my teaching career over 40 years ago, it was blackboard and chalk, supported in a limited way by Fordigraph spirit duplicated sheets. Then came the manually operated ‘Gestetner’, an ink-based machine. You would roneo off increased numbers sheets of paper that gained an impression from a waxed original cut by typewriter or stencil tools and then reproduced for student use. The coarse paper used would often smudge and carry ink runs which blurred the text. The worst part of this ‘technology’ was the potential you had to muck up the stencil while it was being prepared. There was this pink correction fluid that could be brushed on in the stencil so that it could be made over but any mistake always seemed to show through. Things looked up somewhat when the ‘Gestetner’ could be plugged into a power point – that was, if you had power.

I can remember seeing my first computer attached to industry during 1982 in the administrative office of a progressive mining company. It occupied a huge room and had miniscule capacity in today’s terms.

From a school’s viewpoint, shares went up in the mid-80s when we received, at my primary school, a limited number of ‘Boroughs’ units with CBASS software. At the same time, schoolchildren were beginning to have access to Alpha computers, then Commodore 64s. The first Apples arrived a little later.

By that time (1987), I was in a new school, Karama in Darwin’s northern suburbs. Coles introduced an ‘Apples for Computers’ program where, over a number of months, the value of dockets confirming goods purchased could be swapped for Apple computers. Many, many schools enthusiastically entered into the drive for dockets so computers could be purchased. Apple computers were small, heavy and very expensive. Printers and accessory equipment were also costly.

We have certainly come a long way in the last 30 years. Technologies supporting learning have grown and multiplied. Access and availability have increased exponentially, aided by a significant plunge in operational costs from the viewpoint of purchase, maintenance and online access.

We can say that computer technology ‘is everywhere, everywhere!’ It becomes the case of question, balance and wise use.

At my school, Leanyer School, in Darwin, we have certainly benefited from computer and other technological developments. Rather than writing a paper from the viewpoint of somebody who started with nothing, technologically, who has become a principal well and truly supported by, I wanted to gain an understanding from a group of students in year six (11 years of age and rising to 12 years) about what they thought. So I posed to them a number of questions. They were under the general heading of ‘computers in schools’.

The questions
What do you like about computers in schools, and as a part of education?
What subjects are best supported by computers? Why?
What subjects if any are not helped by computers?
What might our school and our world be like if there were no computers?
What would be the thing you would least like to change about our computer use at Leanyer?
What would be the things you would most like to change about computer use at Leanyer?
What do you like most about the internet?
What do you like least about the internet?
Pretend I (Henry Gray, school principal at Leanyer) have never used a computer and do not know what a computer is or what it can do. Write me a short piece of explanatory text so I can begin to understand this technology.
Frame of reference
This group of students is well immersed when it comes to technology, technological appreciation and understanding. Many have wide ranging access to computer at home. Their learning at school is supported by computer access with enhancing technological immersion through Smart board use and by access to other technological devices.

Methodology
Prior to the exercise, the group and I engaged in a short conversation and I told them that I would like to use their responses to inform a paper I was doing for an online conference. We discussed online conferencing so they fully understood with this paper was going. I also told them when the paper was published, I would give them access to it – and that will happen. I will also share with their parents and caregivers. Naturally, children will be identified by first name only when quoted.

In talking with the children prior to their completing the questionnaire, I explained to them that often adults talk about education for children and that sometimes the notion of educational discussion with children doesn’t happen as fully as it might. (It is easy to leave younger children out of the loop when it comes to inputs they can make and ideas they
have.)

