Teaching With Technology: Thinking "Big" Software
New programs that inspire higher - level thinking
- Grades: PreK–K
Remember that a child's mind is where the cursor is. If you want to get an idea about the kind of thinking a child is doing at the computer, simply look over his shoulder as he plays.
IF YOU'RE ONE OF THE FORTUNATE TEACHERS WHO HAS A late model Windows or Macintosh computer in your classroom (or better yet, three), it's time to put it to work for you. Just load one of the programs described here and watch the magic as children click their way into the world of higher-order thinking.
Noddy: Playtime in Toyland
(Ages 4-7) Teaches: number and letter recognition, classification
Six well-designed puzzles offer a potpourri of problem-solving opportunities. This program stars Noddy, a little boy who helps out with events that occur in his colorful, friendly town. Each game is set in the context of a mini-adventure. For example, kids must help Master Teddy Bear finish some work so Noddy can come to his birthday party The graphics and story line do a great job of pulling children into the activities. Knowledge Adventure, 800-542-- 4240; Windows/Mac; $30.
Chutes and Ladders
(Ages 3-8) Teaches: whole numbers (from one to 100), spatial relations, taking turns
In this electronic version of the classic board game, the computer does not automatically move the game piece after the spinner is spun. Instead, players must click just ahead of their marker in order to move it-a good lesson in cause and effect. Whenever children land on a chute or ladder, the computer moves them up or down to the correct spot (while showing a humorous vignette). Besides being a playful introduction to whole numbers, this program helps children practice memory skills and spatial thinking. Hasbro Interactive, 800-683-5847; Windows; $19.95.
Little Bear Rainy Day Activities
(Age 3 and up) Teaches: memory, logic, patterns, sequencing, creativity
Maurice Sendak's Little Bear is the main character in six simple, fun, no-fail activities that provide a playful dose of memory and creative problem solving. From the beautifully illustrated main screen, children click on various items to launch each activity. They can easily exit from an activity by clicking on a back-arrow icon. This makes it easy for children to find the activities that work best for them, on their own terms. The Learning Company, 800-- 716-8506; Windows/Mac; $29.95.
I Spy Junior
(Ages 3-5) Teaches: logic, problem solving, rhyming, classification
You may be familiar with Jean Marzollo's I Spy books full of fascinating photo collages. This electronic rendition is designed especially for younger children and uses the same visually rich graphics, only with easier-to-find objects. In the Busy Bins section, for instance, children hear a riddle that says: "I spy turtle eyes, a letter D block, three yellow buttons, and a bug on a rock." Then players click on each object to see it come to life. In Oops Hoops, children are asked to sort objects into hoops: "food" in one hoop, "red things" in another, and "food that's red" in the overlapping portion of the two hoops. This activity teaches them to work with Venn diagrams! The puzzles in the activities inspire children to keep on trying to find solutions to the problems. Scholastic New Media, 800-7246527; Windows/Mac; $29.95.
Disney's Magic Artist Studio
(Age 4 and up) Teaches: creative problem solving
This realistic, responsive drawing program lets children have free reign with blobs of shaving cream, finger paint, chalk, and markers-all without the least bit of mess. (There's even an electric toothbrush!) Real thinking comes into play when children create their own animated pictures and must break down each part of the movement into individual frames. If the young animators get stuck, a nicely done tutorial provides a step-bystep introduction to the animation process. Disney Interactive, 800-900-9234; Windows/Mac; $29.99.