How does your child learn? by watching? listening? trial and error? touching? or a combination of these? One of the advantages of the digital world is its ability to embrace education through a variety of learning styles. Multimedia software can teach abstract concepts via image, sound and movement in time and space. It provides an infinite number of possibilities and approaches to teaching.
This was a clear choice for our early learning music program, TOONING UP. But we soon discovered flaws in the beta version when we tested out the program at our local Y. The children remained actively engaged for an average of 1/2 hour, but they were so enthralled with the sounds they were making, that they clicked on all the buttons simultaneously and missed the point of the lessons. We later remedied this problem by limiting the clicking options and adding rewards for correct answers. The lesson for this developer was that young children learn more from a program with a narrower, structured framework.
CAUTION: This brave new world is a double-edged sword. Parents are rightfully concerned about their children spending too much time in the virtual world and not enough time interacting in the real world. Here are some guidelines for parents of preschoolers and young children:
1. Limit time on computer/video games.
2. Choose high quality programs that combine education with entertainment. There are many websites that provide excellent software reviews.
3. Try to find programs that nurture creativity. Children love to make up their own stories, sound effects, songs, illustrations, etc.
4. Make sure the program you choose is easy to navigate and age-appropriate for your child. The more independent your child feels, the more empowered. The best programs build skills without overwhelming the child.
Most importantly, do not use TV, computer or video games as a baby sitter. There is no substitute for the real world.