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Give your child a head start thanks to multimedia

Why introduce primary and preprimary age children to multimedia ?

Computers are becoming more and more important in our everyday lives.
However, for those who wish to do so, it is still possible to avoid using them on a day-to-day basis. In a just few years, computers will be everywhere. Unavoidable. For all of us. Whatever we do in life. And whether we like it or not !

A child who starts using a computer early on will quickly perceive computers as a "natural" part of their life. There will be no barriers. This is essential if that child is to feel at ease in the world that is developing around them.

Some parents fear that computers may not a good thing for their child. If used as a balanced part of everyday life, multimedia is highly beneficial. As adults, the introduction of computers in the later stages of our growing up may well have left many of us a little wary and perhaps a little scared. Memories of cold, unfriendly early PC interfaces still haunt us. That is unfortunate, to say the least. Today's children see the world of computers through the window of friendly, attractive, play multimedia applications such as Their perception of computers will be bright and cheerful right from the start. As they grow up, their perception of computers will be positive and their approach will be natural.

For them, the computer will quickly become a tool that they fully master and that they enjoy using. That can only be a good thing given what the future holds...

Technology has exploded over the last few years.
Just think back to 25 years ago - we were all incredibly impressed by our class mates' state-of-the-art Quartz watches. And "Pong" (TV-based table tennis with two white lines and a circle) was the latest and most amazing interactive game around ! Now try to think forward 25 years...

Why do primary and pre-primary schools now use multimedia as a major part of their curriculum ?
Why is government spending billions to equip schools from kindergarten up ?

Because it is a great teaching tool. And an even better learning tool. It is an invaluable addition to the classrom for both teacher and pupil. Over the coming years multimedia will play an increasingly important role.

In the not-too-distant future, computers will be the fourth "R"...

Reading, wRiting, aRithmatic and computeRs.

Whatever you do, don't underestimate this seemingly bold statment. For many teachers, computers are already the fourth "R".

"Suitable age-appropriate Internet sites and CD-ROMS are the best way for children today to prepare for their future while enhancing their all-round education today"

How best to use multimedia

Using computers to learn.
Computers are the perfect tool for children to learn the traditional basics of their early education. They should be used as a compliment to traditional school teaching and home-learning.

For example :
Children learn the alphabet at school and at home.
They learn from books, flash cards and through talking and listening.
Add multimedia to this list.
Multimedia helps the child to learn more effectively. It allows them to control the learning experience and to move forward at their own speed. It also gives them multiple sensory stimuli that help with memory-development (sound, images, animations and interaction).

"Children consistently learn faster when suitable multimedia activities are included in both their everyday lives and their scholastic education. Add to this the additional skills that multimedia develops and you have an irrefutable case for getting children involved with multimedia and compters as early as possible."

Multimedia solves several problems faced by traditional education :

Problem : It is hard to get specific points across due to the short attention spans demonstrated by most children
Multimedia : Most children's attention span will increase significantly when using appropriate multimedia applications. This is due to several major factors : - the active role that the child must play keeps them active
- the requirement for constant action on their part keeps them thinking
- the fun play aspect keeps them interested
- the multi-sensory nature of the medium keeps them alert

Problem : The children's impatience is a barrier to learning
Multimedia : Multimedia helps to develop patience. The task is defined and the child has all the time they need to complete it. Children tend to show more perseverance because :
- they can take their time and enjoy themselves
- they know that there is a reward for completing the task/game (a funny animation or song)
- there are no short cuts for completing the task - they know they must complete the task/game 'honestly'

Problem : Children have a constant need to be reassured and praised.
Multimedia : The child is guided, encouraged and praised on an ongoing basis by the characters in the software (Boowa & Kwala, for example). Individual and direct encouragement like this (even from animated characters) helps to build the child's self-esteem

Problem : The children's relatively low capacity to remember is a handicap
Multimedia : Over the years, we all develop our own pet techniques for remembering things (a string around your finger...). Children have yet to develop theirs. Multimedia has dozens of little "memory joggers" - funny animations - colors - shapes - sounds - little sentences, songs and rhymes...

Multimedia also provides :
Independence for the child in an environment structured specifically so that they can play alone, without relying entirely on the parent, grandparent or teacher
A child who is independent will learn more effectively.
Active participation for the child in the learning experience (an individual child is less active in class and totally passive in front of the TV).
A child who is taking part will learn more effectively.
An environment that is adapted to a child's taste and needs.
A child who feels at ease will learn more effectively.
A fun place to be. And a fun place to stay for hours.
A child who is laughing and having fun will learn more effectively.

Learning to use computers.
The biggest initial barrier is feeling at ease in front of a computer :
The "screen-keyboard-mouse" relationship is not obvious right away. For any of us. Remember the first time you used a mouse ? It wasn't so very easy. Children (and adult beginners !) need time and practice to get used to the "illogical" and "unnatural" mouse / screen and keyboard / screen relationship.

Keyboard, screen and mouse skills are essential to using computers. The earlier a child starts, the better.

Learning to use computers is the natural extension of using multimedia.
  • Children learn to use computers correctly.
  • Children learn to interact with computers.
  • Children learn to enjoy using computers.
  • Children learn to not to fear computers.
  • Children learn to learn to accept computers.

Internet or CD-ROMS ?
Each has its strengths and it's weaknesses :
  • A CD-ROM is perfect for a child playing alone.
  • A CD-ROM is perfect for games/activities that a child plays over and over and over and over... Because the activities are on the PC, they load instantly. Perfect for impatient children (that's most of them, then !)
  • Internet gives a great new dimension to multi-player games.
  • Internet is perfect for participating in a community (Clubs, forums, chats...)
  • Internet is perfect for "throwaway" games that are fun just once but never get played again.
  • Internet is perfect for parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers looking for community support and professional advice.

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