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Computers: Grade Schoolers

Mom and boy on a computer

When your child has an idea, she wants to learn more about it, to give it voice, to see it built. This exploration is a key part of your child's development. A computer, whether it sits on a desk or is a portable e-reader, can spur it along.

Like libraries, the web is a great place for your child to explore and learn. As your gradeschooler uses the Internet for homework, you can help her form good "habits of mind"—the practice of asking critical questions. Establishing a routine of asking questions, rather than copying and therefore accepting information, teaches your child there is no single expert, no single source of information and no single way of doing something. In using the web, you also can help her learn to organize information and develop successful search strategies.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Computer Time

  1. Introduce your child to the librarians at your local branch.
    Librarians are information specialists; they know how to sort data that is available digitally. They can also help teach your child how to search the Web to find answers to her questions.
  2. Encourage your child to recast Internet information in her own words.
    If your child uses a digital picture from the web, have her write an original caption describing the action in the picture — and what it means. Also, teach her to credit the source when she uses something — a quote, a picture or an idea — that isn't hers. One common way to do this is to cite the website address from which she pulled the information.
  3. Stress the importance of online safety.
    Help your child become a savvy Internet user, focusing on issues of privacy, levels of engagement with others and “netiquette.” Talk about the value of personal information, discouraging her from sharing her name, address, phone number or any other details that could identify her to someone else online. Show her how to select and use a screen name — never her real name — and how to set privacy preferences on social networking sites where she has a profile.
  4. Introduce your child to search engines, wikis and built-in browser tools, pointing out how they function.
    Though your child may receive an introduction to online tools at school, many classrooms have content locks and other restrictions that make home computing different. You’re tutorial may be as simple as going over the basics of an image search, checking out the latest widget or delving into the nuances of cloud computing, depending on your family’s preferences. To stay up on the latest technology trends as they relate to learning, check out the New Media Consortium’s annual Horizon Report. And, if you are more comfortable starting with a kid-friendly web browser, try Kidzui.
  5. Help your child scrutinize online sources of information.
    To help your child hone her information literacy skills, start the habit of asking key questions:
    • What is the main idea?
    • Who is speaking? Is it a person, an organization, a company, a government agency?
    • Why is this information here? Is there a purpose? Is the website trying to sell me something? Make me believe something? Get me to do something? Is there an "About This Site" page?
    • Where do the facts that support the main idea come from?
    • How is the main idea communicated — in words, pictures, personal histories, opinions or as research? How does the format change what I think about the information? (For instance, are pictures and personal stories more believable than wordy facts?)
    • What is missing? Can you think of any information not covered by the website? Are certain people and opinions absent?
    • Who cares? Why does the information on this website matter?
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