This weekend, before the winds and rain came through Vermont and transformed our little state, my family and I drove to upstate New York to go to a birthday party. The party’s guest of honor, Daniel, is a technology whiz, so we got him a gift of an 8Gb flash drive, which we hoped would come in handy as he migrated software and data from the home computer to his new laptop. It will also be helpful for his next project: a computer he plans to build this year with my husband.
Did I mention that Daniel is a 9 year-old boy?
Children are adopting media and technology at an incredibly fast rate, though I am pretty sure Daniel is a bit of a savant when it comes to computers. Most of his peers at the party were excited about the miniature claw machine and the video games he was also given. But Daniel waited patiently for his laptop to charge up, and knew exactly why we gave him that flash drive. He spent a good part of the evening removing undesirable software, and adding the web browser and anti-virus software that he preferred.
Watching him work in a big easy chair in the living room, his feet dangling over the edge of the cushion, I thought about how much has changed in such a short time. Just 15 years ago I got my first laptop and dial-up modem. It took hours to download software or install files using multiple floppy disks. Now Daniel is downloading multiple files at once, using the family’s wireless high-speed internet.
What’s more, I was in my early 20s when I first began to understand what computers can do. Daniel has far surpassed me. He calls my husband up to ask him how to transfer games from one cell phone interface to another. He understands the difference between memory and storage (not sure I do). And for him, this is all fascinating, and fun.
Daniel’s noteworthy aptitude for computers makes me think about our little one on the way. What will he learn? What will he love? Will using technology be so second nature to him that he becomes our teacher before he is a teen? How will these boys find a balance between media and rest of their lives, will it be easier, or more difficult? And how we will relate to them as we age?
No matter what happens, I pretty confident we’re going to have some amazing tech support.
Some more reading and watching about young people, learning, and technology:
- Another really smart young person, Adora Svitak shares some insight about what adults can learn from children in this TED talk.
- The School Library Journal shares an interesting study about what children would like to see in the next wave of computers.
- And a more cautionary note, the impact of screen usage on preschoolers.
PS: We weathered the storm just fine, but many folks around the state can use your wishes and support.