Are Schools Ready for Today’s Five-Year Olds?

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

Over the Christmas Season I have had the opportunity to spend some time with my great grand children. It makes me wonder if schools and teachers are ready for today’s digital kids. Alina, my almost five great granddaughter, is fluent in both English and Spanish. I might also say she manages my dog better than either Anne or I do. She commands and George follows. Therefore she must also speak dog.

However, what is more impressive is her command of her iPad. She told me my iPad was old fashion since it did not have a camera. So much for being the first to have a technology. She demonstrated for me her favorite programs on her iPad that can take pictures. She knew what she wanted to show me and how well she could use her favorite games and stories.

ipad hands2

She likes my Eloise stories on my website because they are in both English and Spanish. She also likes an art program and she draws very good pictures with it.

Her three year old sister is comfortable with the iPad if not the Master user. She did not look down on my iPad but found some of my artwork of cartoon characters that she found delightful.

Both little girls were completely at home with the technology and by the time they reach preschool will be Masters of the iPad. Alina wants Anne and dog George to visit her at her  home. I am assuming she would welcome the old man also. She was able to locate, using the GPS, the directions from our house to hers. So we have no reason not to visit them.

They got a set of engineering building blocks for Christmas, and they build several structures with Uncle Bill on the living room floor. There were illustrated plans, which Alina followed.

My kids and grandkids like to play Scrabble and have bitter challenges that they look up in the old faithful unabridged dictionary. Scrabble yes, dictionary no. It gathered dust on the side table. Challenges were immediately looked up in their iPhone dictionaries.

We have a German made vacuum cleaner that needed a new bag. The kids immediately found three stores in the area on their iPhones. The GPS system on their iPhone directed them to the store for replacements.

The little girls also played matching games on their iPad.

I must ask the question: Are preschool teachers and schools ready for iPad five year old experts? The digital world belongs to them. It is their second nature.

11 Responses

  1. […] By Frank B. Withrow Over the Christmas Season I have had the opportunity to spend some time with my great grand children. It makes me wonder if schools and teachers are ready for today’s digital ki…  […]

  2. Hi, Frank. As you imply, the bottleneck in education may be our teachers. We’re probably past the point where colleges of education and in-service workshops can keep teachers up to date. From this point on, they will need to become independent lifelong learners of the latest technology. Signing up for one or two hour-long workshops every year just won’t cut it. Sitting on their hands on the sidelines and watching won’t do it either. They’ll simply have to jump in and begin using the technology — on their own. Technology is redefining literacy, and the inability to use it to access, manipulate, repurpose, and create digital information is the 21st century equivalent of illiteracy.
    [Revised 1.3.13 at 13:31.]

  3. […] By Frank B. Withrow Over the Christmas Season I have had the opportunity to spend some time with my great grand children. It makes me wonder if schools and teachers are ready for today’s digital ki…  […]

  4. Indeed very interesting story and the implication for the teachers is real.Here in Africa(Kenya) ipads are still expensive, but families that have them and allow children to use, it is amazing how kids adapt to technology. I have a desk top and home, personal laptop and i am surprised at how my kids 5-7 years are comfortable and they are able to research with Google and download a lot of free games. we chat a lot on skype- occasionally the video conferencing is not supported courtesy of poor internet. So, in a way the digital divide is not that bad between the north and the south.With the countries like India manufacturing low end tablets that are still good enough we may have some universal education. I enjoy your write ups, i am writing my Phd and i have quoted you a lot

  5. We should all realize that the iPad is only one of many touch-sensitive computer tablets around these days. They were the first and also the largest seller, which results in this branding (fortunate for Apple). Less sleek tablets are appearing at much lower costs and are being programmed for education.

    I have grandsons of ages 3 and 5. Both can operate the iPad readily, although at different cognitive levels. I had an experience recently with some third grade students in which they had problems with “normal” computer interfaces involving mouse, keyboard, and multiple screen locations. My 5-year old grandson had trouble understanding how to use a mouse (for the first time) despite his facility with his tablet.

    By the time our preschool and primary-grade children reach high school, you won’t recognize what they’ll be using as being an iPad. I just hope that I can keep up and understand this new world we’re entering.

  6. The iPad really is too costly for what it delivers in education. However, that’s changing as other tablet makers create alternatives that cost much less. Some will continue to sell at the high end, but it’s the low-cost tablets that will ultimately transform learning.

    As we see with all new technological innovations, the initial costs are high with the power being relatively low. Faster low-power chips at lower costs will help bring down the cost of tablets while expanding their power. The touch-screen technology must decline in price in order to allow the use of these devices as they’re intended to be used. You can always add on a keyboard, but that’s another problem.

    The hope of speech recognition has still a distance to go before it can be deployed on tablets. When that happens, watch out. Between talking, being talked to, and gesture-based interfaces, the world of the keyboard and mouse will dwindle. (Reminds of that scene in one of the Star Trek movies where Scotty picks up a computer mouse and attempts to talk to it.)

    And to think that I was still using a manual typewriter in college.

    • In some way the young children using technology at home may force the schools to adopt the new literacy programs created by Ipads and other mobile technologies.

      Harry you are right. I feel speech recognition programs are just around the corner. Since I am losing my hearing I now have a caption telephone that translate speech into print. It is a bit slow but very functional.

    • Actually,Harry and Frank, speech recognition is already deployed on tablets: Apple bought Siri last year and integrated it in IOS, Android has always integrated Google Talk (and in the last versions of Android, Google Talk can even be used offline).
      The interesting thing (at least on Android, I don’t have an IOS device) is that the accuracy of this tablet speech recognition seems to improve with its use. I.e. it starts “ecumenical” and not all that accurate, as in YouTube’s automatic captions, but when you use it and correct the written output, it seems to make connections between what you said and what you wanted written.

      Then there are “predictive” keyboards, a bit like autocomplete in desktop text editors, but more courteous: instead of suggesting within the text, they give you a choice of words above the keyboard when you start typing: see the screenshot of A.I. type I posted on Google+. And A.I. type has a key for launching speech recognition too, like other android keyboards, e.g. Swype.

      The above-mentioned apps for simplifying writing are things that we as educators might be more interested in exploring than teenage students. Yet in my experience, once you show them to teenagers, they immediately see a) their usefulness b) how to use them.

      So I agree with you: teachers must try the potentialities of mobile apps themselves. Yet teachers’ training courses might usefully be used to evolve sets of assessment criteria for mobile apps, a bit like those for websites in the former millennium. Among these criteria, some would be technical: bandwidth use, implications of access granted to the app (privacy). Some, more generally educational.

    • Harry I agree with you. Speech recognition is more and more accessible. Since I am loosing my hearing I have a caption telephone that works fairly well. In long speech patches it gets behind but in an average conservation it is quite good.

  7. […] Written with a blend of humor and bafflement, he hits it on the nail.  Read here: Are Schools Ready for Today’s Five Year Olds? […]

  8. […] Written with a blend of humor and bafflement, he hits it on the nail.  Read here: Are Schools Ready for Today’s Five Year Olds? […]

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