Wednesday, March 09, 2005

In the article "Public Internet Access for Young Adults", Sandvig talks in one part of the article about time spent on computers by children. The fact that overall children spent most of their internet time playing games and contacting individuals wasn't too surprizing to me, nor to the author, as others studies showed that children's internet use at home and at school showed the same things were accessed.
First, I am curious if anyone knows what adults spend time doing on the internet and how that compares to children. I suspect it changes depending on whether someone was in college, a computer programmer, or a househusband (another article said housewife so many times--I needed to acknowledge this group--smile) for example but I'm just wondering how it compares...
Second, Sandvig mentions that there was a surprise benefit to playing games around others at the center: that children learn to share in a technological environment, share knowledge. I agree. It seems to me though, that the argument could be made that even if children were only playing games and using chat rooms or email that they are in fact gaining computer skills that are important for their future (if computer skills are part of the goal). It seems strange to assume (as I read the author or at least the policy makers to have done) that only educational use of computers would be useful.


  1. I agree that children, even if only playing games, are learning about how computers work--and that is a benefit for their future with computers. My younger sister is in the Peace Corp as a computer teacher for a second chance/adult learning school in Samoa. She has this opportunity to be introducing computers and even the internet to all her students. I have asked her about her job a lot and after reading this article I found it interesting that she has been teaching her students how to use a computer by letting them play games.
    As for this belief that there must be some sort of educational value to computer use, there might be a fine line between Grand Theft Auto and some other game that might integrate math skills or reading comprehension. It's all in how the game is disguised maybe.

  2. I thought it was good that this article recognized that game-playing can be beneficial, not just because it's fun (and isn't having fun worthwhile?) but because it can help kids learn how to use computers and the Internet.

    The early studies on computer use that we looked at had "learning to use" as a category, but that's disappeared from the more recent studies. But new computer users still need to learn how to use the computer! Game-playing is a good way to do that, especially for kids. Back in the late '80s that's how I learned to use a computer.

    Game-playing in those days required some typing skills and basic knowledge of DOS commands. There's a different necessary skill set now, like using a mouse and doing web searches. But these are useful skills that kids can later apply to other areas. If you can use Google to find online games or cheat codes, you can use Google to look up job listings or find a restaurant.

  3. I think it is the practice at ABSTRACTION that matters. Using symbols, finding meaning in sybols, manipulating your symbolic environment, all useful skills as everything that we do only is useful when it has meaning. So it's not the game playing but the metaphorical meanings of online activities that matters to kids' development.