Technology: Educating todays digital native children

Technology is something that has been growing in the back ground of our every day lives for years. We rely on it more than we know, from our working life to everyday tasks, technology is nearly always present. What I question is; what is it to grow up with technology? We are now teaching the next generation of children, those who will grow up with all kinds of technological products many of which have had a debate around for years. There has always been the question of whether using products such as iPads or even gaming has an affect on our physical or mental health, whether or not it’ll affect us socially and cause problems for the rest of our children’s lives. If it’s not watching the TV it’ll be playing on a game console; screen time seems to be a never ending battle and now products such as smart phones have developed there is even more for parents to contend with and sensor. “When scientists and paediatrician advocacy groups have talked about the danger of screen time for kids, they are lumping together all types of screen use. But most of the research is on TV. It seems misguided to assume that iPad apps are going to have the same effect.” My focus will be on tablets, the soaring rise in their popularity and the ongoing debate on the effect, if any, they could have on a child’s education.

Tablets have been a huge part of this rise in technology even though they have been around longer than we know. The popularity for tablets came in 2010 when Apple released the first generation iPad, since then other companies have been following this design and creating other similar tablet devices. Their functionality doesn’t seem to be any different than your phone but a bigger screen and a sleek design demands to be used. For many the best apps are the games and though there is nothing wrong with gaming you don’t want a child playing something that may deter their brain rather than help it. This poses the question of whether apps could be educational at all and would those educational apps actually aid in a child’s learning?

What is the current state of affairs?

Today household ownership of tablet computers has more than doubled from 20% in 2012 to 51%

Today household ownership of tablet devices has more than doubled from 20% in 2012 to 51%, this is not to say that all households have children and all those children are using tablets. However, this does mean the influence of other family members on the younger generation will mean that more and more children will end up using tablets as a result. We can’t blame them, what child wouldn’t be attracted to a shiny object that lights up to your touch? The issue today lies with whether allowing a child to use a tablet device will cause any form of restriction later in life when it comes to education. What’s very peculiar is the idea that toddlers understand the basic use of tablets much easier than adults. It is as if they’re logically made for children,in Discovering the Digital Generation it is quoted; “…children today are fundamentally different in the way they think; the way they assess, absorb, interpret, process, and use information…” Children seem to have a natural inclination in how tablets should be used and this is where many people seem to be taken-a-back. It immediately goes from quite an astounding situation to accusations of children using tablets too much and even of children being addicted to them.

What are the benefits of children using tablets?

Toddlers playing on an iPad.

Toddlers playing on an iPad.

The idea that tablets can help children, especially those in the early learning stages, is incredible. It is an advancement in technology and one that many people praise. However, educational systems that use tablets are being bad mouthed even if what they are doing is beneficial for the child. A local nursery in Bath is one of a few that provides iPads for the toddlers. Snapdragons run by Lyndsey Tanner, the branch manager, is accepting the changes in technology and Tanner is rather set in her opinions “I get really cross when people say that iPads are a sedentary activity. Actually, do you know what, come and spend a day with me and I’ll prove to you how wrong you are. It is the future, and it enhances their learning massively. It has never replaced any more traditional teaching methods we use. It is just another toy in the box.”

The public forget to recognise that not all people are the same and that should not dismiss children just because they are so young. Someone’s learning could be completely different to the person sat next to them not forgetting those with learning difficulties. Rosie Flewitt, from the University of London and part of the Institute of Education took part in a study. This study looked into the tablet use that took place in a special school. She observed the children who were writing stories and designing book covers for those stories on an iPad; ”it was a form of mastery for those individuals that hadn’t previously been accessible to them without a lot of help from other people,” she says. “But beyond that there was something about the activities that captivated all the children intensely and motivated them to carry on.”

It would seem the results of using a tablet all lies with what you use it for. For education the results from Rosie’s observations would prove that it could be very beneficial but it does not just have an affect on that, the attention, memory and social development of the children could also be benefited.

“Being able to manipulate their environment gave these very young children a kickstart to learning.”

(Read more on the Guardian)

Are there any cons to tablet use?

Although the argument for tablet use is strong, there are many who are set against it. There is much speculation around the idea of young people, especially toddlers in the early learning stages, using tablets in their everyday life. “…the digital world is changing the way kids think, their brains are being altered by the audiovisual and interactive experience provided by online digital tools.”

Why is there such uproar against tablets and their link to education? They’ve been proven to aid in the growth of knowledge for children so is it the unknown that puts people off? The fear of addiction seems to be one that is troubling parents, overexposure to technology has also been linked to weight gain, aggressive behaviour, tiredness and repetitive strain injury.

The use of tablets seems not only to effect the education side of things but also a child’s social and physical development. Colin Kinney, a teacher from Northern Ireland, “I have spoken to a number of nursery teachers who have concerns over the increasing numbers of young pupils who can swipe a screen but have little or no manipulative skills to play with building blocks or the like, or the pupils who cannot socialise with other pupils but whose parents talk proudly of their ability to use a tablet or smartphone.” A statement which is backed up by Jonathan Ive, the senior vice president of design at Apple. Although his argument is based on those at a design school the statement he is making applies to all; you may have the skills to make something, to create something on a screen but you may not even know what that object is and how it should be used.

Jonathon Ive, he senior vice president of design at Apple.

Jonathon Ive, he senior vice president of design at Apple.

Ive is not the only man at Apple who has objected to technology being the substance of our lives. New York Times reporter Nick Bilton interviewed Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, asking the question “So your kids must love the iPad?” Jobs responded: “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

If Steve Jobs was unwilling to let his kids use the iPad, why should we allow ours? The key must be for children to use their time in front of them to best advantage by downloading the best apps and the right software to aid their learning.

“It’s finding the right quality of apps that’s important.”

The decision on a child using a tablet begins and ends with the parent. It is simple, a child does not control how much time he or she will spend on a device, nor does a child choose or should be allowed to choose what apps are on the device. What we have to realise is that education is changing as a whole because of technology and the struggle for many, especially those that have had technology imparted on them and have not grown up with it, is that we have to adapt to it.

To find out about the effects of technology on the older generation click here

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