What do you like about computers in schools and as a part of education?
I like it that computers can help you learn will find places on maps. They are good to use so you can stay in contact with your friends. They are also good fun.’ (Manoli)

‘Computers are good for typing up school projects.’ (Riley)

‘I think that would because there was something we needed to know but could not find it in a book (we would find it). It is a faster way to find information on things.’ (Sahara)

‘What I like is that you can use computer for writing and for doing little assignments (particularly writing questions to help groups in discussion) for an example our Tournament of Minds team.’ (Jenny)

‘I think computer is good in helping us to learn that if we talk to strangers we do not tell them our names.’ (James)
‘For some people it makes things a lot easier to learn.’ (Bailey)
‘I think computers as a part of our school are great for projects and research and if we need information for homework.’ (Chloe)
‘I like a computer for education because it helps me write faster.’ (Hamish)
‘I like computers because they help you search some of your work and school you don’t know.’ (Klein)
‘I like that computers can help in research and learning.’ (Liam)
‘I like computers in schools for our education because they help us do many more things quickly. Computers are good for reports, writing and many other things.’ (Paris)
‘I like that if you need information on the subject can just go onto the Internet and look it up.’ (Nikitas)
‘… I can look unknown information learned more about people, things and (testing) animals of the past.’ (Erin)
‘It is easier takes less time to type; it is quicker and easier to search for things.’ (Jaylee)
‘I like the games on computers that really make you think.’ (Chelsea)
‘I like computers at school because you can do Internet searches.’ (Drew)
‘Computers offer an easier way to research school work. Help us in many different ways to get things completed.’ (Jemma)
‘It is much easier finding out things on the Internet than using books.’ (Karla)
‘Computers are like a shoulder to lean on for schools. They help you find out things you don’t know. Computers teach you things including how to use them.’ (Claudia)
‘Some games on the computer help us strategise our ways.’ (Cayne)
‘Working searching (for information) and typing together with fun activities make computer worthwhile.’ (Evita)
‘I like computers in education because they can help students learn.’ (Yasmin)
What subjects are best supported by computers? Why?
‘Maths has because it can lead to online understanding (through extension). Plus in schools you can play games like ‘Braintastic’ and ‘Targeting Maths’.’ (Manoli)
‘I think writing is the best use for computers because you can go fast.’ (Riley)
‘Library if you need to look for: to read to the class. Maybe science to find out things.’ (Sahara)
‘Literacy including writing and sometimes maths.’ (Jenny)
‘Writing because some people have trouble with handwriting.’ (Bailey)
‘Maybe history because there’s a lot of information about famous people in the past and other countries.’ (Chloe)
‘Maths and history are best supported by computer because of the speed and ease in finding things out.’ (Klein)
‘Writing essays because it would take too long to write by hand.’ (Liam)
‘Typing, power point and essays.’ (Paris)
‘The computer is good for Maths because there are maths games online that help you learn while having fun.’ (Nikitas)
‘Reading. Reading information is the core part of computers. Reading also improves language and people learn new names and words.’ (Erin)
‘Maths and spelling. You can search for words, go to maths games and calculate on the computer.’ (Jaylee)
‘I think all of them because they can be found on the computer or the Internet. You can test your brain without getting embarrassed in front of everyone.’ (Chelsea)
‘Any type of research subject.’ (Jemma)
‘I think ‘Theme’ is the best area for support because you can type information.’ (Drew)
‘Theme study.’ (Claudia)
‘History because the internet can help (ours understand) and also assist with writing reports on the subject.’ (Yazmin)
What subjects, if any, are not helped by computers?

