Once a Booming Market, Educational Software for the PC Takes a Nose Dive – New York Times (this link may require registration or expire)
From $498 million in 2000, down to $152 million in 2004. Ouch. What’s going on here? With the prices of computers falling constantly falling in the past few decades, and more and more kids getting access to them, that trend seems quite odd.
When I hear a parent talk about getting a computer for their young child, I typically ask them, “Why?” Not surprisingly, the answer is usually, “For education and to get them ahead of the curve.” So how can it be that the educational software market is suffering so?
The article says that these things are killing the educational software market:
- The spread of broadband and free educational web sites
- Portable educational toys (like LeapPad and other Fisher-Price and VTech products)
- Hand-me-down software
- Parents’ frustration at installing new programs
- Availability of computers in classrooms making home computer use for learning less appealing
My gut feeling on this is that parents go as far as buying the hardware, but do little beyond that to ensure that it becomes a learning tool. They aren’t investing in software, and they aren’t investing their time to work with the kids and the computer to make it into a teaching tool. Instead, the computer is being used for other things. Older kids are browsing the web, IMing their friends, and playing games; younger ones are just being babysat by it, with a game or a simple educational program that they’ve outgrown. Maybe it’s not getting used much at all.
Parents should be involved in the kids education and that goes for the use of the computer at home as an educational tool. Know what your kids are doing by paying attention and look over their shoulder. Once they’ve mastered a skill, it’s time to move up to the next level on the software. If you don’t, then they are aimlessly going to play the game portions of the educational software, over and over, just for the entertainment value. It’s also important to get them off of the computer to experience creative play, learn other things from the real world, and interact with others.
I also think that a lot of educational software isn’t all that good either, but I’m not sure that has had a lot to do with the downfall of the market. Most new parents assume that it is good quality, helpful software. I’d like to think that parents are getting wiser and realizing that kids will have plenty of time later in life to learn about computers and that there is nothing wrong with the traditional methods of learning their ABC’s and 123′s. But I don’t believe that’s the case either, unfortunately.
One paragraph made me laugh out loud though:
Alan Zack, product director for Encore Software, a Los Angeles company that makes and distributes educational programs, said, “Kids come home and they don’t want to get on the computer.”
OK, maybe that’s true at the preschool and early elementary age, but after that, many parents are going to have to learn how to pry their kids off the computer.
What did you buy your kids a computer for? Are they using it as you intended?
[Thank you to AJ @ Thingamababy for the heads up on this news.]