Things to do
In today’s technological environment, one of the most useful things you can do is help and encourage your child to get used to using a computer. And that holds true even if they aren’t taking computing / IT / ICT as a subject – almost anything they do at school these days is likely to involve the use of computers to a lesser or greater extent.
We’ve said previously that this is best done using the same hardware and software as is used at your child’s school, although anything which gets your child used to computers will be very helpful. We give one or two ideas below.
The ability to touch type is absolutely invaluable, and there are plenty of good tutors available. For younger children, try “Dance mat typing” from the BBC – www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing/.
Using a word processor not only helps children become familiar with the way the software works: it’s often a good way to develop their creative abilities – particularly if they have trouble either with handwriting or spelling, because it leaves them free to concentrate on what they want to say, rather than on the mechanics of saying it.
If they do have difficulty with spelling, however, make sure they take advantage of the help the word processor can provide – encourage them to make written notes of words which the spell-checker corrects for them. (Do make sure that the word processor is set up to work with UK English, not American English first, however. Feel free to contact us if you don’t know how to do that.)
As for topics, the sky’s the limit. Encourage them to write about anything at all which interests them – stories, poems, hobbies, books they’ve read, favourite football teams, pop stars, etc. And all of this can be made much more interesting and eye-catching once they’ve covered the basics of formatting and incorporating pictures and clip art at school.
One possibility here is to track the pocket money they receive, and the things on which they spend it, so they know how much they have available at any one time, and so they can do things like working out what proportion of their income they spend on particular types of item.
Or see if you can come up with ideas which would actually be useful to you – there’s nothing so satisfying as producing something which someone else will actually use!
Computer programming doesn’t have to be daunting – there are a number of fun packages available, free of charge, which can help your child dip their toes in the water.
It’s always advisable to check with your school as to what languages they use, but you will almost certainly find that they use the Logo language at some point. Try MSW Logo, for instance. You can download the software at http://www.softronix.com/download/mswlogo65.exe, and a video tutorial is available at http://www.softronix.com/download/mswtut52.zip — or naturally we’d be very happy to provide a few basic lessons.
For younger children Scratch (which incorporates Logo) is fun and relatively easy to get to grips with.
You can find Scratch at http://scratch.mit.edu/.