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Back to School 2011

WINSTED — If you want to know how important computers are in the learning process for today’s children, all you need to do is Google the subject to turn up dozens of studies that discuss the positive and negative impacts of technology in the classroom. The general consensus is that personal computer access has become an invaluable asset, both for students and teachers.For Hinsdale Elementary School third-grade teacher Regina Bunel, there are tangible benefits to having computers both in the classroom and her office. “One thing I’ve noticed with my kids this past year, when they went into the computer lab and played multiplication games, they did so well on their times tables,” she said. “I think it’s a real plus, and they have fun doing it. They don’t seem to grow tired of these particular games.”In fact, if Bunel has behavior issues with her students, she can deny access to the computer lab as punishment or allow more time with the computers as a reward.Bunel said third-graders at Hinsdale Elementary school all have some degree of Internet access at the school — highly filtered, of course — and during classes when there is a question they can’t answer they sometimes suggest going online. “One of the kids will eventually say, ‘Let’s Google it,’” Bunel said. “They know where to get the information.”As a result, third-graders do seem to know more and more each year, and to be growing up more quickly. “I would say they are becoming more worldly, certainly,” Bunel said. “And consequently, they are probably maturing faster. There is a lot more information they are being exposed to at an earlier age.”A study conducted this summer by the Marketing to Moms Coalition suggests that home computers are now a requirement for any family with school-aged children, as almost half of mothers with children ages 7 to 12 and two-thirds of mothers of teenagers are expected to monitor their child’s grades and attendance through online postings in the 2011-12 school year. Nearly one in three children from elementary through high school will be assigned online homework this year. The downside to computer access can lie in the amount of time students spend in front of a screen instead of being out enjoying outdoor activities or reading books, and parents are encouraged to limit children’s time online and playing electronic games.“Behavior issues are more connected to different games kids are playing at home,” Bunel said. “You can’t really monitor what the kids are doing at home, but here in school there are many safeguards in place.”From a teacher’s point of view, Bunel said, computers have become a necessity. “It very definitely helps a teacher,” she said. “Communication with parents is immediate, and you’re sure that the message is getting there. There are no more lost notes — although messages do sometimes get lost in cyberspace.”With classroom reconfigurations happening in all of Winsted’s schools this year, computer access is an important tool for teachers to be able to use to send blanket emails to parents, notifying them of changes and schedule notes. Classes for grade-schoolers begin on Aug. 31, and Bunel said she is one of many teachers who are rushing to get their classrooms organized for the coming year. When school begins, she can look forward to hearing how students’ summers went, along with what students have learned in the ever-evolving world of computers and technology. Parents can be sure that computers will have a role in this year’s lesson plans, and it is more important than ever to stay in touch through email and online posts.

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