Should children use technology?

The ongoing discussions about whether children should or should not use technology, particularly of the mobile variety, continue and so they should We need to be clear about what we are dealing with. We need to be clear about the benefits and pitfalls. We need to be clear about what constitutes abuse of technology with children. Mobile devices are everywhere. The internet is everywhere. If you choose not to let your child have unlimited access to technology, then you need to be able to deal with the thoughts around the fact someone else might allow them access. Schools use mobile devices to good effect. Classrooms ought to be a safe, reasonable place for students to learn responsible use and the benefits of technology. Parents who do not want that can use schools which don’t use technology and have a different approach through early childhood. Have we decided what the best age is for using technology? Have we decided what children need in terms of experience when it comes to technology? I have seen primary school children in the Apple store in town. They love it. They are totally focused. I saw children at the Yidaki exhibition in the museum in town. It was an interactive exhibition with a well thought out use of technology to deliver its learning and messages. The children were silent. No one asked them to be silent. They just wanted to be and they wanted to see what the different technology offerings did and how they worked. They were lost in learning. It’s not technology which is the problem. It can certainly be the content and it can be the lack of balance. Everyone needs to practise a range of skills and to be open to learning from all sorts of areas and experiences. There has to be balance.

Taylor and Francis online have some interesting discussions about some of the myths surrounding children and their use of technology which are worth considering. Victoria Prooday is a mother , occupational therapist and blogger who is deeply concerned about the welfare of children in our society and puts forward some strong discussions and ideas about what we need to look at, how we might address it and then what we need to stop avoiding. We all need to look at this so that parents, children, experts and professionals can all have an ongoing conversation about what to do. We do need to manage technology until children can manage it for themselves in the same way we manage driving, ratings for media, travelling. We haven’t quite got it right where we are clear that adults need to be responsible for technology use until children are old enough because we haven’t decided what old enough is and what that means. We don’t have that problem with other things. There is a very good honours project by Kristina Hatch which looks at Determining the Effects of Technology on Children. We need to keep having that calibre of research, the discussions and the conversations. We tend to create opposing sides when we are not sure which way to go and what is the right thing to do. We need to keep exploring the experiences children can have with technology so we endorse the benefits and limit the negatives.

– How old do you believe children should be before they are exposed to technology of all sorts?
I think the only reasons very young children should not be exposed to digital media have to do with matters
of health – I’m not sure we know yet how much of what kind of exposure to electronic devices might have
some kind of negative impact on the development of very young children. But other than that, I see no
reason why babies should not be allowed to enjoy smacking their little hands on an iPad screen and
enjoying the colorful splashes and silly sounds it might make when they do it. The problem is not
technology, its doing any one thing to the exclusion of all others, a kid reading books every minute all day,
every day, is not a good idea either… Kids need a balance of play with all their senses – and the more we
can use our bodies while playing with digital devices, the better for kids. And kids also need a balance of
the real (nature) and the invented (all arts, including computer and video).

Cornelia Brunner – senior research scientist at the Center for Children and
Technology

Free audio books

 

Being read to at bedtime is no longer the privilege of a good  childhood. Now anyone can be read to and there are plenty of free audio books online. YouTube is one of the places you may not have thought to look for audio books. Some sites offer reasonable free trials of free audio books and then you have to pay something like $15-20 a month for unlimited access. That might suit some people. I listen to audio books sometimes in the car and there are times when people are too sick to actually read but would welcome being read to.  thebalance offers 15 sites where you can get free audio books online. It does mean you can use your phone or other mobile technology to listen to books if you are on the move and it does save carrying a book or reader around if you need to do it that way.

