Monday, February 23, 2009

You Just...Can't....Stop....Them! (TJEd)

Kids and technology. They’re joined at the hip. Or, more appropriately, hardwired to one another. You just can’t keep kids away from technology if it’s anywhere in the house or on their radar.

This is Thomas (9) on my brand-new laptop. That would be MY laptop, less than a week old, barely birthed from its box and midwifed by the Geek Squad. The laptop I FINALLY bought after a year-plus of debate, wrangling, angst, hand-wringing and, finally, justification (God bless tax refunds). By the way, my laptop has proven to be an exceptional Scholar tool, but I won’t go into that right now. Needless to say, I just can’t seem to keep Thomas’ greedy little paws off of it, and his brothers (including the four-year old) are lined up right behind him.

As depicted above, Thomas is in the process of looking up “hedgehog” on Wikipedia. I’m at a loss. When I was nine, we didn’t have Wikipedia, and we didn’t have laptops. We didn’t even have home computers (okay, I just dated myself, and not in a good way). I didn't even have access to a computer (at work) until I was well into my 20's. Now, kids just seem to have a “natural” affinity for computers that goes way beyond anything adults are able to comprehend. They figure out stuff effortlessly that us old fogies – um, I mean adults - have to take classes to learn how to do. If you need to figure out how to do anything on the computer, just ask a child, because chances are very good that even if they haven’t done it before, they’ll be able to figure it out in a few minutes, and then very matter-of-factly teach you how. If you have ANY doubt in your mind about kids’ capacity to self-teach using computers, check out this TED Talk on The Hole in the Wall Experiment (it’s a little ramble-y and not terribly slick, but hang in there because the conclusions are AWESOME).

So, here we are, trying to create a literate-rich environment for our kids, doing the TJEd “thing”, focusing on Classics, etc., etc, etc. And there’s my 9-year old on MY laptop looking up “hedgehogs” on Wikipedia. The up-side is, this is the biggest, fattest carrot imaginable, because I’ve very conscientiously taught Thomas the Phases, and explained that a laptop is a Scholar Tool. When he reaches Scholar Phase, he will get my laptop, and I’ll upgrade to a new one . He is now, he has declared, in Scholar Phase. I didn’t laugh. Really. (Okay, maybe I had to hold my breath to keep from laughing, and now I’m paying the price in hiccups).

So, is technology undermining our childrens’ educations? I don’t think so. We are a technologically astute family with computers and TV’s and cable and even a Wii. The kids spend time on these devices and enjoy them, and we even have Family Wii Night (this is a BLAST!, you really should join us if ever you are in the neighborhood).

But, they also LOVE books. Just try putting my kids to bed without a bedtime story, and you’ll be assaulted with indignant complaints of outrage and four-point arguments that would intimidate a Supreme Court Judge, until you finally concede and read to them (preferably while doing the “finger thing” so they can follow along). Almost as devastating, try sneaking off to the library (or, God forbid, the book store) by yourself for a little grown-up browsing, and you’ll have three kids sprinting down the driveway after you, tears of outrage streaming down their little faces, demanding to go along. When I first signed up for a library card at our local library and they told me there was a limit of thirty books, I almost laughed at them. “Thirty?!? Are you joking?!? We’ll never check out that many!” Well, now I have to put a limit on each child’s take-out, just so I can check out the items I’ve placed on hold myself (don’t you just LOVE placing books on hold at the library? ).

So, I guess the point I’m trying to make (yes, I know, do get ON with it!), is this: Old School classics-based education and New School technology-based education do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. There can be a balance, and that balance will, I believe, be IMPERITIVE during our childrens’ lifetimes. They must be absolutely literate in the Classics, as well as absolutely literate in Technology. Can’t you just envision the joining of the two? It’s almost breathtaking. And, OUR children will be doing it.

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