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Articles : Internet and Education: Thorndike's Laws of Learning

Internet and Education: One Mom's Perspective

By A.R. Linder

What is all the hoopla about children needing to be exposed to computers and the Internet? Let me share my experience.

My child isn’t a genius. Heck! Most aptitude testing has revealed that she is of average intelligence. But somehow this child has managed to consistently score above the 90th percentile nationally on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills — 98th and 99th percentile in math. And, on Georgia’s last Criterion Referenced Comprehension Test (CRCT) scored 450 out of 450 on the reading section, surprising given that math has consistently been her strongest subject.

I’m not sure of the exact reasons for the performance on these tests, although I believe a lot of it has to do with her hard work, consistent effort, and my persistence as a parent. That persistence has included using every resource I can find and afford to help my child excel. Many of those resources have been on the Internet.

Thorndike’s Laws of Learning

Many years ago while developing Air Force training courses for U.S. Space Command, I became fascinated with the use of computers in learning. Also while working in the training area, I became a believer in the principles of Thorndike’s Laws of Learning. I have tried to incorporate the essence of those laws of learning and to incorporate computer technology as I have dealt with my child’s learning:

The Law of Readiness: This law asserts that before a student can learn, he or she has to be ready to learn. That means making sure the student is fed, free from too much worry, comfortable, and well aware of the importance of what is to be learned. In other words, the student must be prepared to learn. One exercise I have done with my child is researching the admissions criteria for different schools. We have also compared the costs of different institutions. We have even gone as far as to look at scholarship requirements. We have been doing this since the sixth grade. By understanding the requirements now, hopefully, we won’t be running around in the junior and senior years trying to get things in order. It is awfully difficult to bring up that grade point average in a couple of semesters, especially if the young person is stressed by time constraints.

The Law of Exercise: It makes perfect sense to me that with all other things being equal, those things most repeated are most often remembered. So, we make sure that practice is part of the study routine — especially when dealing with essential facts and rules. The Internet and various software can be very useful in providing repetition in a not-so-routine manner.

The Law of Effect: This law deals with ensuring the learning experience is a positive one. I remember clearly when I began to dislike math — a subject I had loved until I had the wrong teacher. I remember my worst days in school. I remember my best days. I remember the teachers who were creative and inspiring and know that the best skills I possess today are in the areas they taught. That is the law of effect at work.

The Law of Primacy: Goodness, have you ever tried to unlearn something you learned how to do wrong? This is the Law of Primacy, which states that what is learned first is learned best. You really have to make sure that the resources that your child uses are good resources. Every textbook is not a good textbook; every website is not a good website; and every teacher is not a good teacher. And assuming that these tools are good simply because they exist or because the school system uses them can cause your child a world of harm. A parent really has to do more than have these tools available. If you sit in on a teacher and you cannot follow the instruction, then there is a very good chance your child is not following that instruction. And the same rule applies with other resources as well.

The Law of Intensity: This law deals with the vividness of the learning experience. If I take my child to the zoo to learn about animals, he or she will learn more than if I just explain the animals. However, there are so many places out there that I neither have the time nor the money to take my child. The Internet has been especially useful in getting my child to those places. And let’s not forget the library. Before computers the library is how my parents took me to far away places. It still works and every library that we have visited recently also has wonderful computer resources as well. So, if you don’t have a computer at home, that is certainly no excuse for not spending some time with your child using this wonderful technology. And I still buy books for presents — wonderful, exciting, colorful books.

The Law of Recency: What is learned most recently is remembered best. And that is why those reviews right before the test are so very important. We have also found the hundreds of little quizzes on the Internet to be helpful in this area.

We have heard it time and time again — whether we believe it or not. There is just not enough time in the school day for your child to learn all the things he or she needs to learn. I have found to be equally the case that there is also little time after school for me to dedicate to my child’s learning. It seems after career, housework and the business of running a household, the time I want to spend with my child is not teaching time but chill out time.

But be that as it may, I have tried hard to make time for teaching as well. And the resources on the Internet have definitely helped. While I’m doing some of those household duties, I can park my child right in front of that computer at a website that I have reviewed. And then we can get together afterward and talk about the site as well as the rest of our day. These sites have also helped with the budget because free resources are definitely cheaper than a lot of the software out there — although I have definitely invested in that for Christmas and birthdays.

If you think that I have developed a computer geek, you are wholly wrong — although I don’t think this would necessarily be a bad thing. This a child who is a member of the school basketball team, several clubs and organizations, a team leader for the Odyssey of the Mind competition, the first runner-up for her school pageant and a social butterfly.

I truly believe that the resources of the Internet have helped my daughter to tap into all of her talents. •

© 2004 A.R. Linder

About the Author
A.R. Linder is the editor of A cornerstone of the website is a wonderful area called — a compilation of many of the websites she has used in educating herself and her child. Ms. Linder is a graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL.