It is interesting to look at the differences between generations. Each have their defining qualities that help separate them from the next. The current generation or “youngest generation” has technology as just that. It is evident in their everyday lives. From keeping in contact with a friend online, to knowing what the weather is going to be the next day, kids these days are constantly immersed in a technological world.
When we ask kids just what it is they are doing with technology, most of the time I find that they are using it to learn and discover things about the world. For example, my younger sister loves to draw and is very talented at it. I also noticed that my younger sister spends a lot of time on YouTube. At first, both my mom and I thought that she was just wasting her time watching some of the brain-numbing content that YouTube has to offer. But when I actually inquired her on what it was she watched, she revealed that she was doing the opposite. She was stimulating her brain and used YouTube as a tool to improve her artistic abilities. She would search for and study videos showcasing things such as “shading techniques” or “how to improve you speed drawing” – things that were beneficial to know for her artistry. Things that 10 years ago she would have had to take a class to learn.
This isn’t the only topic I would like to touch on. Kids aren’t just using technology to enhance their skills. They are also using it to learn more about what is going on in the world.
Have you ever had a moment where you may have been discussing some political issue as adults and had a kid pipe-in with their opinions? Then you just stare in disbelief that the kid is even aware of what is happening? This is a situation I am witnessing more and more as time goes by. Kids are using technology as a way to learn about “adult problems.”
Anywhere you go nowadays, there is one thing you are almost guaranteed to see – small children glued to their parents’ (or in some cases their own), phones and tablets. You can’t sit on a bus or walk through a grocery store without seeing a young child (I’m talking 2 or 3 years old), staring down at a screen so that their parents can run errands without too much distraction.
Technology is a huge part of our lives and can be very effective at keeping kids occupied. But there needs to be a limit on how much of their worldview comes from a screen instead of actually experiencing the world around them. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling parents to action, to decide what is best for their children in regards to how much screen time they are allowed per day.
Generally speaking, screen time is defined as any time that is spent in front of digital media for entertainment purposes, (online research and homework do not count). It used to be that the AAP had some relatively rigid guidelines surrounding screen time for young kids. The old guidelines recommended keeping children under the age of two away from all screen media. In October 2016, these guidelines were revised so that instead of focusing on counting down the minutes, the focus is now on how to use technology responsibly with children, no matter what their age.
Considering some ethics in marketing Children’s Media…
The past few years have seen a drastic increase in the amount of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs, products, and especially toys targeted towards girls. As a girl who studied life sciences in university I couldn’t have been happier. This was perfect! What a time to be alive! …at least, that’s what I thought at first.
Now before you shoot me I AM ALL FOR GIRLS IN STEM. Like I said before I was ecstatic at first with all the emerging efforts to bring more inclusion into the field I always had great interest in myself. But as I tend to do, I thought about the issue more and more, and as I tend to do, I began to have some doubts. My doubts aren’t from the idea of making STEM accessible for girls through toys, but rather how we seem to be doing it.
There is a significant under-representation of women in STEM fields. This is not new. It has been repeatedly reported that there are far less women working in STEM fields or even holding STEM-related degrees. The distribution of women actually in STEM is also heavily dependent on the field, with women being more prevalent in biology and heavily lacking in engineering and computer sciences. This pattern has become of great concern in recent years and both the Canadian and American governments have conducted research studies that confirm this disparity.
For today’s tech-savvy kids, computers, tablets and smartphones are the new paper, pencils and crayons. Long gone are the days of writing everything on paper and learning cursive in the 4th grade. Technology didn’t play a prominent role in my life from the minute I was born, and therefore, my peers and I had to slowly incorporate these techniques into our daily practices — especially as they began to contribute to our educational success.
I’ve gained a lot of insight about the modern-day classroom, thanks to my younger cousins. The fact that one of my cousins got her first laptop when she was in grade 6, says a lot about its relevance. I didn’t get my own laptop until I was in grade 12!
Let’s make some more comparisons. In 1998, when I was in kindergarten, the teacher taught us on blackboards. Today teachers use smart boards. Until I hit high school, most of my assignments were to be handed in via paper. Today, it’s Moodles and Google Docs. I used poster boards; they use multimedia platforms like PowerPoints and Prezis. Cellphone and technology agreement forms are a necessity today; they were never an issue in my world until I reached high school.
