"I want to play
now." "It's my turn." "You're hogging the computer.
It's not fair." Probably
every teacher has heard these refrains. Sometimes children have a hard
time sharing the computer with friends. After all, in most cases, there
is only one mouse. However, a number of programs foster cooperation and
sharing and thus promote social development as well. The following
are some of the best on the market.
Street's Music Maker
36: musical sounds, songs
of eight activities, which encourages children to gather 'round the computer
and sing along with Ernie, Elmo, Grover, and Cookie Monster, is great
for group sing-alongs. In one activity, preschoolers can create their
own tunes by placing instruments in a sequence of squares and pressing
a "play" button. The activities are all open-ended, and the
scenes to explore seem endless, offering a nice introduction to music
and environmental sounds. Mattel Media, Inc., 888-628-8359; www.mattelmedia.com;
36: cooperation, following directions
playset attaches onto your keyboard to turn your computer into
a little kitchen, complete with measuring cup, mixer, oven door, and baker's
tools. The plastic playset attaches to a Windows-based computer keyboard
with an elastic strap. As children manipulate objects on the playset,
signals are sent to the computer to make things happen onscreen. There
are many opportunities for sharing as players work with the tools to decorate
their creations with letters, shapes, and animals. While it's tough to
compete with the experience of real, live baking, this playset offers
a fun, mess-free alternative that children love to share. Hasbro Interactive,
800-683-5847; www.hasbro-interactive.com; Windows; $39.95.
36: cooperation, problem solving
hunt works well as a shared experience. Children need to help Steve and
Blue as they look for treasure somewhere in a house, school, and park.
Blue is adorable, as usual, and the program's graphics and animation rival
those of the television show. As children travel about, they'll come across
activities that involve helping the characters. For instance, they'll
recycle trash in a sorting game and gather fall leaves according to color.
Items are collected along the way that may prove useful later on. Humongous
Entertainment, 800-499-8386; www.humongous.com; Windows/ Mac; $29.95.
Rescue Heroes: Hurricane Havoc
47: cooperation, problem solving
activities on this CD-ROM, based on the Fisher-Price Rescue Heroes figures,
provide plenty of opportunities for cooperation. As children perform all
kinds of heroic tasks grabbing pets from a burning building, putting
out fires by helicopter, and smashing down roadblocks to keep the streets
safe they'll want to consult friends and even take turns ("You
be Wendy Waters; I'll be Billy Blazes"). The Learning Company, 800-716-8506;
www.learningco.com; Windows/Mac; $19.95.
in the Big Blue House: Bear's Sense of Adventure
36: matching, colors
program based on the Bear in the Big Blue House television show, players
will find an engaging set of activities and adventures all of which
involve helping others and encourage side-by-side play. There are five
adventures, which makes the program rich in content. Graphics are great,
and among learning concepts touched upon are the five senses, color mixing,
and matching by attribute. Knowledge Adventure, 800-542-4240; www.knowledgeadventure.
com; Windows/Mac; $30.
ways to promote computer sharing:
- Think about
your room arrangement. The physical location of your computer can
influence how it is used. For example, keeping the computer in a central
location, rather than an isolated corner, is likely to increase children's
socialization. Keep several chairs not just one by the
computer. Some teachers use an old piano bench (just saw off the legs
if they are too high) instead of a single chair so that as many as three
children can share the experience.
- Watch out for
computer hogs. Guess what? Some children will want to dominate the
computer! Make sure that all the children in the class are properly
introduced to a new computer activity so that there is more than one
expert on the new program. As a last resort, you can keep an egg timer
near the computer one with a bell works best. This gives the children
a clear signal when their computer time is up.
- Choose software
carefully. Give two children one tricycle, and you may have a fight
on your hands. But give them a wagon, and they'll become best friends.
That's because the wagon has two clear roles you ride, I'll pull.
Depending on the software you choose, your classroom computer can be
a wagon or a tricycle. It turns out that the best programs for sharing
are the ones that give children a way to participate by singing along,
helping to remember a detail, or making a suggestion.
a contributing editor to Early Childhood Today and Scholastic Parent &
Child, is editor of Children's Software Revue (www.childrenssoftware.com).
All the software he recommends has been tested with young children.