‘Physical education because computers can’t help you to stay healthy.’ (Manoli)
‘(In my opinion) maths.’ (Riley)
Art or physical education because PE is where you do something active. Art is where you draw or paint or something (creative) like that.’ (Sahara)
‘Your ability to know how to read.’ (Jenny)
‘I think internet helps with all subjects.’ (Chloe)
‘Music. Computers can’t help people … about music and notes.’ (Klein)
‘The subjects not helped by computers are physical education, art, maths and DIPL (Doorways into Practical Literacy).’ (Paris)
‘Spelling. I think that the computer doesn’t help with spelling because when people are talking to someone else on the computer they abbreviate … and use slang words.’ (Nikitas)
‘None.’ (Erin)
‘Handwriting, because on the computer you can only type. ‘(Jaylee)
‘DIPL (Doorways into Practical Literacy) is not good to have supported by computer because it has spell-check (meaning that you don’t learn words as you might).’ (Drew)
‘The subject that is not helped at all is art because it is something you do yourself. If you use a computer to do it, you have no right to call it a masterpiece.’ (Claudia)
‘Maths because there are calculators on some computers and it would be better for students to work problems mentally.’ (Yazmin)
What might our school and our world be like if there were no computers?
‘We wouldn’t have medicines to help us get better or be as smart or find pictures or videos to help us with work.’ (Manoli)
‘There would be lots more (use of) pencils and paper with lots of trees getting cut down so they wouldn’t be as many trees left. It would be harder to (do) research.’ (Riley)
‘May be a little hard to find things. Plus we would waste paper because the teacher would have to write a lot down.’ (Sahara)
‘It would be pretty hard because if you had to do a long assignment it would mean more writing and longer time.’ (Jenny)
‘I think our world would still be quite normal because we may have never known what the computer was and what it did.’ (Chloe)
‘All schools and the world would be reading more books, doing more drawing, writing and painting. People would be more active and talking.’ (Klein)
‘We would have to find all the information for projects from books. We would also have to use typewriters instead of Microsoft word.’ (Liam)
‘Well the world be the same. It would just be a little bit harder to store information kits and talk to people in other places around the world.’ (Nikitas)
‘Very slow and we wouldn’t have the ability to learn much about technology and how to use it at schools. We would be able to be smart about researching in books.’ (Erin)
‘It would probably be a boring school and we would waste our time because of searching for things in books and taking a long time to find information in the right book.’ (Jaylee)
‘As children’s/adults wouldn’t be as educated but also the world would be a lot safer because people could not find out information about you on the net.’ (Jemma)
‘We would be living in a cut-back life because mostly everything is controlled by computers. Mankind is putting our lives to the computers and to take it away with the terrible -but we are humans so we would fix it like building a bridge again.’ (Claudia)
‘Things would not be updated and you wouldn’t know if something was to happen straight away. As well, we wouldn’t have as much fun because games we play will not be there.’
‘People like computers would be bored because they would have to do something else. People would not be able to do their work properly. People may not be able to go to other countries because computers and printers have to be used (for booking and travel arrangements).’ (Evita)
‘If the school and our world did not have computers it would be harder for students to learn. For the rest of the people it would be hard to check on email or write stories or a column. It would be really hard (without computer).’ (Yazmin)
What would be the thing you would least like to change about our computer use at Leanyer?
‘Targeting maths because we will be less exact.’ (Manoli)
‘Nothing.’ (Riley)
‘Not being allowed to use the computers at lunchtime.’ (Sahara)
‘For all primary children to have the right to use computers nearly every day.’ (Jenny)
‘Not too sure about that yet.’ (Chloe)
‘The internet and the educational games.’ (Klein)
‘Nothing. I think we’ve got a perfect computer system.’ (Liam)
‘When you least want to change is the internet going away.’ (Paris)
‘The educational games that are on offer to us.’ (Nikitas)
‘Nothing. I like (our) computers how they are.’ (Erin)
‘That they are free for anyone to use at any time during school hours.’ (Jemma)
‘I would least like to change our password control.’ (Claudia)
‘Targeting maths on the computer is both fun and educational. I would like that to stay.’ (Cayne)
‘The thing I would least like to change would be internet access because it helps us finding information.
What would you most like to change about computer use at Leanyer?
‘(I would like) safer internet access.’ (Manoli)
‘I would really like a change to the website blocking (policy).’ (Riley)
‘Being allowed on the internet at lunchtime (not rostered) with no past being required to go onto the internet.’ (Sahara)
‘Access and understanding for little kids so they can learn more.’ (Jenny)
‘The internet is still a little slow at the moment on some computers and some of the computers keep freezing.’ (Chloe)
‘Can we could have a music site?’ (Liam)
‘Nothing. I think these computers how they are.’ (Erin)
‘I would most like to change the speed of things so that files open more quickly.’ (Jaylee)
‘Not all websites should be blocked.’ (Jemma)
‘I think we should get more computers for classes to use maybe four or five more per class.’ (Drew)
‘Basically the type of computers we have. (Brand name) is old and not updated meaning computers are slow most of the time.’ (Cayne)
What do you like most about the internet?
‘I like the Internet because it has games, email, MSN and Facebook.’ (Riley)
‘That it helps you find things out faster than a book (search).’ (Sahara)
‘Games and things we need for homework and assignments.’ (Jenny)
‘It is so easy to learn things from.’ (Bailey)
‘You get to play games search for information you need.’ (Chloe)
‘I like internet because you can search of anything you want including games, fun websites and much more.’ (Klein)
