I am excited about education, and it is not only because I am an educator. I am excited because many people are learning, especially those who may have had trouble with academics a few decades ago. Why? — The answer is the computer.
Let me back up for a minute and explain how we learn. There are three basic ways we learn — auditorily (by hearing those lectures and lessons), visually (by reading those textbooks), and kinetically (by trying things out with our hands). When you learn auditorily, you need to be fully focused on the words being spoken; when you learn visually, you need to be able to first know what those words mean and then you need to comprehend the meaning of those words; but, when you learn kinetically, you learn by doing, you are an involved participant instead of incorporating passive skills such as hearing or reading.
Over the past few months I have been substitute teaching, mostly in the elementary grades, and I have seen the children in the computer labs. First and second graders are reading great topics, such as plant life, on their level with a yellow highlight on the word and earphones on their ears to follow along. They are completing addition and subtraction problems at their level without anyone knowing where they are on the education scale, such as learning numbers while the rest of the class is learning addition or subtraction. Or, maybe, another student has advanced to multiplication, ahead of the other students. This does not take the place of regular lessons; rather, it is a supplement to the classroom experience.
I have seen the students engaged while in the computer lab with only one or two lagging behind, fiddling with logging on instead of forging ahead with the lesson at hand. This is wonderful. This is encouraging. This is where learning takes place. I know. I have seen it when the computer flashes 100% or missed 1 in bright yellow across the screen. I have seen the students instantly smile at their success, and I know that they will try it again because they are successful and they want to be successful.
Go back into the classroom for the instruction, and there are distractions — Johnny is poking Sally, Devon is fiddling with his pencil or attending to the books in his desk or going to the teacher to ask to go to the bathroom, Samantha is saying her stomach hurts, and Jose and Juan are talking between each other hoping not to get caught by the teacher. So, not everyone is going to fully hear that lesson, or fully comprehend what that story says in the classroom, but everyone is going to individually be able to practice what they are learning when they are on that computer. They are engaged. They are focused. They are learning, And I will thank that machine for helping all students learn, not just the ones who have no problems learning auditorily or visually.