Here is Part 2 of my interview with parenting with technology expert Diane Kendall. She offered heaps of really great, practical advice, so our interview is posted as three separate posts. (Here’s Part 1). Part 3 will be posted next week… Stay tuned!
TNP: What are the biggest benefits of technology for kids? Why should they be exposed? At what age?
DK: To me, the two biggest benefits of technology for kids are becoming independent learners and no restraints on knowledge and creativity. The programs/apps/online experiences that are now available now, even for little ones, means that kids can teach themselves lots of things, at their own pace. I always laugh when I hear people say what will happen later when learning isn’t all bells and whistles and interactive characters. My question is: ”Who says there are no challenges in learning using these applications?”
Kids don’t always get the right answer, nor when playing a game, do they become good at it right away. If a game or a learning program is any good, and kids go back to it repeatedly, it is because they find some kind of challenge in it. If the technology was all easy and mindless, they wouldn’t go back to it. Obviously some challenges are greater than others, can lead to more real world skills, and can help kids learn things that will help them with the kinds of skills that they will need for standardized schooling. But the great thing is that kids can go at their own pace using many of these apps and programs. They are not waiting on others to get to their level. They are learning that it is ok to forge on ahead. There is a lot being said in the press and in education about how kids are going to have to be more responsible for their own education in the future. I think technology is going to be a big part of that.
As for knowledge, I was in a meeting the other day and someone was bemoaning the fact that kids have no geographic sense. “They don’t know where Tunisia is!” she exclaimed. My answer to that was looking up where Tunisia is is so easy for kids today that the real problem is taking kids to the next level – What is important in the world today about Tunisia? How are they connected to Tunisia (at least in a kind of six degrees of separation sense)? What compelling reasons are there to know about this country or any other? If kids can answer those questions they are much more likely to know where Tunisia is.
“Factual knowledge is no longer an issue. Kids can look up what they want, when they want. That is very cool. But it makes our job as adults and teachers a bit harder because asking and getting at the answers to those other higher level questions can be a bit tougher, but definitely more necessary.”
As far as creativity goes, I love that many of the tools to create art, music, video, and other media are becoming simplified so that kids can use them to create as sophisticated products as adults can. I think that is very empowering to kids. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is important for kids to create off the computer as well. Get messy with paint and clay and dirt out in the garden and build with blocks and all the rest. But there is something very satisfying about creating something fairly sophisticated, even at a young age, and I think that is a great benefit of technology for kids.
So when should they start at all of this? My answer is that parents know best about much of this. It is important to keep technology appropriate, set some time limits, make sure there is a mixture of activities and more. Because I was a reviewer, my two kids, started young at around 18 months or so because there was always lots of technology at our house. If exposure to technology is done as a “laptime” activity I personally think that there is some merit to doing it with preschoolers. It is a great way to supplement the learning of shapes, colors, letters, simple math concepts, reading and more.