Before the digital explosion…

What did our children do before the home computer, iPod, iPhone, and iPad? Both Anne and I have somewhat older children - recent grad school and college graduates, one attending college for the first time, in the fall and one straggler, still in high school. How did we raise our children prior to the cell phone, and for the most part, with only PCs? Imagine teaching our little ones to tie their shoes with the help of Ian's Laces - How to tie & lace shoes.  Or, better yet, dttrainer the activity trainer helping special needs students with a whole gamut of different skills. Touch and Write, and LetterSchool, are apps that allow children to write the alphabet, with shaving cream, jello, finger paint and much more. Kids love to write - especially when they can use shaving cream, jello and finger paint! However, any parent knows those things are messy; you really need to be in a special mood to pull out that activity. Well, it wasn’t easy, but we did it...  and despite the lack of digital devices in the house, all of our children are now thriving in this digital world. I guess they would almost be considered first generation digital natives. We didn't have cell phones when they were born, that explains the almost. All of our children graduated high school as cell phone owners and went off to college with either a desktop computer or laptop. So much has changed in just the last 25 years! Actually in just the last 5 years! It is hard to believe that the iPad was just released in April 2010 and the impact on society has been HUGE! Three events provoked this blog entry:
  1. My oldest graduated from college last weekend!
  2. Anne’s oldest graduated from Grad School on the same day, different coast.
  3. My youngest asked me why I spent so much time on my devices….

Jayne with son Taylor, 5/18/12


Anne with daughter Catie, 5/18/12

          Been waiting for this question. My own children grew up in an unusual scenario with very limited access to even television. When their father moved out of the house when my youngest was two, I took control of paying the bills. The first thing to go was the extra $40. a month for the deluxe cable, back then $40. was a lot of money.  My son’s take on our television situation was to describe it as “Church TV,”  we only owned one set. That was back in the day when everyone owned a VHS player and those tapes were what we watched on weekends. We were all so busy, TV just didn’t play a role in our household. We played outside or played board games in front of the fireplace.  I know, the violins should be playing in the background, as I pine away for those good old days. When my boys started watching sports on their computers, I finally broke down and ordered cable and even went so far as to buy a second TV. Computers were always present, I was a cutting edge teacher with Apple II computers in my classroom and working on a second master in technology. Of course, only learning games were available at that time and the internet was still a mystery to most. My feeling about video games is that children can easily become a video game addicts, they are so very addictive! We never had an Atari, Nintendo, or an Xbox.  Shocking? Maybe, but I knew my control was waning when my oldest snuck a friend's used device into the house telling me it was a DVD player! He actually pulled the wool over my eyes for several months. So how did our children make it without having access to any of the state of the art digital devices that are seemingly everywhere today? They did, just as our parents had and the generations before them. So why am I so involved in the screen world that I so vehemently regulated in my own household? Because I see that digital is the future of everything, and the educational sector needs to embrace this new technology and run with it.  Once again I am brought back to these wise words  by Neil Postman:   That sums it all up so profoundly, it is a bold reminder of just how far we have come in 500 years. So, to answer your question, why do I spend so much time on my digital devices? I have embraced this new digital world head-on because I don't want to be left in the "Old World", I want to be part of the groundbreaking "New World" and I want to help lead the way in revolutionizing education.  
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3 Responses

  1. Sorry for that really long comment – obviously a thought-provoking post!

  2. Congratulations on your children’s graduations!

    When our daughter, whose early years had been computer-free, started school we quickly realised that many of her peers could find their way around a computer with ease, where she had little confidence – it was an eye-opener and made us realise that it was absolutely necessary for us to embrace technology as part of our children’s lives (it was already a part of our own – my husband was a director at a web and game design company at the time).

    In many ways this was the reason why we started developing apps – we wanted to bring technology into our children’s lives in a way that felt in keeping with how we’d do things if we were teaching them spellings/times tables ourselves, rather than an iPad. And when helping our younger son, who’s dyslexic, learn to read, we saw again what an incredible resource digital technology can be and how it could remove a lot of the frustrations that he found with pen and paper.

    However, although we’ve now embraced technology, I think it’s with some caveats – there are some amazing programs out there (particularly the ones which enable children to begin coding or designing themselves, such as Scratch), but we still prefer to use technology as a tool for learning, rather than allowing them to sit and play games for hours…I’m aware that may change as they get older…

  3. Dave

    I struggle with these same issues every day. Frankly, I don’t know what the answer is. I have many digital devices in the house and my son is quite intimately involved with digital technology. I remember my own childhood and how active and physical I was my seven year old is not nearly as active and tends to be an indoor kid. I don’t really like how much he loves his technology because I think as a 7 year old it is coming at the expense of his physical development. I put limits on his computer and gaming time and work hard to maintain his physical activity level.
    All this when I’m using technology every day in the learning of my grade 3 class. It’s incredibly exciting but at the same time we need to keep things balanced. Sometimes I’m not convinced the kids wouldn’t be better off without television and video games, iPods and iPads until they were late teenagers.