In this comprehensive, practical, and unsettling look at computers in children's lives, Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., questions whether computers are really helping or harming children's development. Once a bedazzled enthusiast of educational computing but now a troubled skeptic, Dr. Healy examines the advantages and drawbacks of computer use for kids at home and school, exploring its effects on children's health, creativity, brain development, and social and emotional growth.
Today, the Federal Government allocates scarce educational funding to wire every classroom to the Internet, software companies churn out "educational" computer programs even for preschoolers, and school administrators cut funding and space for books, the arts, and physical education to make room for new computer hardware. It is past the time to address these issues. Many parents and even some educators have been sold on the idea that computer literacy is as important as reading and math. Those who haven't hopped on the techno bandwagon are left wondering whether they are shortchanging their children's education or their students' futures. Few people stop to consider that computers, used incorrectly, may do far more harm than good.
New technologies can be valuable educational tools when used in age-appropriate ways by properly trained teachers. But too often schools budget insufficiently for teacher training and technical support. Likewise, studies suggest that few parents know how to properly assist children's computer learning; much computer time at home may be wasted time, drawing children away from other developmentally important activities such as reading, hobbies, or creative play. Moreover, Dr. Healy finds that much so-called learning software is more "edutainment" than educational, teaching students more about impulsively pointing and clicking for some trivial goal than about how to think, to communicate, to imagine, or to solve problems. Some software, used without careful supervision, may also have the potential to interrupt a child's internal motivation to learn.
Failure to Connect is the first book to link children's technology use to important new findings about stages of child development and brain maturation, which are clearly explained throughout. It illustrates, through dozens of concrete examples and guidelines, how computers can be used successfully with children of different age groups as supplements to classroom curricula, as research tools, or in family projects. Dr. Healy issues strong warnings, however, against too early computer use, recommending little or no exposure before age seven, when the brain is primed to take on more abstract challenges. She also lists resources for reliable reviews of child-oriented software, suggests questions parents should ask when their children are using computers in school, and discusses when and how to manage computer use at home. Finally, she offers a thoughtful look at the question of which skills today's children will really need for success in a technological future -- and how they may best acquire them.
Based on years of research into learning and hundreds of hours of interviews and observations with school administrators, teachers, parents, and students, Failure to Connect is a timely and eye-opening examination of the central questions we must confront as technology increasingly influences the way we educate our children.
Jane M. Healy, Ph.D. is a teacher and educational psychologist who has worked with young people of all ages, from pre-school to graduate school. She has been a classroom teacher, reading and learning specialist, school administrator, and clinician. She is currently a lecturer and consultant, and the author of three books about how children do (and don’t) learn, Your Child’s Growing Mind, Endangered Minds, and Failure to Connect. She and her work have been featured in national media such as CNN and NPR. She has twice been named “Educator of the Year” by Delta Kappa Gamma, the professional honor society of women educators. Jane and her husband claim they have learned most of what they know from raising three sons and enjoying six grandchildren.
Dr. Dorothy Rich Founder and President, the Home and School Institute, and author of MegaSkills: Building Children's Achievement for the Information Age Jane Healy knows what she is talking about. I strongly urge all educators, as well as parents, to read this new book now...before it's too late.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention Failure to Connect sounds a wake-up call for teachers and parents who believe that computers alone will solve our educational problems. The bottom line: Adult attention rather than gigabytes is what makes children grow.
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