Education, Technology and the Kids of Tomorrow

Brought up into this era of technology, and gadgets that make ‘real’ social interaction a thing of the past, children these days seem to have vastly reduced attention spans.

Kids tend to be glued to TV screens, phones and tablets, and on the whole seem to have less interest in running around outside pretending they’re a superhero (or in my case a character from Star Wars – lightsaber and all). Granted my generation (me included) were at times glued to Playstations and the like, but a good chunk of our childhood was spent using our imagination and making props to make the stories we played out seem more of a reality (e.g. the classic bin-liner cape). Of course the generation before mine was even more adept in this respect. What I want to ask here is why kids aren’t encouraged more to play in the way we used to – using our imaginations and showing a bit of creativity, instead of taking the ‘easy’ option of watching TV or playing video games?

Now I’m no expert in child development, but surely such encouragement is only a good thing for kids’ development? I fully understand that the world is becoming digital, and it makes sense to familiarise kids with technology so they can adapt to this changing world. I mean, aren’t there initiatives being suggested to start teaching kids how to code from an early age now? Crazy, but it makes sense.

I do feel sorry for teachers in all this. As if their jobs weren’t hard enough already, they now have the impossible task of keeping the new generation of kids’ focus whilst teaching them. It seems that if they want to get them to pay attention and listen now, they need to use some sort of advanced techy thing. But OHPs aren’t enough, ohhh no, not since the 90s has that worked. Interactive whiteboards? Please. Kids just won’t pay attention to this sort of stuff now. If you really want to get a kid to learn stuff, put their work onto an iPad – that’s the best I’ve got (don’t ever let me go into teaching).

A lot of my blogging inspiration comes from reading other blogs and articles, and Mashable is one of my key sources for this. However this time I will be referring to an article from a different source (ooo twist!) – Bit-Tech. So this article I found today mentioned something I thought had already been tried and deemed to have failed; incorporating gaming into teaching. Games such as the Dorling Kindersley classics ‘Adding and Subtracting’ and the ‘I Love [insert subject here]’ series (a few of my favourites – ah, memories…) were great learning games in schools, but proved impractical when the 1 computer present in the classroom could only be used by the one kid at any one time – meaning all children had to make do with the traditional blackboard/whiteboard/textbook approach that has proven so successful (albeit for those who could concentrate long enough) in the past.

Sorry, back onto the article. So the beta version of SimCity 5 has just been released, and it has been put forward as an educational tool for teachers to use with kids in schools, as a way of learning about the consequences of your actions. That’s right. Good concept, in theory, but we all know what’s going to happen. Kids aren’t going to learn anything from it – just look at Grand Theft Auto. Do you think kids learn that going on murderous rampages is a bad thing from that game? Does that teach them the consequences of their action? I guess part of it comes down to how the game presents its goals.

If technology and gaming can actually teach kids valuable lessons, which they actually take in and apply to real life, I’ll happily eat a piece of humble pie. Until then, my humble opinion is that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and isn’t doing the next generation’s attention span any good in the process. Mind you, 7 year old Joe running around with a bin-liner cape pretending he was batman might not have had a very large attention span either, so who am I to talk?

Joe Topliffe
Twitter: @joetopliffe



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  2. […] Education, Technology and the Kids of Tomorrow […]

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