‘The thing I like most about the internet is when we do projects and I can look up the information.’ (Paris)
‘I like that you can have fun while learning, get information and (that you can) talk to people somewhere else.’ (Nikitas)
‘That it doesn’t take half an hour to load a page you want.’ (Erin)
‘I like searching answers to questions and playing games that are on the Internet.’ (Jaylee)
‘It’s an easier way to talk to your close friends and it helps a lot with schoolwork.’ (Jemma)
“I like using the Internet for my work”. (Drew)
‘The best thing …about Internet is its ability to hold all that information including Facebook.’ (Karla)
‘I like to do things on the computers including games like fun brain, typing tournament and others that are educational.’ (Claudia)
‘Exploring it because it is good to find out new things.’ (Yazmin)
What do you like least about the internet?
‘The thing I don’t like about the Internet are all the viruses.’ (Riley)
‘That sometimes if you look something up like ‘monkeys’ it goes do something totally different.’ (Sahara)
‘Improper things and that’s about all.’ (Jenny)
‘Sometimes people post things that can be dangerous.’ (Chloe)
‘The thing I don’t like about internet is that it takes too long to load.’ (Hamish)
‘I don’t like people making websites that are inappropriate for children.’ (Klein)
‘Wikipedia because people lie on that site.’ (Liam)
‘The thing I like least about the internet is when it doesn’t have the right information.’ (Paris)
‘I don’t like that people can get into your personal account and change information on the internet.’ (Nikitas)
‘What I least like about the internet is the Wikipedia. No one gives way some information, most of it isn’t true and people can edit it and write more false things.’ (Erin)
“How it sometimes takes ages to open pages and that it stores pages that have viruses.’ (Jaylee)
‘I like everything about the Internet but not when people bully you online – but I don’t listen to them.’ (Chelsea)
‘It’s not very safe (not as safe) as it should be.’ (Jemma)
‘I don’t like the internet because if you post something everyone sees what you say.’ (Drew)
‘The thing I like least about the internet is how people can put up false facts.’ (Karla)
‘When you look up something and get rubbish information.’ (Claudia)
‘That people can listen to your conversations and barge into them, for example when I and my friend are having a conversation and it is interrupted.’ (Cayne)
Pretend I (Henry Gray, the school principal at Leanyer) have never used a computer and do not know what a computer is what it can do. Write me a short explanatory text so I can begin to understand this technology.
‘First, I will show you how to use the computer and the basics. I would help if (you) didn’t get it right the first time.’ (Riley)
‘A computer is a box face we can look at things faster than in a book. You can download and tighten things including work. You can play games, go on Facebook. You can Google which is a fast way to find something.’ (Sahara)
‘It’s a technology; it helps you understand things and tells you stuff you may not have heard of, it may help you in life and for you to know better. It also provides you with Word documents to type on.’ (Jenny)
‘The computer is like an encyclopedia but has much more information. You can type in what you are trying to find and there would be lots of options you can choose from. Sometimes you have to be careful what you do on the Internet because it can be quite dangerous.’ (Chloe)
‘I would show you how to log on the computer and help you find things. I would help you know how to write on the computer. Then I would show you how to save so that you don’t have to start all over again. Finally, I would show you how to log off.’ (Hamish)
‘A computer has a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and a mouse, keyboard and lastly a monitor. Computers can help you search some of your project and help with homework and other work.’ (Klein)
‘A computer has a hard drive can be used for many things such as looking up information or for doing homework. It has a keyboard ordered to type upon like a typewriter and a mouse for clicking through files.’ (Liam)
‘A computer is a device you can use when you need information, pictures, writing and lots more. Computers are handy because they are there when you need them.’ (Paris)
‘A computer as a technological learning tool that can help you with lots of school requirements. It is … great … that you can play games and chat to friends and family.’ (Nikitas)
‘A computer is a smart, rectangular box. It contains a high source of technology and is built in a complicated way. There is another box which contains the wires and power bits. Attached to the power box is a keyboard. The keyboard is a set of buttons that have the alphabet, numbers (to 9) and other smart functions. Another thing is called a ‘mouse’. A mouse lets you click on buttons on the box screen. That is a computer.’ (Erin)
‘It is an easy technology and you will get a hold of it after a while.’ (Jaylee)
‘Computer can do nearly anything. It is easier to find things on computer. It is one of the best things ever made (refrigerators and electricity are better).’ (Chelsea)
‘You can research all types of different things as well as do some work. You are able to listen to music, talk to friends, discover celebrities, watch movies go on all sorts of websites … and obviously many other things like drawing, taking pictures and so on.’ (Jemma)
‘A computer is a machine that is supposed to make life easier. It is a machine that brings enjoyment and surprises to all.’ (Claudia)
‘The computer is a device that people use for knowledge, fun, talking and humour. It has a square shaped mirror that shows questions and problems you can answer. You can use when you want to talk with friends.’ (Cayne)
Some concluding thoughts
One of the things children spoke and wrote about as being of concern was the fact that inappropriate websites can come up. When Googling, quite by accident, might come the emergence of what one student said were ‘rude websites’. Our school and our Department of Education and Training have very active surveillance programs to ensure inappropriate sites are barred. This is something to work on constantly.

One student commented on concern about the interfering with images that may be up on sites owned by people. She said to change other people’s property is ‘… very rude and I don’t like it’.

Another student suggested that we should be a little bit more thoughtful when considering games we do and don’t block. Some games of educational value are blocked and to have access would ‘… make you think and use your brain’. ‘Not all websites should be blocked’ from another student suggests we need to discuss with children what sites are blocked and why blockages are programmed.

Our policies on sites and access are in the interests of children but we do need to make sure they understand why some sites are off-limits. Additional information carefully communicated will have positive educational benefits and make children aware the responsibilities they have in relation to their online behaviour. Survey responses this point (about blockage) came through on quite a few occasions.

One of the points coming through was that if we had to resort to paper and pencil because there were no computers, the loss of trees because of conversion to paper would increase the level of forest loss.

Most children appreciate the opportunity to talk with friends with many of them having conversations around the globe. I don’t think we realise at times just how much part of communications computer has become.

A theme (probably a wish) expressed by the majority of children was that the internet should be more available for games. Definitely, many children believe that games online add to living opportunities. It becomes a question of balance and education toward that end is something we need to take into account.

While the internet is appreciated, children abhor misuse. That feeling came through from most students. People changing and interfering with things they had no right to touch was anathema.

I want to thank students who shared with me because their perceptions are both informing and enlightening. If anything, this opportunity reinforced the fact that we need to take account of what children have to say and the ideas that they have as we shape things and go forward together. It’s the going forward together that is important. From that grows understanding, awareness shared empathy and organisational synergy.

Above all, and importantly, while technology is enriching and providing extended learning opportunities, I would hope that the notion of holistic education is always there. It’s the academic, social, emotional and moral/spiritual aspects of development that make up the whole person. I hope the technology and its use in our schools supports that but doesn’t diminish nor minimise those characteristics, traits and personality domains that are ever so important to us being both individuals and a collective of people together.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I am the past Principal of Leanyer School, in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. I was Principal of that school for 20 years from 1992 until 2011. Now retired I am an educator of some 43 years standing, over 40 as a School Education Leader.

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