Two psychologists "E.L.Thorndike" and "B.F.Skinner" both developed
ideas on a special theory, in the 1930's, of learning called 'Operant conditiong$
Basically the theory stated that children learn more quickly if they are
rewarded in some way for making progress or a correct decision. Although they
mainly carried out experiments on animals, their theories were extended to
accomodate humans aswell. An experiment of Skinner's is now considered and
extended to comparisons to children.
Case Study By "B.F.Skinner".
"...a rat is placed into a box. Because it is hungry, it wanders
around the box. As it wanders, at some point it accidently presses some lever,
and a pellet of food is delivered to the rat. Often the rat does not find the
food immediately, but does eventually. Very gradually the rat builds up a
connection between pressing the lever and getting the food reward. When the
animal is pressing the lever frequently and examining the area where the food
is delivered, then we know that it has learned the activity."
The pellet to the rat is a reward, because the rat is hungry. Skinner
referred to this as an example of 'positive reinforcement', something which
strengthens the response which we want to happen. For example, if a child is
drawing a picture and is immeadiately praised for that activity, then one is
strengthening the behaviour the child is showing. By Skinner's theory, the
child is more likely to repeat the activity again, so that if a child is
playing with some kind of educational package at home on his/her computer
(eg. An art or drawing package) and encouraged and praised for their ideas and
work, then he/she is more likely to engage in that activity again.
In addition to the above, there is also 'Negative reinforcement', best
described by example. If a child is experimenting using the home computer and
due to some command entered, he/she causes the computer to "crash", then he/she
will learn very quickly not to make the same "mistake" again and so will avoid
typing that command in that situation again. We can see that if a child is
given access to alot of educational information on the home computerthen
he/she will pick up alot of this very quickly and develop techniques of using
such a tool effectively and creatively with just a little encouragement and
alot of praise and help.
Another theory on child learning is one proposed by "J.Bruner" and
several other theorists. They held the view that children learn best through
interaction and involvement in whatever they are learning. Bruner did many
experiments in schools and his results showed that do learn well together as a
group.This does not mean in a classroom with teacher talking to class, but
actually requires the child to talk to other students, produce ideas, make
decisions and his/her own conclusions. This technique called 'Discovery
learning' works on the principle that children LIKE finding things out, for
example in the completion of some adventure game, the child is intrigued and
wants to carry on playing/learning.
Although both theories are different, they may both have a place and
be complimentary to each other. Afterall, the mass, and kinds of things
children are required to learn generally are often quite different. Some
subjects may be better for 'Discovery learning' methods, whilst others may be
better for a 'Programmed learning' approach.
To conclude, can one say for definite that is a child with a home
computer actually benefitting from learning all these skills or would being
without it be of any consequence?A Study was carried out at the Tokyo Institute
of Technology, which
investigated the changes in attitudes of Japanese first and second-grade
children who were exposed to microcomputers. This study showed that children
who use computers tend to like them more than children who don't use computers.
Findings also showed that the use of computers has no negative effect on the
children`s empathy. Findings failed to provide evidence that computer use
improves intellectual activities such as creativity and desire to study.
Journal of Computing in Childhood Education Vol:5 Iss:1 1994
S.A Papert "Uses of Computers to Advance Education", MIT ,
A-I-Memo #298 ( Cambridge 1973)
"A First Course In Psychology" By Nicky Hayes.