A recent study conducted by Latitude Research, featured on Read Write Web, looks at what kids want from technology. The results are surprising and somewhat counter-intuitive, with the recent media reports about the effects of excessive screen time and the debate over gaming as an effective learning method. The researchers found that imaginative creation, connectivity, and artistic design were important, valued, and desired when children described their ideal interactions with technology.
I have a confession. We’re a wired family. We’re three laptops on the couch. Sometimes at the kitchen table. We email each other when we’re in different rooms. We all gather round and watch YouTube videos. Sometimes they’re of cats playing soccer. Sometimes they’re of old British children’s programs (or Pee Wee’s Playhouse, in my case) that we don’t want our daughter to miss by virtue of being born in 2002. Sometimes they’re Twisted Sister videos (her current favourite).
But mostly, we’re trying to take a balanced approach to our daughters exposure to media. All media. We lead a relatively active lifestyle, even having given up our car over a year ago. We bike, we play baseball, we swim, we hike. We rarely watch TV. We’re rabid board game enthusiasts, and even host our own Tofurkey Cup championship at Thanksgiving. But we do believe that incorporating technology into our child’s life serves a few very crucial purposes:
- rigorously tested and reviewed education software, like the kind provided by DreamBox Learning K-3 Math provides a more customized and adaptive math learning environment than the classroom can currently hope to offer. The data it provides us is invaluable, and far more comprehensive than the one-liners in a thrice yearly report card. It assesses skill level and understanding, and then serves up a customized curriculum with activities that will move math learning and understanding forward. (Disclosure: SpaceRace handles the PR and marketing for DreamBox in Canada. But we wouldn’t if we didn’t believe it was awesome.)
- creative expression can be augmented and encouraged through the use of online tools such as Picnik, a free photo editing software. Our daughter isn’t particularly “handy” with pencil crayons or a paintbrush, but the digital art and “remixes” she creates are, to her, a chance to represent the world as she sees it.
- when journalling is practiced in the classroom, it’s often done in a blank notebook and at a scheduled time. Providing our daughter with a secure, private blogging platform means she can record her thoughts and inspirations whenever she needs to. She can add multimedia, like photos she’s taken with our digital camera, images she’s discovered on Flickr, and her own artwork. She can share these precious posts with Nana in Saskatchewan, and looks forward eagerly to the comments from the people she loves.
Of course, there are others. She recently collaborated on a Voicethread for one of her favourite stories with 3 other friends. And she handed in a project, a PowerPoint presentation on Costa Rica, on her own memory stick.
And yet, upon finishing Grade 2, the afore-mentioned Nana from Saskatchewan sent her a copy of Superfudge. A print copy. She devoured it in 3 days.
Balance is important. But if creation and design are key motivators for kids using technology, as the Latitude study claims, then it’s our job as parents to provide the tools to make it happen. Tools that will prepare our daughter to survive and thrive in an interconnected world.
We’ve been encouraged by the recent debate, and the slow, small steps that seem to be happening to make our education system reflect the innovation that exists outside the classroom.
And yes, we will have a lemonade stand outside our house this weekend. And then we’ll all go on Canada Helps to figure out where to donate the proceeds. Because we can.