Educational app evaluation

Image: pain rating app

It’s pleasing to discover that the world has become very serious about rating mobile apps for educational purposes. There should be some solid reasons and explanations for using apps in an educational setting and there ought to be a well considered way now for rating apps because we have had mobile technology for quite some time . As an educator you need an approach to apps which will guide well thought out decisions about apps’ use. You also need a way to include learner opinion of apps because they are at the receiving end of it and need to be encouraged to be more than passive users. Education apps won’t improve unless we are all working together as a team and rating apps is a good way of identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement. With some apps you have no choice . They are introduced into an educational environment and you are expected to use them. If you can then go though the process of rating them then there is solid evidence and data to help inform decisions for negotiations about the use of an app or to be able to contact developers and ask if they can work on certain aspects of the app. Those who work in technology usually like a challenge and so are very approachable if you can be clear about what you are asking. Digital teaching and learning is a constant improvement environment and way of being where clarity is important. There are some very helpful evaluation sites which show how you can go about rating apps:

Mobile app rating scale

App evaluation checklist

Ways to evaluate educational apps

I always involved students in app rating and it was a very helpful and interesting exercise for all of us:

The great iPad app review
There are also two useful pdfs to download if you click on the links:

Evaluating apps for Teaching and Learning

Rubric iPad Apps v0.4 Department of Education Western Australia

Technology trends 2017

Gartner is a big, American technology organisation which delivers technology research to global technology business leaders so they can  make informed decisions about key initiatives. It is one of the sites to keep an eye on if you want to see what the trends are and have some intelligent information to go on. It looks at different aspects of the impact of technology on our world and how it shapes it. It looks at the things which are changing and how they are being changed. What we don’t want to do is leave people out of this and people need communication and information. They need to know how to navigate the systems which are now in place. The information about how things are changing are getting to normal people as easily because so much is going on in the areas where the developments are occurring and so those who work there are used to it but hen it is not connecting with the larger population. The changes are quite quick and so what you thought was the way to do things isn’t any more. Much of the change is driven by big data and how we can analyse and use it but that then isn’t translating into everyday knowledge necessarily. More than ever we need to talk to each other , share information and share ways of doing something. We also need to be constantly aware that big changes are occurring and we need to look out for them and have some idea of how the world is now being landscaped. Communication is fundamental to that. Having grand new ways of doing things won’t help if people don’t know how to easily navigate them and don’t understand how the systems are now working. The video sums up the key changes very succinctly.

Puzzle Craft 2

PuzzleCraft2I completed the 50 levels of Puzzle Craft and got into my Imperial Castle. I can still play the game if I want to but I have achieved all there is to achieve. I thought I’d give Puzzle Craft 2 a go. Initially it was a shock because I had gone so far in Puzzle Craft and had enjoyed the freedom of it. I was back to having to build up resources and currency and Puzzle Craft 2 is far more complex. It seemed a bit kiddie at first but it’s not. There is so much you have to manage and keep your eye on. For a busy brain which likes to puzzle this is the game. There are so many elements and strategies . The game puts in challenges and it works across different villages this time. I have completed the second village and have to gather the resources to move on to the third village. I packed everything up without realising that. Not to worry. It’s not easy to work everything out and some of it you stumble across or the game gives you a bit of help. It’s certainly a generous game in terms of offering supplies and bonuses. I hate the notion that you can pay real cash to get yourself out of every single difficult situation. In my opinion it’s a bad lesson to teach and defeats the purpose of gaming. Games make squillions of dollars, it’s true, but cash ought not be the driving force because there is so much teaching and learning which can occur with a game and that to me is the most important thing. If I just buy my way out I have gained nothing.

 

I have got myself going and am currently stuck because there is no way I am going to be able to get 150 iron out of the mine in one hit. The puzzle board has 36 squares and not all of them are filled with iron. That is a tough challenge. I have learned to make tools on the first farm to save the resources on the second farm for the other tools. I am not sure why buildings provide free tools when they are not added to the count. You are strictly limited on the amount of tools you can have in this game unless you pay for special packages with game currency which you can build up quite well. Those tools are added to the stock pile. Sometimes I just play the boards without the tools. I try to focus on the one thing I have to do but it doesn’t quite work out that way because you have other things to keep in mind and that is where strategy and planning come in handy. I hate the long chains but the game thrives on them. I preferred the shorter chains of the first game. You can shorten the chains by hiring workers but that comes slowly when you don’t want to keep paying out more real money. There is plenty of variety in game play and it’s a game which keeps you challenged. It will change as I go up the levels and I look forward to discovering whether I enjoy it as much as I ended up enjoying Puzzle Craft. The graphics are really good and the level of organisation in the game is good. There is a really comprehensive review of it on GameZebo.

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