A guide to using your PC as an education tool

A guide to using your PC as an education tool

Make learning fun by transforming your PC into an interactive education zone

If you think your kids will soon know more about computers than you, you’re not alone. Today, computers are just as much a part of school life as exercise books and scabby knees. Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) forms a central part of the National Curriculum.

Kids will get their hands on a mouse almost as soon as they start school, learning skills that will set them up for life. However, the lessons needn’t stop when they leave the classroom. Your home PC can help them brush up on their ICT skills and get their creative juices bubbling.

What they learn at school

During Reception year, your child will learn basic computing skills. They will become familiar with a keyboard and mouse and learn how to type their name and play simple games. Then, during Key Stage One (between the ages of five and seven), they really start to get computer-savvy.

When it comes to ICT, The National Curriculum focuses on four main areas:

1. Finding things out
2. Developing ideas and making things happen
3. Exchanging and sharing information
4. Reviewing, modifying and evaluating work

Children explore these themes using three key skills. Firstly, they learn how to gather information from a variety of sources, including computers, the internet, books and TV. Next, they discover how to record what they’ve learnt in basic databases and finally, they learn how to share their ideas in different ways, using text and tables, as well as images and sound.

By the time your child reaches Key Stage Two (ages seven to ten), he or she will be taking things even further. This is when you might have to do a bit of your own homework to keep up! They’ll discover how to use search engines to find more information, check whether the facts they’ve found are accurate, and then share what they’ve learnt via email, desktop publishing or multimedia presentations.

How to help your child at home

There are plenty of things you can do with your home PC to give your child the ICT edge. And, they’ll be having so much fun they won’t even realise that they’re learning.

Get arty

Anyone can create art on a PC. You can use Paint, the program that comes pre-installed on all Windows 7 PCs, or you can download free software, such as Tux Paint (for younger children), or ArtWeaver Free (for older kids). They can use their designs to create birthday cards, posters or party invites.

There are also plenty of online art resources. Faces and Places allows you to build collages from 100 works in the US National Gallery, or kids can create bizarre portraits of family members at picassohead.com.

Cultivate your child’s inner Picasso with the brilliantly conceived picassohead.com

Design a family newsletter

If you’re looking for something to do with that finished portrait of Great Aunt Ethel, why not help your kids create a newsletter? When it’s finished, you can email it (or print it out and post it) to family members around the world.

A newsletter is a great way for kids to improve their fact-finding and writing skills and you don’t have to be a desktop publishing whizz either. Both Microsoft Word and Microsoft Publisher come packed with easy-to-use templates and clip-art.

Once they’ve learnt the basics, both of these can be used to produce impressive homework projects too.

Microsoft Word provides a number of newsletter templates for budding editors

Build a blog

Why not go one step further and help your child create their own website or blog? It’s easier than it sounds and, according to The National Literacy Trust, children who blog have better writing skills than those who don’t.

There are now a number of safe blogging sites aimed at children. Many UK schools already use edublogs.org and you should also check out make-website.com and kidblog.org.

It’s official – keeping a digital blog will help boost your kids’ writing skills

Writing a blog is a great way to get your child to think about the online world, even at an early age. It encourages creativity and before long they’ll be able to upload their own digital photos and videos to the site. Best of all, the blog will be a digital scrapbook of their childhood and something to treasure in years to come.

Play games

No, we’re not talking about zombie shoot-outs or the latest high-octane racing games. There are plenty of games that have been designed to work in conjunction with the National Curriculum, like those found at BBC Learning and Educationcity.com. They’re fun and engaging – so much so, that you’ll probably find yourself playing them too.

The BBC Schools website is packed with education-friendly games for kids

Learning together

The key to all these activities is not to think of them as quick-fix child-care sessions. Don’t just sit your kids in front of the screen while you do something else. Set aside some time to sit and interact with them, prompting questions about what they’re doing. Chances are, they’ll teach you a few tricks too!