Mac Minis in EHS building teach children to research early

Mount Pleasant resident Jacquelyn Weller, Lead Teacher, teaches 4-year-old Aubree Garcia how to use the newly installed Mac computers in the Education and Human Services Building Tuesday morning. Garcia used the computer to search for acorns which she had been learning about in her class. (Chris Bacarella / Staff Photographer)

Four-year-old Gabriel Fanning conducted research on spiders that he and other children discovered in the playground of the Child Development and Learning Lab.

The children wanted to know what types of spiders they were. They searched online and looked at pictures.

“One was sticking out his tongue,” Fanning said.

To do the research, the students used Mac Minis.

The Office of Information Technology installed the computers in the preschool Tuesday in the College of Education and Human Services building for children’s use.

There will be four 22” Acer monitors connected to Mac Minis. Each monitor cost $175 and each Mac Mini was $750, totaling out to $3,700 for four sets.

“In a lot of ways, it creates a more interactive environment for them,” said Michael Reuter, director of Distributed Computing and Technical Operations.

Reuter said if children use computers at a young age, they will be prepared to use them in the future.

“We truly want children to view themselves as researchers,” said Cheryl Priest, faculty director of the CDLL. “We have to give them many types of tools to engage in that process, and this (computers) is one of the tools.”

The children will have social interaction with other children and teachers and be able to construct their own knowledge, Priest said.

Jackie Weller, lead teacher of CDLL, said allowing the children to investigate gives them a chance to have a hands-on learning experience.

“We’re helping to facilitate that investigation,” Weller said.

They research it, document it and print it, Priest said.

“Rather than answering children’s questions, we encourage them to become researchers,” Priest said.

Into a piazza

The computers will be placed in the hallway of the CDLL at children’s levels.

“We’re looking at the hallway as more of a piazza, which is a gathering place in Italy and it is found in the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy,” Priest said. “We’re using the computers, as well as many other things, to transform it into a piazza.”

Not only will the children be able to conduct research on these computers, but they also will be able to play music and upload photos they take in class.

“We try to bring music into the environment,” Priest said.

Basic programs will be on these computers, such as iTunes, iPhoto and office programs to document the research.

However, learning games will not be uploaded onto the computers.

The CDLL does not want to encourage the children to spend lengthy time periods at the computers where they will be in a trance mode, Priest said.

“We really want to focus on how to use a computer in a more beneficial and sophisticated way,” Priest said.


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