Although politicians, educators, and wealthy do-gooders enthusiastically promote classroom use of computers from the earliest grades, children need to master low-tech skills first.
For one thing, in a world of limited resources and the malicious activities of bad people, there’s no guarantee that cheap personal computers and universal internet access will remain what they are today.
Even if we could be sure that every child entering school in the 21st century would grow old in a world of unimpeded computer use, intellectual empowerment begins when a child realizes the power of brain and hand unaided by electricity.
Our schools already feature approaches to beginning reading instruction that encourage children to “read” without having mastered the sound/symbol relationships, and to “write a story” without having mastered letter formation and sentence construction.
Computers are marvellous tools. I would not want to be without one. However, the process of learning to read, write, spell, and locate information without the help of a computer is as important as what is learned. The mental processes and physical skills developed by traditional methods of early learning are different from those required for computer use.
By-passing traditional instruction in order to make learning “faster” or “easier” is not a good thing. An emerging butterfly might have an easier time of metamorphosis if some helpful person would peel away its cocoon, but the assisted creature would lack the strength necessary for survival. The time for teaching computer literacy is after the acquisition of eye, hand and brain literacy.