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Use Computers As A Learning Tool
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Teachers and politicians alike preach the value of computers for every student, but is access the only issue?
An average home computer starts at $1,300 for hardware, software and accessories. While schools can get discounts through mass purchases and government programs, sometimes other priorities rank higher than providing a computer for every student in class.
Larry Anderson, Mississippi State University associate professor of technology and education, suggested that the focus should not necessarily be only on integrating computers and technology into classrooms or curricula.
"What if we thought about integrating children into learning or integrating children with technology?" Anderson asked. "It would be better if we considered different ways to make more natural the marriage of the individual and the tools which will help the individual."
Anderson said technology, of which computers are just one part, offers individuals the chance to improve their lives. He pointed to movements across the country that support community technology centers as places where everyone can have access to technology resources, and have instruction in how to use these tools to make their lives better.
"We become enamored with gadgets. It's a natural thing to want to get this cool stuff to a place where people can use it, but in the process, it's easy to forget the person," Anderson said. "It's easy to brag about what we have instead of what it allows us to do."
Anderson praised this renewed focus on the individual, not the technology.
"We have to do so much more than just put computers into classrooms," Anderson said. "They're there, but we need to make sure they're making a difference to the children."
Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with MSU's Extension Service, said that while computers can enhance children's education in and out of the classroom, not having access to one does not mean they will be left behind.
"There are other ways to enhance a child's education, such as through books, trips, research at the library and more," Davis said. "There are also many public libraries which offer computers with Internet access that are available for anyone in the community to use at no charge."
Davis also pointed to a recent trend where schools offer computers for checkout at parent centers. Parents can take a computer home for temporary use and then return it for others to borrow.
"Computers are probably more accessible now to children than ever, and with the Governor's initiative, they will be even more accessible," Davis said. "Computers are valuable learning tools when used correctly, and it is the parents' and teachers' responsibility to see that they enhance a child's education."
Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove established a time-limited Governor's Task Force for Classroom Technology to place an Internet-accessible computer in every public school in the state by the end of 2002.
"Mississippi has laid a strong foundation for education and desires to continue to take sound and innovative measures to strengthen the schools within our state. Technology and the World Wide Web offer exceptional educational resources for Mississippi's school children and teachers," the Governor stated online.