Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My little 21st Century Learner

My wife Heather and I have a word in our house that we no longer speak aloud.  It brings a choked up, lump in the throat, kind of dread.  The word symbolizes a cross road that every young parent faces when their child starts approaching a certain age.  Even though our daughter is only four we can see an underlying maturity that lets us know she is almost ready.  If you haven't figured it out yet, I am talking about Kindergarten.  My daughter is very excited about going on the big yellow bus and going to school with her friends and in many ways we are excited for her.
Most people think that because both Heather and I are both teachers that my daughters existence has consisted of daily lessons and flash cards.  In truth she has had neither.  Like most educators, we know that the best thing we could do for our little one is let her play and expose her to as much of the world as we can.  It helps that she is immensely curious about everything and is constantly asking about everything she sees.  While Olivia has always shown interest in books and reading, the past few months have been an explosion of progress for her.  I am encouraging this progress with two pieces of technology; my iPod and her iXL.
We have let Olivia use the computer since she was about 2 years old.  She loves going to NickJr.com, SesameStreet.org, and PBSKids.org and playing the games they have available.  Last November I purchased my iPod Touch and Olivia immediately took notice.  She wanted to give it a try, so I downloaded a simple drawing app so she could get the idea of a touch screen.  Well needless to say she took to it like it was written in her DNA.  I downloaded a free book app called, Read Me Stories, that reads books aloud to her.  Seeing how much she enjoyed using the iPod, we looked into getting her something similar, but more age appropriate.  What we found was the iXL by Fisher-Price.  This little game player is designed for children ages 3-7 and is similar to a Nintendo DS.  There are stories, handwriting practice, games, and drawing apps.
Technology is not a complete answer to educating children.  A computer will never replace the personal interactions that develop a thoughtful, well-rounded learner.  Technology is a bridge that can span the divide between you and children who need a variety of means to learn and express comprehension.

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