Today’s kids interact with the world in ways generations past could never have predicted. Technology has had a transformative effect on the way kids learn—it is a learning enabler. I’ve spent a lot of time working with children. They are highly inquisitive people. The world is new to them, and they need to know everything, and they needed to know it, like, yesterday.
I am amazed at the ease with which kids can access information on the internet. I was reading a book about Great White Sharks with a child recently. The child had some questions about these aquatic predators to which I did not have answers. I told the child, honestly, that I did not know. (Why do adults often have so much trouble admitting they don’t know things?) I asked him: “How might we get more information about sharks?” Instantly, he said, “Let’s Google it!” Within two minutes, this little boy independently pulled up dozens of different websites about Great White Sharks. He knew that some of the websites would be better than others, and he decided he could trust an article from National Geographic Kids. The next couple of hours were filled with shark facts and deeper digging: “Did you know that Great White Sharks are really called Carcharodon carcharias?” I didn’t know that! “What else?”
Technology helps people learn through their whole lifespan, and it is shaking up traditional models of education. Historically and in the brick and mortar school model, adults teach children. Technology allows kids to teach adults! More importantly, it lets kids teach themselves, which is a revolutionary idea.
The happy, fact-filled afternoon I spent with that curious kid reminds me of a TED talk I watched recently. Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, studied how children teach themselves new technologies. In his Hole in the Wall experiment, Mitra planted a computer and left, leaving kids to figure it out. The kids taught themselves how to use the computer, and then taught other kids how to use it. On top of that, they taught themselves how to find new information independently. Like me, Mitra learned that kids are amazing at figuring out new technologies and navigating those technologies to learn new stuff. You can learn more about Mitra’s Hole in the Wall experiment by watching his engaging, fascinating TED talk, here:
My background is in education. I’ve spent lots of time learning about educational theories, pedagogy, and best practice. All of that is very interesting to me, but what really makes me excited is taking all of that educational theory stuff and applying it to technology, which is what I do in my role as Learning Designer here at Second Avenue. I’ve learned that kids are great teachers, and technology is a tool that can make them successful.
I’m taking a sabbatical from my role as Learning Designer at Second Avenue. From September through December, I’ll be fully immersed in classroom life. I can’t wait to include technology in my lessons, and put those SMART Boards to good use! I will return to my Learning Design position with new insights about children, learners, teachers, and technology.
Now that you’ve finished reading this, go learn something new!