Yes I said it! You may not want to admit it but deep down you know it is true. This is not to suggest that parents should throw children on a tablet and expect an educated, functioning member of society to be raised. Nor does it suggest that without a parents focus, effort, and love could a tablet or app be effective. However with parental involvement, many educational apps found on any tablet are significantly more effective when it comes to educating the current and future generations of children.
I know you still think I’m an idiot but hear me out. Take a second to review a common parenting scenario. You are an involved parent who has just attended their child’s first school report card conference. You come to find out that your child is struggling and reading below what a “standardized test” tell you is a first grade level. Now that B.S. on its own could fill a book but I want to stick to the my point for now. His/Her teachers tells you that you need to work with your child at home, read to them, review their blending sounds, work with their fluency, comprehension, etc.. Yes this may be sound advice! But is is realistic?
Quick, what activities can you think of right now that target phonetic awareness? What comprehension strategies do you know? What is a child’s reading level supposed to be in 1st grade? What does your child reading on level E mean? What the hell are non-sense words?
Let’s be honest with ourselves. After the alphabet song, maybe a chart with pictures coinciding with alphabet sounds, and a set of flashcards, the majority of us are reading to our children and hoping they pick it up. This is not because we do not want to help, or do not value education, it is because this is what we know, and this is the way it was taught to us. And guess what? We learned to read and we picked it up. These activities do hold value. But the value is not in the educational content or strategy, it is a family value. It is time that you spend with your children. Showing them the importance of literacy and school by involving yourself in their education and moving them forward to the best of your ability. However the reality is the content within some of these educational apps, educational cartoons, and even youtube shows, is more relevant and focused on emergent learners to achieve a desired goal. What I am trying to say is we still need to work with our children but we should be using technology to do it.
We have to except the fact that this is a different generation and in a way a different humanity. This generation grew up differently. It’s a generation where “alexa” as part of the family, “app” and “download” are some of their first words. As a result of this technological evolution a generation learns and retains knowledge differently. Try telling a child of this generation how we went to the library to look up information in an encyclopedia for every project because that is the only place information was available. Or that you once had a beeper and ran to the pay phone (I thought I was so cool with my beeper)! For many of us our childhood did not consist of technology interaction on a daily basis. As kids the only thing a computer could do was word processing and maybe play the “the oregon trail” (that game was awesome!) These stories of our childhood are equivalent to our grandparents explaining how everyone sat around the radio to hear the national news and then trying to tell us it was fun. The reality is that was the world in the time period and our grandparents have fond memories of of listening to the news just as we have fond memories getting dropped off at the library with friends to look up who Ponce De Leon and photocopy pictures for a project on poster board. And our children’s children will look at them and think how boring it must have been to have a phone that only played videos and sent texts but wasn’t able to do “whatever” is coming.
The bottom line is technology is not going anywhere and it is and will continue to advance humanity. Those weird sci-fi movies where everyone wears the same silver outfits and receives a body scan before going in an out of every room is closer than we think. Our children are growing up in a world that has given them access to every piece of human history in the palm of her hand. They may not need to focus on some of the things we held so valuable in our education. Will our children need to know the Dewey Decimal System? Here is another one you may not want to hear, Cursive?? The answer is no, but they will need to learn to code. They will need to know standard operating systems that we do not understand, how bluetooth actually works, and hundreds of other things that we only saw in Sci Fi films will be common knowledge.
The average parent does not understand the research behind educating today’s emergent readers, nor should they, as the average early literacy researcher does not understand what you do at work either. However technology has allowed for experts in any field to reach an audience. Which comes with negatives and positives. I can’t imagine how annoyed Dr’s are today as they are cross examined by everyone with a webmd app. Back to the point, experts are the ones creating the content for our educational apps and they are not doing it to just throw things out there. They understand the importance of children being able to teach themselves to make it as technology consistently advances. Trust that they are experts in their field and work with your child on educational apps. Sit with them, play the games, check their progress, just as you normally would with flash cards, but understand their minds work this way. You may not believe it but you also learned differently than your parents. As they learn and advance their education you can advance your own technological understanding and hopefully see the value in our futures together.
You still may not believe me and possibly still think I am an idiot but give it a try. Try out some of the free educational apps such as www.duckduckmoose.com If you do not notice an increased excitement about learning letters and sounds as well as math facts and problem solving, well them stick to you first opinion. I’m an idiot!