For busy adults with conflicting schedules facing a multitude of family and work demands, who still wish to add to their academic credentials or vocational qualifications, computer mediated learning may seem like an ideal way for such adults to satisfy their educational needs. For an elementary school instructor, however, computer mediated learning lacks the supervisory, mentoring, and hands-on capacity that is usually deemed necessary for imparting basic skills.
An “on-line, collaborative learning approach using the Internet offers solutions to many of the problems plaguing university education,” such as oversubscribed classes and the difficulty for university students to gain access to the required classes that they need to graduate on time. (Jones, 2004) At a higher education level, computer mediated learning allows for students to be enrolled in more sections on a year ’round basis in a university environment-but this is not an advantage enjoyed by elementary school students.
At best, in terms of dealing with high enrollment, the computer-mediated classroom is an asset, not a supplement to face-to-face learning on the lower levels of education. Even advocates of distance or computer mediated learning on the university level have stressed that such an educational format works best when students are mature, preferably adult learners, “comfortable with independent learning and computers,” who have a clear intention of why they wish to obtain their degree. Jones, 2004) Such a description could not be more antithetical to elementary school children. Moreover “to be successful, the implementation of such a learning approach requires significant technical and educational skills and experience,” as well as motivation on the part of the learners. (Jones, 2004) Does this mean that computer based learning has no place in an elementary school curriculum? Not necessarily.
Foreign language instruction that would not otherwise be available to elementary school children is possible through the use of computer based learning, as children can hear and interact with native speakers, and even communicate with classes their own age, across the world. (Perez, 1996) When teaching a foreign language, one teacher found that the new technology encouraged students to think critically, encouraged self-directed learning, and provided a library on-screen of different texts in the language the students was learning.
But because the computer medium can allow for passivity on the part of the student, Lucia Perez stresses that a teacher must take an intensively constructivist or hands on approach, to motivate the students to be proactive in their learning, such as assigning independent research topics, rather than permitting students to ‘veg out’ in front of a screen, as might be their custom at home when using the computer for pleasure.
Likewise, when using computer based learning to teach, for example “the teaching dilemma was how to simultaneously motivate the students by applying mathematics learning to real life problems of concern to them, and help them to gain quickly the basic skills to do the necessary mathematics manipulations almost automatically,” and once this motivation was integrated into the computer based learning, the program appeared to work well. (Shaw, 1996)
Thus, computer based learning can and must be more than simply an effort to transfer face to face classroom instructional practices into a different or virtual medium, for the learning does not take place face to face, but is primarily student-directed. Also, there is more responsibility upon the head of an average Elementary teacher to create assignments that motivate and engage student’s imagination when making use of computer based learning for specific, targeted purposes, but when done so effectively, the rewards are great for both teachers and students.