(StatePoint) If you were presented with the option of having your child become the world's best video gamer or the most technology-literate student poised for success in school and the workplace, which would you choose?
Parents today have this choice, say experts, as this generation of children is positioned to become the most literate, best informed and most technologically sophisticated ever. What kids do with this opportunity largely is contingent on their parents' involvement in helping them use new technologies for more than just entertainment.
"It's more important than ever for parents to ensure children take advantage of computer technology to get a leg-up in life. There are many free Web sites and services accessible at home, in schools and libraries, to help kids learn better and be prepared to compete in the workplace," said Allan Weis, author of the new book "The Business of Changing Lives" and founder of ThinkQuest, an educational Olympics on the Web.
"A generation ago learning was about textbooks and blackboards. In the future, computer technologies will bring three-dimensional virtual reality to classrooms to help kids directly experience things. In the meantime, there are many technologies that can unleash children's minds and creativity today," added Weis, the founder of Advanced Network Systems, the company that built the backbone of the Internet two decades ago.
Not surprisingly, the majority of learning takes place outside school, as only 13 percent of children's time is spent in class. Here are some tips to help kids use technology at home to improve their futures:
* Initiate Young Kids Early: Teach small children to enter cooking times with you on your microwave. Familiarize them with how the computer keyboard and mouse work. Have them help scan food packages at the grocery store. Ask your local librarian to teach them to find books using the electronic card catalog.
* The Family Computer is Key: Computers in the home bring families closer together and result in better grades. Monitor kids' use and be sure your computer is equipped with educational software, as well as a word processor, multimedia presentation program and even video creation programs. Demonstrate to young kids how to conduct Web searches and use these programs.
* Use the Web as Window on the World: Encourage kids to use age-appropriate news sites, such as TimeForKids.com, StudentNewsnet.com and ScienceNewsForKids.org. Visit ThinkQuest.org to access the non-profit's free library of over 7,000 resources for kids, as well as global technology competitions. Museum Web sites, such as The Smithsonian's SmithsonianEducation.org, also make great learning tools.
* Teen and Tween Issues: Children's lives today are complicated, with a faster pace compounding peer pressures. The Internet can offer safe havens to share feelings. For example, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting maintains www.pbskids.org/itsmylife, featuring the ability to get advice from older kids and experts.
Supervise Internet use, making sure children surf safely. To familiarize yourself with the future of education technology, including the advent of 3-D classrooms, read the new book, "The Business of Changing Lives" or visit www.advanced.org.
"Kids should learn to use computers as an extension of themselves, much the way they use pencils. Computer technology is the new pencil that can unleash creativity, revolutionize learning and help close the educational resources gap among students in different communities," stressed Weis.
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