Technology and Children

I am currently taking an online course called “Accommodating All Learners.” The focus is on dapting curriculum to Today’s students. One topic that has been interesting to me, is the topic of technology. We have had several articles to read on the subject that have really got me thinking and reflecting…

When I was in Elementary School, we looked forward to going to the Computer Lab, once every couple weeks or so. We couldn’t wait to play “Oregon Trail” or “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”! I don’t remember having any lessons in keyboarding until 8th or 9th grade or so. I don’t even think we had a mouse on our computers back then. Maybe we did, but I don’t remember. I remember taking a class in 9th grade on “Computer Animation” (or something like that). It was done on an old Apple Computer. Basically, we had to program it in DOS to move a certain number of pixels… Very poor graphics, basic language, but we thought we were cool that we could do even that! Of course, none of that class has stuck with me since then, except that I sat by Paul Reidel and we goofed around most of the class!!

Growing up with a Mom who was a Computer Consultant (Systems Analyst to be exact), I was around computers most of my life. I was one of few people that had one at home, but it seemed too complicated to use. It was really just there for my Mom to dial into work, or do work at home, and save it onto her big floppy discs. My Nintendo on the other hand… well, let’s just say, I was pretty good at working it! I could play Legends of Zelda pretty well, and my brother and I could beat Final Fantasy II several times over! We’d spend HOURS playing Nintendo!

I was at the beginning of the technology generation. We had no idea that just a few short years down the road, computers would be such a key part of daily life! It wasn’t until late high school that we had even heard of the internet. It certainly wasn’t available to just anyone! Our research projects meant hours in the library, searching books for just the right information… then, sorting through all our notes, to put it together..

When I was in college, things started changing. My Mom had given me her old notebook computer to use. I remember sitting at Century College, working on papers (with a bad power supply, so I had to save often, just in case). I could also take notes on my computer, though, I didn’t do that much. Research papers became slightly easier, since we could use the internet as a resource. We also could type our notes, so moving around the information we had was so much easier. No more copying and re-copying information! We were limited on how many internet sources we could use. The reality is that there wasn’t nearly as much out there as there is now! With the introduction of AOL, the internet became more available (at least to me)! I loved the social networking available via AOL Chat. Not surprisingly, I became kind of addicted to chatting online, and searching the internet for random things! Things seemed to be exploding technologically, and I loved it! I thought maybe a career in computers would be great for me; that is, until I took a DBA class, and HATED it! It was then I was reminded of my love of teaching!

Today’s youth wouldn’t even know what to do with themselves if it weren’t for technology! Grace, my 9 year old, has been using the computer to play games since she was about 3-4. Michael, my almost 5 year old, has been playing on the computer for about a year. He’s been playing on sites such as NickJr.com and PBSkids.com for as long! He knows which icon to click, how to find the game he wants, and can play them with relatively little help! Grace is learning her way around the internet, can play games, and can even use Word to type letters to her friends! She’s even sent emails, and Tweets to Justin Beiber (the love of her life)! It amazes me that my children can work a computer so well! I, myself, use the computer daily to keep in touch with the outside world… I check my email and Facebook daily.

Children these days not only know their way around a computer at a young age, but also have significant access to them. Computers are available in the schools/classrooms, in most homes, at the library… pretty much everywhere. Children are getting cell phones at younger ages, many of which are “smartphones” that give them instant access to the internet. With even the most basic phones, kids can stay connected to their friends via text messaging. Kids who don’t have phones, can even communicate with their friends through their DS’s…

One of the articles I had to read for my class was all about how teachers should try to find a way to take advantage of the technology kids’ currently have, and use it in their classroom. You can read the article by Marc Prensky, called Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants if you’d like! It’s very interesting… I can see both sides of the debate of allowing students to bring their technology into the classroom. It would be difficult to keep students from using their phones/ other technology for chatting, etc. To keep their focus in the classroom might prove a challenge. On the other hand, if students are expected to sit in a classroom environment that feels completely different from the rest of their world, are they really going to be that successful???

As a preschool teacher, I would not have phones, etc in my classroom. That said, a few years’ back, I asked to have a computer in my classroom with internet access. We had a computer with games, but we were limited by the number of discs we had. By having access to the internet, we were not only able to open up the number of games children could play, but could also have resources galore at our fingertips. I often pulled up pictures, maps, or other useful information that applied to our lessons. We also could find games that directly applied to our topics. What a great tool the internet has become, not only for adults, but for young children too!

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