Reflections Week 1A Tech – 27/07

Well, this is quite late, but better late then never right?? Last week we were asked to watch two videos. The first one is by Dimitri Christakis, in which he discuss over-stimulating children affect their cognitive development. I found it interesting to note that he also states at the start of his talk that under stimulation also affects children’s cognitive development. The other video was of Sugata Mitra, in which he discusses how he found if you give children access to a computer and internet they can and will learn things that a seemingly ‘too hard’ for them. It is interesting to note that he said that just giving children a computer only does some of the work as he found when seeking to improve the children test marks, that marks improved significantly when a teacher was involved.

From both of these videos we had three questions to be used as provocations. They are as follows:

  1. How do we reconcile the two videos? Don’t they contradict one another?
  2. Christakis’ work isn’t alone. Many researchers are now suggesting children should be screen-free until school age, and some suggest until 7 years. Is this realistic?
  3. If Mitra is right, and children can teach themselves extraordinary things with a computer and an internet connection, do we need teachers? Do we need schools?

Here are my thoughts on these questions:

  1. To start with I think they are addressing different things so reconciling them shouldn’t be that hard right? Christakis is discussing how overstimulation is bad and Mitra is discussing how children with a computer can do extraordinary things. On a deeper level, applying both Christakis’ and Mitra’s ideas to education and the child’s wellbeing, this is where I think there needs to be reconciliation. Mitra’s work shows that computers have great potential and are a valuable educational tool, however this needs to be balanced with Christakis’ findings and definitely need to stay as a tool. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 10 years in terms of how we interact with the interenet. Tom Uglow, one of Google’s creative directors, spoke at TedX Sydney and discussed how google is looking to make interaction with the internet more physical, and completely transform how we use it. If this does indeed happen then I think we can totally reconcile both Christakis’ and Mitra’s ideas.

2. I think that it is unrealistic to expect children to grow up 100% screen free. There are screens everywhere from the bank, to the supermarket etc. However, I think it is possible to raise children that do not grow up using screens as a form of quick entertainment. I feel that screens are used these days as way to quickly and easily deal with children that are bored and need a quick fix.

3. If you actually have watched Mitra’s talk then you know that there still is a need for teachers, as it was only with the addition of ‘face time’ with the teacher granny’s in England that the children marks went from 30% or whatever they were to a pass. This clearly shows that some sort of teacher-student interaction is necessary. I also think children enjoy having someone to look up to, to go to for help, to be a mentor.

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