There is an article circulating around on Facebook about how Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent. It talked about how Steve Jobs limited how much technology gadgets his kids use at home. The idea is not foreign to me and with so many people who cannot put their gadgets and smartphones down (I believe the “official” term is phubbers”), I am not surprised a lot of people, especially parents, who would opt to limit or even to eliminate gadget use.
But, here is the catch, with advanced technology today, it also comes different forms of learning. Without these gadgets, learning computer programming would not be possible. My son loves to listen to audio books when he is in transit going places (even though he also loves reading actual books, I do not let him to do so since it is not good for his eyes), and having “Harry Potter” on his phone works great! Since we are a home school family, we use “Khan Academy” for Math learning and DuoLingo for Spanish review instead of buying textbooks (for expats, you would understand how hard it is to get American textbooks to other countries, not to mention the costly textbooks as well as the shipping cost). Moreover, since my husband and I both are computer science graduates, my son and daughter get to learn computer programming using Scratch and Lego Mindstorm. Also, they use their phone as his alarms for various activities that he needs to get to. In our spare time, besides many outdoor activities, we share funny posts and videos online with each other. You see, technology and gadgets are embedded in our families’ lives and as a family, we thoroughly enjoy it.
If there is one thing I have learned about parenting, it’s the more you tell your kids no, the more they want to do it and more likely they will go to the extreme. Why not give them the flexibility and freedom and show them when and how they can use the gadgets and devices the correct way? But, on the other hand, technology is not the answer to all learning either. When technology is not used properly, it can have harmful and adverse effects on children, ie., eye sight problems, un-filtered online content, and other health issues. Besides these health effects, I also believe that kids should not just learn from one media. They should learn from multiple sources; go out and enjoy physical activities and nature; travel and see things books talk about or they read about on internet. When the learning motivation is coming from within, kids can learn anything and anywhere.
I strongly believe technology is just a tool to aid and reinforce learning, to peak curiosity, and to spark creativity. There should not be a right or wrong answer to using technology and gadgets. The more prudent question is how you use it and how children are exposed to them. Every kid learns differently. And I would argue that what works in my family may not work for everyone. Every parent and teacher should find what “sticks” with every child. Every kid learns differently and only with differentiated instruction and individualized learning program can really help kids learn.
As an educator and a mother, I have learned from my students and my children that learning cannot be force fed. They must take it willingly.