There has been an increase in the push to computerize classrooms which has corresponded with the integration of what is called Information and Communication Technology, or ICT for short, into the official curriculum. This push has been across the board in terms of learning areas, with all subjects now required either officially or unofficially to maximize their use of computers as learning tools.
It is true that in today's world young people need to be able to operate computers. Many jobs require computer skills that may include word processing, using a spreadsheet, finding files and so on. Some hardware skills like knowing what plug goes where or being able to clear a jammed printer may also be required. It may even be that skills with photo editing or video software will be required.
However, the current employment of computers in education is going way past these basic skills. The Victorian Institute of Teaching which is a Government organization in Australia stated "There are many avenues for combining the use of video games with classroom curriculum." (March edition of iTeach 2008). In that same article they then give examples of using computer games to teach math and English course content and justify this by saying that the students are more engaged that way. It may be true that students are more focused when playing games than when required to do other classroom work, but there are significant issues that extended use of computers does not address.
First is the ability of the student to concentrate on a task without the lure of ongoing entertainment. One of the functions of school is to prepare young people for life in society. As adults these young people will not be continuously entertained simply in order to have them achieve a set task or master a required skill. They will be expected to do it of their own accord or face the consequences of not doing so. Young people need to build up the skills and experiences to cope with these situations before they leave school or they will experience a significant shock once they enter society.
The next significant issue is that of basic skills. Many essential skills such as memorizing multiplication facts, developing addition skills, improving one's grammar or even just staying on a task until it is completed can be attained through application and effort. In most cases an atmosphere of calm concentration is required. Use of computer games that have rapidly shifting screen images and distracting audio effects is the complete opposite of this environment.
The extended use of computer games in schools is on the whole contrary to the "sit down and do your work" approach to learning. This runs the risk of turning schools into entertainment zones where young people are occupied rather than taught. If this approach continues, education will become a circus and learning standards will continue to decline, leaving our children to face the future without the basic skills they need to survive and thrive in society.
We need to have computers in the school curriculum, there is no doubt of that. But we need to keep them in their place, and use them to teach the skills needed for their use in the workplace. It is not acceptable to simply dump the kids in front of a computer and have them wasting their time on trivial games simply because it keeps them quiet. We need to take a more responsible approach than this toward the future of our children.
Kids learn best with their hands, so have a look at the Solar Energy Education section of Roger Vanderlely's website. You can also have a browse of the math help section for tips and resources to encourage basic skills development in this important area.