Rom wasn't built in a day

28th June 1996 at 01:00
A Parent's Guide:Computers Supporting Homework A4 pamphlet from PIN (Parents Information Network) Pounds 2.50 (Including pp) for a single copy Pounds 7.50 (excluding pp) for five Pounds 12 (excluding pp) for 10 PIN publications, PIN, PO Box 1577, London W7 3ZTTel: 0181 248 4666

PIN, like its sibling organisation LIFT (Learning for Life with Technology), is an independent body committed to making technology more understandable and accessible for parents, teachers - who, lest we forget, often are parents - and educators. Having produced two excellent guides on choosing computers and software, both of which are still available, it has now published A Parent's Guide: Computers Supporting Homework.

Jacquie Disney, the author, looks forward to a time when children are "motivated to do homework through positive interest and enjoyment". Her publication gives clear advice to parents on how to work with computers and multimedia in the home and sets out strategies for producing creative and competent homework.

There are many ways that computers can do this. Word processing programs which allow the user to modify and correct work without having to rewrite whole pages leave more scope for imaginative work. Written work which includes high-quality graphics can give a child enormous satisfaction. But using a computer, as Jacquie Disney points out, "does not change the basic processes of learning". It does, however, require a reappraisal of those processes. Supportive parents who wouldn't dream of letting their children copy wholesale from traditional sources blissfully download chunks of text from electronic encyclopedias for their offspring to paste into homework books.

One of the most important points raised in this pamphlet is the need for the computer to be successfully integrated into home life. Ideally, it should be located in a room which is used by the whole family. Parents can then become more fully involved in the learning process with children or, more typically, experience that strange reversal of family hierarchy where their more knowledgeable offspring explain to them the mysteries of those terrible twins Ram and Rom. ("No, Dad, they didn't build Rome in a day.") This is a stimulating, informative and well-designed publication that any parent or teacher who is interested in multimedia will enjoy reading.

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