Kids and Technology

January 9, 2010 § 1 Comment

Just a little background information… I have three little girls, one of which is gifted and the other two I would expect would test so also as soon as they are old enough.  My gifted girl is seven, and I’m always trying to come up with ways to teach her things I know she could learn but is not being taught in school.  I want to inspire her and help her live up to her fullest potential.

It is fascinating to me to watch her interact with different technical devices.  For example, she often tries to scroll my laptop and my blackberry by using her fingers.  For a device not to do this, in her eyes, is simply counter-intuitive.  I’ve bookmarked a lot of quality educational sites for her, and it’s interesting to watch her navigate the sites.  Want a true test of usability?  Hand your app over to a seven-year old.

It’s my opinion that we need to be teaching children the basic concepts of technology in a way similar to how math is taught.  Explain when data is going in and when it is going out, what code is (at a very high-level), and what it means to download.  Most likely though, this will not get a child excited about technology, especially if the talks are lengthy and too detailed.  What is going to get them excited is getting to play with all the cool gadgets.  I’d love to play a game with my daughter on a Microsoft Surface and then get her to come up with an idea that uses it.   Location-aware technology will surely produce some quality educational apps for kids.

Technology presents a multitude opportunities to learn and mediums for kids to work with.  One of my recent favorites is Wordle.net.  Spelling homework isn’t so boring anymore!  I’ve also been working on creating a blog with my daughter.  We’ve talked about graphs, code, widgets, and email.

My sister (who is an excellent kindergarten teacher having been named teacher of the year many times) made an excellent point the other day when I was telling her how bad my daughter’s handwriting was.  She said, “These kids will probably rarely use a pen or pencil to write when they grow up. Think about how often you do now.”  While I still think her handwriting should be legible, she’s right.  With the growing advances in voice-to-text technology and the availability and ever-lowering costs of netbooks and tablets, I would expect these to become as common as a cellphone in the years to come.

Quality education in our homes and in our schools must include solid teaching of technology, get kids (especially our brightest, gifted kids) excited and exposed to new and innovative products, and inspire and enable creativity.  Doing so now will pay dividends later both economically and socially for our country.  To not do so could be devastating.

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