Children and Video

Young Children and Video Use
Anna M.

Internet and Computer Use in Young Children

Now, we’ve made a point of discussing our topics in as neutral a format as possible.
Whether or not it is better for a child to be exposed to more computers and more videos is not the point. The point is that the change is happening. For young children, technology is far more available, as it is everywhere. A study of public schools in the United States shows that 92% of all classrooms have computers, as opposed to 3% in 1994 (Ono, Hsin-Jen Tsai). Another study shows that roughly a quarter of preschoolers use the internet. The same study shows 91% of American school children use computers between preschool and the 12th grade, and 59% use the internet within that same age group.
So what does this show us? It shows us that children are not only being exposed to computers at a larger rate today, but they are expected to be computer literate. When these young children grow up they will be expected to depend on technology to get through college, and to thrive in the real world.
There are several people who would tell you that computer use at such an early age is unhealthy especially in the quantity that we see it today. Computers are often related to bad health in future years, as well as stupidity In an article called How Computers Make our Kids Stupid By Sue Ferguson, Ferguson quotes “While computers clearly have a place in education, the evidence is mounting that our obsessive use of information technology is dumbing us down, adults as well as kids.” She also says, “computers and the Internet can also distract kids from homework, encourage superficial and uncritical thinking, replace face-to-face interaction between students and teachers, and lead to compulsive behaviour.” While she may have a point, there is no doubt that this is expected of children. Today, kids need to know how to use computers well. It’s not as if they are going to grow up into the current state of technology adults experience today. Instead, they will shape the future with them. Kids are going to be using technology more and more, whether it’s healthy or not.

Video Games in the Classroom

The main use for videos in the classrooms of younger children is interactive video games. Video games often have a negative connotation when it comes tot school. Most people are of the opinion that video games not only distract children from school, but give rise to such behaviors as short attentions spans, apathy, rebellion, and inspire violence. Recreationally, children using video games have gone up a large percentage. A study was done in a Malaysian secondary school, with a group of 236 students. The study showed that 75.8% of these students play video games recreationally, 91.3% of all males and 54.1% of all females in the group (Eow, Ali, Mahmud, Baki). This study was done to seek out a link between video games and overall grades and success in school. What they found would surprise most people. In this study researchers found no link between playing games and low grades. To quote Yee Leng Eow, a researcher on this project, “blaming computer games for the students’ bad academic performance in school is unjustified as there are many more other factors to look into before finding computer games as the scapegoat”
People don’t see the potential benefits of computer games and video games offer to students. If games were only used correctly, they could even be used as an aid for learning, as opposed to a drawback. Researchers in the Department of Educational Studies, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium regard video games as a “promising teaching and learning tool for the 21st century”. They argue that video games appeal to modern students, and are therefore a potential way to spark new interest in learning. They think that students might have a preference to learning from a game as opposed to an instructor. Children are, in fact, more accustomed to more stimulation today as a result of so much computer use, giving their idea good grounds for success.
They plan on conducting an experiment of 858 secondary school students by teaching them partially with learning games (Bourgonjon, Valcke, Soetaert, Schellens). They plan on researching how effective these games are, as well how much students enjoy the games over traditional teaching. They would base the survey on how useful the games are, how easy they are to use, previous personal experience with video games, and gender.
In turkey, schools are already using video games to teach in primary, secondary, and higher education. One researcher, Hakan Tüzün, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Education and Instructional Technology at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey, plans on studying the effectiveness of these games by observing classes taught with them. He would take field notes, interview students and teachers, and collect student artifacts and reflections, and base his findings on the design of the game environment, school infrastructure, the nature of the learning, student engagement, as well as the teachers role in classroom culture. He hopes to better the field of video game learning, as well as supplement the research done on the topic (Tüzün).
Another group wanted to test the integration of video games into the classroom. They tested 1274 economically disadvantaged first and second graders in Chile by having them play learning games an average of thirty hours per month, with a control group not playing any. The games were meant to teach basic math skills and reading comprehension. The results would be accumulated by observations made by teachers in the classroom, as well as reading and math tests. A major difference was noticed between the group using the learning games and the control group. Teachers reported appositive difference in enthusiasm to learn as well as class dynamic, favoring the tested group (Rosas). They successfully created a working teaching video game, capable of coaxing better grades and more successful learning out of young children. If nothing else, this test proves that video games can be used to teach, perhaps even more successfully than a teacher.
On a more serious note, some researchers believe that simulation games can go far beyond alternative teaching methods. Some think that video games could teach students things not even instructors have successfully taught in the past. Researchers in the Department of Didactic Sciences and Philosophy, Universidad de Huelva, Spain plan on using a highly interactive social simulation game to teach students to make the correct decisions and why. These games would target young children, and relevant situations to the development of the child’s character. The children would be monitored on advanced data collection grids, so that researchers could see the children’s progress and behavior. The social situations are yet to be decided by researchers, as relevant situations have yet to be distinguished (Cuenca López, Myriam).
Although the testing of this project seems like a new and interesting step into new technology, it poses an important moral dilemma. Although the results would be used to better the simulation and project on a whole in favor of education, it may pose a violation of the privacy of the students tested. The situations the students would be participating in would most likely involve issues like peer pressure, bullying, telling the truth, and other standard lessons. As the students would have no instruction before simulation, the students would of course give their honest reaction to the situations at hand. Although, in this test, if a student makes a poor decision there would be no penalization, if the program were widely instituted the student might face repercussions for the choices he or she makes. Without an instructor, education may start to sound like something out of a bad science fiction movie.
The interesting part of this project, in fact, is that, although the researchers would be “listening in” on the results and decisions of the children, there could be no instructor present to assist the children in the game, or to oversee the class. Not only would the students receive no guidance, but they would receive no personal interaction with any other person at all. This may be a good thing, in that the child would have to learn things for themselves from experience, instead of a teacher telling them something they might not listen to. Furthermore, the student would be able to have a “real” experience in a safe environment, without any real world results if he or she makes a poor decision.
It makes one wonder if video simulation could ever really replace the guidance of a teacher in the classroom. Furthermore, could a student learn better by a more personalized video game as opposed to the class-wide lessons and lectures from a teacher? Finally, could a video simulation ever replace an actual experience?
On the topic of video, it has been widely accepted that a video cannot do all the teaching, but that it should be an aid to the instructor. A simulation without an instructor is not yet in practice anywhere in the world, and yet the idea is on the table. Most agree that it would be unwise to fully replace the guidance of a real person with videos, especially with young children.

