When students see computers, their first thought is usually about the games they can play, said Dave Hanlon, a fifth-grade teacher at Scottsdale’s Hopi Elementary School. But directing children to the right online resources can make computers a learning tool.
“The kids like working on computers, so it’s going to be an easy thing to do,” he said. “Once you get them started, it’s going to be no problem. The kids will think they’re having fun and probably not realize they’re learning at the same time.”
• Search smart. Google may be wonderful, but it doesn’t always come back with the best results, said Mary Ellen Roche, teacherlibrarian at Scottsdale’s Cochise Elementary School. “You get buried under the results, and oftentimes it’s not what you’re looking for,” she said. “You get Apache helicopters when you’re looking for Apache customs.” The Scottsdale schools’ library card catalogs can help with this. The searches not only bring up book titles, but also links to librarian-approved sites on the same topic. The card catalog can be accessed anywhere through the school library’s Web site.
• Use library sites. Roche said she finds out what topics teachers are covering in classrooms, then includes links to helpful resources on her own site. Public library Web sites also are useful. The Scottsdale library has homework help, links to preschool games and other resources specifically for children online.
• Check out your school. Most teachers have Web sites where they list homework assignments and class information, Hanlon said. Hanlon’s site also has links to educational games and resources. And, the district subscribes to different research databases that students can access at home, Roche said. Just sign on through your school library’s Web site, and contact your school librarian if you lost the password.
• Watch the computer. Discuss what kids do on the computer, said Sharon Ewers, Arcadia High School teacher-librarian and lead librarian for the Scottsdale school district.
Also, parents should keep computers out of children’s bedrooms and in a family area.
“If they see something that is inappropriate on the screen, they can walk over and say, ‘Whoa, how did you find this? Let’s talk about it,’ ” Ewers said.
• Use it yourself. Parents assume children know more about the Web than they do, Ewers said. “I think there’s too much of parents throwing up of hands and saying, ‘I’ll just have to trust him.’ ”
But there are plenty of classes at local libraries or online tutorials to help get parents up to speed, Ewers said.