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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
And the eyes they were / a colour I can't remember / which says more / from verse to verse
— A.C. Newman, There are Maybe 10 or 12
March 21, 2005
Do Computers and Kids Mix?

I was raised with a Macintosh in hand. Maybe not quite - I was 13 when the Mac debuted, but I already had a computer at home when the first Macs arrived in our school lab thanks to Apple Canada. This made this article particularly interesting:

Telegraph | News | Pupils make more progress in 3Rs ‘without aid of computers’

What’s that? No computers for kids? How will they ever learn?

Easy: by making mistakes.

I’m going to try to dig it up, but some time ago I read a study that outlined the difference between “messy media” and “clean media”. Computers fall into the latter category, while crayons are in the first.

Messy in this case, doesn’t mean that mess on your wall that kids make - at least not literally. Conceptually, it’s the same idea though.

Computers are wonderful things: word processors mean you can make an error, correct it, and no one is ever the wiser. It’s as if the mistake never existed.

That’s the problem for kids, of course. It’s one of them anyway. Kids creativity is stifled a bit by the fact that all the work they do on computers takes place in this little box, often sitting in the same place. This creates a stifling, closed environment.

I’ve been shocked at the rapid move of photography schools into digital: I’ve taken some really bad photos over the years - overexposed, underexposed, poorly composed…whatever. Each of these photos is a learning opportunity; each of these photos would have been erased long ago in my digital camera. Digtal cameras encourage a rapid increase in the quanity of photos taken, which doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in the quality of photos.

Technology is a wonderful thing, in the right place, and I’m no luddite - I think the last time I left the house without my laptop was sometime around 1993 - but it does have its costs, and these need to be factored into the equation.

In my view, there’s nothing wrong with exposing young kids to computers but it needs to be done carefully. I’d rather have a 4 year old finger painting than using a mouse.

At some point a line is crossed, but there are other issues to keep in mind: Google is not a library and, in many cases, the quality of information on the Internet is not all that reliable (Wikipedia is a wonderful thing, but is known to have some very real problems.) Kids need to learn to get out, explore the world and learn. They’ll probably learn more about a swamp by going out in their rubbers and sticking their hands in the mud than they ever will from Google.

If it were my kids, I’d be washing those hands everday. It’s probably more fun anyway.

Posted by skooter at 8:19 AM This entry is filed under Technology.

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