Technology is not only revolutionizing how kids are learning in a school setting, but also impacting virtually everything else they do. For anyone raising young children — human beings who are literally growing up alongside touchscreen devices — don’t be afraid to ‘flip’ traditional parental functions in order to stay ahead of all the changes.
Here are three ways to embrace Flipped Parenting.
Let your kid lead
Children who are five years old or younger are not beholden to gadget interactions that existed before iPads and other touchscreen devices. Whereas we have to retrain our brains to appreciate the simplicity of touchscreen-based media, it is all they have ever known. This gives them an advantage over time in terms of their ability to process, and eventually create, media from the devices. When I was a kid, my parents relied on me to schedule show recordings on the old VHS. My son Dylan, who is four, regularly points out features in foundational reading apps that I otherwise would not have known were there.
So, rather than positioning yourself as a roadblock to this new world, focus on trying to see the excitement and possibilities through your kids eyes. I’m not advocating gorging on iPad games and videos all day and disregarding screen limits. Rather, to whatever extent you enable your kids to interact with the tablet, pay attention not only to what they are watching or playing, but also how they are discovering and understanding the new media.
The most advanced education technology for young children doesn’t require a screen. One of the newest inventions coming out the MIT Lab’s Tangible Media Group is inFORM, which renders 3D content in a physical form. As this video displays, users can mold inFORM data as if it were clay or a series of building blocks.
inFORM – Interacting With a Dynamic Shape Display from Tangible Media Group on Vimeo.
The goal of inFORM and similar projects is to replicate the tactile functions kids typically experience playing in the sandbox or with modeling toys arranged on a classroom carpet. The assessment capabilities and potential for advanced motivating sequencing of these activities is limitless. We are only scratching the surface here, and most classrooms are not yet equipped to offer these experiences.
In the meantime, your kid can learn the foundations of computer coding (arguably the most important professional skill for the generation ahead) by playing around with wooden programming blocks like those offered by the Tern program at Tufts University.
As longtime kindergarten teacher and technology pioneer Frances Judd recently explained to the Fred Rogers Center, “if we can find technology that is relevant to the sand table, to the block area, to the water table, then we have reached an important learning moment. And the reality is that this technology is available now.”
Less than a decade old, YouTube (among other things) arguably stores more educational content than anywhere on the planet. Educators regularly use YouTube (and the lesser known but equally as functional Vimeo) to record and transmit video lessons to their students and other interested parties. While you may already know about great educational videos produced by Khan Academy and TED Education, there is a wealth of relevant content specific to early childhood and K-thru-12 students. LearnZIllion is a great resource to teach math, language and reading skills to elementary and middle school-aged students. And there is still no better way to introduce civics to youngsters than by showing them the classic Schoolhouse Rock clip “I’m Just a Bill”. The trick, of course, is figuring out where to locate it, and identify videos that are best for your kid’s level of study.
In partnership with Appolicious, Verizon Educational Tools recently debuted a video section that curates the best selections available on YouTube and Vimeo. Specifically, expert educators identify the best five videos for 10 different subjects for all K-thru-12 grades. Videos are given report cards based on a proprietary rubric, and also tagged according to whatever Common Core Standards they teach. Additionally, videos are selected for students with special needs, including Dyslexia, Autism, and developmental speech issues. The Verizon Educational Tools service, which also curates the best apps by grade level, Common Core Standard, and device, is available online and via iOS (videos coming soon) and Android applications.
Ultimately, there is no one or best way to integrate media and education technology while raising our kids. We all have our own style, as well as varying attitudes in terms of how much exposure our young ones should have to digital and electronic media.
Yet digital learning tools are not going away anytime soon. Our kids will not only be assigned digital media throughout their education, but most likely will be expected to master and advance these tools over the course of their careers. We shouldn’t instinctively be afraid about this technology, or resist trying to master it ourselves.
Watching and learning how our kids use it is a good place to start.