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Computers can do much more than help children with their schoolwork - they allow them to acquire valuable knowledge and skills for their future careers.
Buying a great multimedia home PC can kick-start your kids into a great career, and not just in accountancy. The new PC industry is looking for artists, writers, storytellers, publishers, games players and designers - but they need to start early.
According to Plato, the most effective kind of education is that a child should play among lovely things. While he probably wasn't thinking digitally at the time, with the emergence of powerful and affordable multimedia PCs, children can now play among lovely things and at the same time acquire valuable knowledge and skills that will serve them well in whatever career or profession they may decide to pursue.
Today, most children take computers like ducks to water. Even the youngest seem to be alarming clever at setting up and operating all sort of gadgets. Whatever they're using a popular game console or any of the other ubiquitous home or arcade systems, technology seems to be more naturally comprehensible to the average child than it is to the average parent or teacher.
With an increasingly large percentage of children living in households with a computer of some sort, in many ways they're now becoming just another home appliance. But for parents who want to help their children at home/school, the apparent labyrinth of technological options can appear depressingly daunting.
It's now possible to get great job in computers that isn't about science, maths programming or accountancy. Increasingly, `humanity-based' skills are often perceived as more valuable and computers can get you into a whole new range of professions evolving around games production, multimedia, digital video or publishing on the Internet. Within these, and even more traditional professions - such as journalism, film, television, publishing, advertising, design and music - computers and digital technology have become widespread. And there are probably very few jobs or professions in the future that won't require some degree of computer literacy.
Ironically, the digital revolution is creating a market not for narrow specialists, but for `renaissance men and women' who have a broad-based education and a wider skill set that will allow them to change careers and move from field to field with an ease and efficiency that was unimaginable in previous generations. Today, perhaps more than any other time in recent history, education needs to be focused on learning how to learn and on development of study skills that will allow children to acquire the information they need as and when they need it.
Remember, helping your child with a computer at home isn't exclusively about using so called `educational software' like they do at school to teach spelling, maths or geography. Parents can often provide more help by encouraging their children to simply use computers more actively and creatively as they are, or will be, used in the real world and to develop creative study and research skills that will complement and enhance their learning experience at school. To do that, you need to give your kids their best chance possible by getting them a really good multimedia PC.
But to prepare your children for the future, you need more than hardware and software. The most important thing is to think about what they do with the PC and what you can do to help. Don't worry about starting children too early. As soon as they can control their hands, children will find things to do with a computer.
It's not unusual to see three and four-year old happily working with paint programs and even creating and saving files. In many respects, having a computer at home can help older children with their school work in nearly every subject, just as having books at home helps them with reading and research. And because of its increasingly multimedia and interactive capabilities, a PC can provide a creative focus or outlet for even difficult children with no apparent interest in traditional education.
This concern about `giving the kids the best' for their education is an emotion that computer manufacturers are more than happy to exploit, with many of them offering PCs that are hyped as the `ideal tool for education'. Then, of course, there's the fact that more than a few parents use their kid's education as a way to justify buying a PC so they can play Doom. But the hardware you buy is only half the story and where home computers are concerned, the bundled software is just as important as the hardware.
It used to be that computer manufacturers interpreted the phrase `for educational use' as meaning `last year's leftover stock with a copy of Encarta chunked in'. However, as the home market has boomed, some manufacturers have come to realize that education has its own needs, and are producing systems that combine powerful hardware with a good range of bundled software with an obvious educational or informative bent.
Dr. Adnan Ahmed Qureshi holds a Ph.D. in IT with specialization in the induction of information technology in developing countries. He is the former Editor of Datalog, Computech, ISAsia and columnist for The News International. At present he is working as Senior Industry Analyst and IT Consultant.