Field Trips

A major problem public schools are facing to day is a lack of funding. When looking at these new methods of learning, one might think that public schools would never be able to afford the computers and software necessary to integrate things like learning games, as previously discussed. However, one has to look at things like computers as an investment. Having a computer might save the school from costs in supplies and even teachers for years down the road. In fact, this is idea is being implemented in schools today.
Administrators are now offering the same experiences schools used to offer under the restraints of low funding through video replacement. Video replacement is the use of videos to simulate a real experience the school might have offered to students before. This is especially used in field trips.
For Example, it may no longer be possible for schools to take classes places like the local zoo, as they can no longer afford the bus, tickets, gas and food for an entire grade of one hundred or so children. Instead, the teacher might offer a documentary of the zoo, or of other animals that the children might have seen. Now, this may seem extremely sub-par as compared to the real thing. For one thing, a day at the zoo would be a lot more fun than a three-hour documentary. However, the efficiency of these videos has begun to overcome their worth.
Administrators now see that a video, as well as projector and dvd player or vcr, is far cheaper than years of field trips. Teachers could even use more than one video and still be within the budget of a fieldtrip. As well, the diversity of the places children could visit is far higher. As opposed to the local zoo, for example, students could learn about the wildlife of Africa, or see a documentary on the city of Shanghai.
Not only are the children seeing far more impressive sights, but they are also seeing parts of the world not previously available to students anywhere. It promotes this new idea of global technology that this generation so embodies. Children are so much more aware of the world around them today, and being able to learn about other countries and places promotes a kind of new tolerance and experience most adults can’t even understand.
So the pros of video replacement are that a child can see and “experience” things that they normally wouldn’t be able to. However, the cons are that it’s arguable that these “experiences” aren’t real at all. It calls into question the idea of authenticity, and whether or not it’s valuable. Are children better off with real experiences like a day at the local history museum? Or is the fact that they learned something a book can’t teach them enough?

Works Cited

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