Of course, every generation likes to compare themselves to the younger generation, but what makes education intriguing today, is the effect these advancements have on children’s learning processes. According to Jason Hames, a Toronto District School Board teacher of 7 years, “[Technology] allows students to grow their community beyond the constraints of distance or time, and it is truly amazing to watch [the students’] discussions deepen as they extend their learning skills.”
Bringing these new teaching tools to the classroom also creates a “win-win situation… [because] student engagement often correlates with achievement,” says Hames. On the other hand, he also points out the importance of setting boundaries so that children understand the difference between using technology for entertainment versus, “think[ing] of them as toolboxes to be used constructively”.
From what Hames has told me about his ever-changing experience as a teacher, the words “immediate”, “interactive”, and “collaboration” really stand out to me. These words resonate as he describes the environment and outcomes offered in elementary schools today. Today’s technology allows students to get in touch with their teacher or peers outside of the classroom, giving them the chance to do work at home just as they would at school.
Considering all the positives of having this new system of learning, maybe making comparisons to when I was a kid isn’t the best approach. Rather than looking at technology as a change, we should perhaps look at it as a development – one that brightens the current generation, and of course, will probably seem out-dated to the next!
I was out for dinner with friends awhile back and while enjoying delicious chicken chow mien, happened to notice a family of four – two adults and two children under the age of six – sitting at the table beside us. Nothing out of the ordinary there, except both adults were sitting across from each other using their cellphones and not really engaging each other – or their children. One of the kids, a young girl maybe two-years old, watched, as her mother snapped a blog-worthy photograph of her sushi. The little girl yelled to get her mother’s attention, which was met with a stern rebuke. Over the next hour as I glanced at this family, the parents animatedly engaged with their mobile phones. Meanwhile I couldn’t help but wonder what message their children were getting. It seems to me the message was cellphones are more important than spending time with their kids.
As an Early Childhood Educator, I often hear parents lamenting the challenge of getting their children to put down their media devices. Eventually, they say, it deteriorates into a screaming match as parents try to get their children to the dinner table. Parents everywhere are struggling with the balance between online and offline engagement. As I watched this family, it occurred to me the parent’s obsession with their own electronic devices might be part of the problem.
Children watch us, and as they watch, they learn. This is how they discover the world. In the late 1970’s Psychologist Albert Bandura developed The Social Learning Theory noting that children learn social cues and behaviours by observing the behaviours and interactions of those around them. What they are learning, in this case, is that it’s okay to use cellphones, tablets and computers during family meals, ignoring those around you. Overly harsh? Maybe, but I’ve seen this often enough to say it’s not a one of a kind event.
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From finance to entertainment, technology has an immense presence in almost every aspect of our lives. This technology helps us check our bank balances on our phones or watch any movie from the comfort of our homes with a couple clicks on the computer. Through the software that we can download on our computers and phones, we have an infinite number of opportunities.
Not only can you download many different types of software, you can use an Internet browser to browse billions of webpages, giving you more opportunities than you can imagine.
But who’s behind the software, websites and mobile phone applications? Well, it’s usually programmers.
Programmers play a huge role in the development and maintenance of our technology, and programming may soon be an essential part of every industry as more of our lives becomes digital, which is why it’s important for students to start learning programming from elementary school.
With technology in all aspects of our lives, programming will be needed with almost every job. Since it is such an essential part of our technology, programming should be something everyone knows.
Many high schools do have computer science classes, which teach the basics of programming, and these classes tend to be quite popular.
Programming in elementary schools would teach children how to make small yet efficient programs on the computer. Programming would also teach students basic problem-solving skills. Many students have trouble with problem-solving questions, and programming would teach students how to solve problems using their thinking skills.
Making programming a mandatory subject in elementary school has been a very popular topic of discussion for a while now, and as of this September elementary schools in England will incorporate programming. Although it’s too early to tell how incorporating programming will help students in England, we will be hearing more about it as time goes on.
For Christmas this year, I decided to skip the meal prep, mall nightmares and cocktail circuit and opted instead to book my family on a seven day, Caribbean cruise (fortunately not a Costa cruise!). Given it was a Christmas sailing, we were pretty much guaranteed a non-stop parade of kids. The thundering hooves down our stateroom hallway short minutes into the trip confirmed my hunch. While my teenagers mostly wanted to lock them up, as a youth researcher I saw unleashed kids as a bonus and was excited at the prospect of viewing my target in the wild. Read more >>
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