As the role of technology has become an integrated part in the realm of education, many preschools now use computer programs as educational tools to help children at an early age develop their various skills, from literacy to science.
Amazing graphics with colorful pictures and other interesting features displayed on a computer screen indeed attract children’s attention. And with a wide choice of interactive software programs specifically designed to cater to children’s educational needs, preschoolers are more enthusiastic to creatively indulge themselves in learning activities that have the potential to hone their skills.
Notwithstanding a number of pros and cons related to whether computer software in educating preschoolers is considered necessary, educational experts, teachers and parents agree that the presence of the computer is of a great benefit to enhance children’s learning abilities to learn more about any subjects given.
Layli Dayanti, senior trainer at Computertots Indonesia, believes that exploring a computer program gives children the opportunity to discover as much information as they need in addition to honing their hands-on motor skills.
The use of multimedia, visual, auditory and hand coordination exercises leads to a combination of playing and learning that not only makes it enjoyable for children to study various subjects such as English, Math and Science; but also stimulates children’s senses of hearing, sight, kinesthesia and tactility.
“Looking at how quickly the computer has become a part of our daily lives, it is very important that parents are ready for today’s educational breakthroughs by providing their children with a less-boring learning atmosphere that enables them to become familiar with technology,” Layli said, adding that, “Given the right teaching method, children at a young age can get a sense of technology, a tool they will need to face the future of today’s computer era.”
Nevertheless, Layli agrees with those opining that the computer will never replace the role of the teacher. Early childhood educators play an extremely important part in guiding their students toward technological exploration. This not only applies to preschoolers, but also to children at kindergarten and primary school ages accordingly. “Let’s take a look at the following example; notwithstanding the fact that children may be able to read, aside from their various ages and progresses, they still need guidance from an adult to better digest the reading content,” Layli explained.
In line with Layli’s opinion, Yenny, whose son attends Kalam Kudus Christian Kindergarten, is aware of the importance of the two-way interactive learning and teaching approach. Asked whether she considers the computer necessary for children at an early age, Yenny simply replied, “Definitely!”
“My five-year-old son Owen has been learning computer since he was in preschool. At first, I thought what he was doing was no more than playing games, but I realized now that many computer games are designed to make kids more creative and innovative.”
But if children at an early age have yet to develop adequate fine motor skills, “Why burden them with holding a mouse at a time when they are still struggling to hold a pencil or crayon correctly?” Jenti Martono, the principal and academic manager at Hope For Kids bilingual preschool quipped.
Playing with dough and craft clay as well as drawing and pasting are among the crucial activities to boost their fine motor skills. All these classical children’s activities are always relevant in their social development.
Nevertheless, now that the computer in primary school has become an integrated education package, it is not wrong at all to have preschoolers gear up for today’s innovative education. Many primary schools are equipped with computers on which their students do their homework and other school projects.
In line with this phenomenon, Hope For Kids considers giving an introductory computer lesson at some point important for preschoolers. “It is still possible to simultaneously teach very young children the alphabet, drawing and singing using the computer without having to put aside the main objective of educating these kids, which is to guide them to a friendly social environment while letting them explore the objects around them.”
Using the computer in education has become a trend not only in big cities like Jakarta, but also in a small village as far as away as Bantul, Yogyakarta. It was at TK PKK 98 Giriloyo village, a teacher was seen teaching a five year old simple typing.
The small school that was built voluntarily by a retired German doctor, Irma-Kunisch, with the help of a young architect from Gadjah Mada University, Irawan, currently has 60 kindergarten students, aged four to five. “I didn’t know how to use a computer before, and I’m so grateful that I have now acquired the knowledge and am able to teach my students drawing using Corel draw software,” Bahriyah, the school principal, said.
Child psychologist Seto Mulyadi acknowledges that the role of the computer in primary education has become the “in” thing. Also known as Kak Seto, the child psychologist said the computer could be a very effective means for developing imaginative learning that is so critical to early childhood development.
“Aspired to teach the importance of technology to children, I opened a computer atelier for children (Sanggar Komputer) in the past. I even created a rhyming song komputer, komputer, membuat kita pintar (computer, computer, makes us all smart),” Kak Seto reminisced while singing the song.
However, Kak Seto advises that children at preschool age should not sit in front of a computer screen for more than 30 minutes a day or their vision could be damaged.
Despite the fact that the globalization era opens wider doors to more innovative education for children, the irony is that children are spending more time in front of the computer than perhaps their parents are, he added.
Furthermore, the noted child psychologist says, “Childhood is the best time of our lives and we should not waste such precious years by letting our children sit all day long in front of a computer. It is crucial that children socialize with others and actively get involved with outdoor activities such as running and jumping, picnicking or going to the beach.
By Aulia Rachmat, published in The Jakarta Post, Nov. 9, 2008.