Tech and kids

by Lisa Nicholls Sat, July 30 2011 07:04

It's almost J(2)'s second birthday, a fact I am finding very hard to believe.  That means it is almost a year ago that I changed jobs, something I will always measure in J(2) years.

A propos, somebody just asked me in a blog post comment about how you might teach games programming to kids; I've answered as a follow-up comment in the same post.  As you'll see if you read that exchange, it's caused me to reflect on other tech-related teaching in my life.

Teaching and Learning

Right now I'm immersed in facts of life about education that might seem exotic to programmers but are every-day problems in the Californian K12 world.  (Such as: if a child is entitled to special services but is incarcerated, how does the district find out, to provide whatever we are legally required to provide?)

Generally, I spend a lot of time figuring out how people learn, whether as a developer of dev tools trying to write reasonable documentation -- always a struggle, often mentioned here, and planned as a major post topic sometime in the near future -- or as a developer trying to create a user-appropriate UI. 

It's part of my vocation, and also a personal interest I've always had.  Maybe it's because neither C or I learn well in "standard" ways, but I'm always on the watch for clues about how it all works.

Anyway, what I wanted to mention today is: regardless of how kids learn about using technology, what they are learning, and the learning context, seems to be changing a lot.

The iPad and I-Thou

A few days ago, J, J(2), and I had a Skype session, just for the heck of it.  C and I see them all the time, but this was a new experience, celebrating a new iPad in their household. 

I am amazed at how that kid has changed recently, in his relationship to people on the screen, whether in Skype or on TV. 

 A few weeks ago, Sesame Street was just a bunch of lights and colors. Now he interacts with the characters and recognizes them again when he sees them in a book.  In Skype, he understands, and joyously practices, the acts of "hanging up" and then re-initiating, a call.  He relates to the person at the "other end" of the call as a person, not a TV show or a picture.

Then again, I'm not sure he knows the critical difference between an animal and a battery-operated toy that moves and makes sounds.  I'm not sure if the division between "living" versus "machine" has any place in his universe. As computer interactions increase in sophistication, maybe it never will.  Maybe by the time he's 80, people will live on as interactive holograms when their bodies are worn out. Maybe  by then machines will have a reasonable sense of humor.

If you can get your hands on a short story by Anne McCaffrey called "Dull Drums", read it.  It's in a bunch of anthologies by now, but was originally published in Get Off the Unicorn, I believe.

Double-plus-un-Goodness Gracious

It's nice to imagine a future like that for J(2) or J(3).  Then again, maybe Kevin Gilbert had it right after all.

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Life