Thursday, February 21, 2019

Give a Child an iPad - 8 Years Later

I have always been an early adopter of technology even way back. I remember being in grade school programming in BASIC on my Commodore 64. Technology has changed a lot since then. It is much more obvious the impact it can have on learning. When the iPad 1 came out in 2010 I was one of the first to have one. iPad was not the first tablet in our house (tablet being defined by a touch screen computer in slate form); however, it was the first that was truly refined and did what it promised.

That same year, my son Carsen (he would have been 3 ½ then) got to know the iPad. He loved music and before the iPad we spent hours in front of the computer listening to music (back in the days when you had a desk for the computer). The iPad to start with was music, but shortly became the source of lots more. I specifically remember people questioning my judgement of a 3-year-old having a $500 device. But he was definitely one of the first kids in the world with the source of all human knowledge in a format that he could learn from before he could read.
Not to worry, we always kept a close eye on the content (Ok there were probably some music lyrics that are a bit inappropriate for his age), but we always had the content filters turned on for our home network. You might also be wondering how having this access affected his interactions with the real world (versus the virtual world) and really since he has always had access, it isn’t something special. If anything, interacting with other children, adults and family was the special interaction so he would put the iPad down and interact well. He gets top marks in school, has lots of friends and still loves baseball. He was Facetiming Grandma when no one knew what Facetime was!
So, what does a kid do on an iPad some 8 years later? Well, first they began to distribute iPads to the kids in grade school for learning and he was way ahead of them when that happened. He still brings home his homework on his school owned iPad every night and does math homework and more (now in middle school). Really what I find interesting is his consumption of knowledge. I believe most of his time is spent on YouTube listening and watching videos on everything from the latest video games (Fortnite) to learning about things I would have never thought a 12-year-old would be into like history. It is constant the information he is asking me if I know. Information on the 80’s (as if I didn’t live through it) to how to get things done, and even the latest world news.
I remember back to the early days when I would pay a dollar or two for the interactive book apps where he could look at it on the iPad, it would read it to him and be interactive where he could touch certain characters and things would happen. Others might have viewed it as a kid playing with a toy (which is true), but take that some 8 years later and what has this taught him?
Problem solving in a digital world
Computer skills
This summer I was working on our mower at the house and struggling on how to fix it and that is when Carsen pulled out his digital tool and played the YouTube video on how to fix that specific problem. Even I never thought about the digital world fixing the physical.
The other question I get is how many has he broken? Just one. We never had big, shock absorbent cases on his iPads and just a couple years ago he broke his first screen. When we travel he takes his own pillow and puts his iPad inside the pillow case. He picked the pillow up from the wrong end getting out of the car and out came the iPad on the concrete. That was the only time we had to have one repaired and don’t worry, he won’t do that again.
So, what is the lessons learned from a child growing up with technology almost from the beginning?
You see these children at the store throwing a fit when their parents won’t let them have their phone? Carsen never thought this way because having the device wasn’t unique.
It can be thought of as a game or as access to all human knowledge. It is both.
Just because he has had access to technology does not mean he can’t socialize. If anything, I believe he can socialize with all ages and interests.
When I grew up, I had a record player, radio, video games, books, magazines, newspapers, TV and more. Carsen has all of these as well, they are just in one device though.
I was told that when I was young one of my favorite toys was the small workbench. You know the one. It had a hammer and plastic nails, nuts and bolts and such. I believe that the iPad is just the modern, digital version of that. We will see what the next 8 years bring.