The Children’s Machine: How children take to technology

A second grader needed a place to hang out and my office was available. The conversation went somewhat like this:

“Make yourself at home. I’ve not got much for you to do but there are a few toys and books if you want.”

“Do you have a spare laptop?”

“No sorry, I don’t.  But what a good idea.”

“What sort of laptop do you use? I’ve got my own website. I made it.”

“You did? What have you got on it?”

“It’s about comics. Have you got videos on your website? I just learned how to add You Tube. Want me to show you? You can’t search for it on a search engine but I can tell you the address. I can put it into your browser. What one do you use?”

Nimble one handed fingers fly over the keyboard of my laptop and up it comes: A website with several pages and some embedded videos.

“Which is your favorite video. Would you show me?’

We watched Charlie the Unicorn 2 where, among other things, Charlie is urged to put a banana in his ear. Pretty funny.

“I’ve got a laptop at home. I use it to find stuff out and sometimes play some games. I also write documents. What browser do you use. I use Safari. Want to see?’

Agile fingers again, pulling up links and programs with confident ease

“Do you know how to use the webcam.”

“I don’t.

“Want me to show you. Let me look in the list. Here it is.” Cursor now pointing to Integrated Camera.

“You have itunes?  Do you have an ipod? What sort of ipod do you have?

“I don’t know what sort. It’s about the size of this iphone.”

“Does it have a touch screen. Sounds like it’s a mini What apps do you have on your phone?  Let me see. You’ve got Safari.  My mom has a droid and it goes ‘droid’ like a robot when it comes on. It’s really cool. Do you know how to make a slide show with music?

“Yes”

“I want to do that. Can you show me? I have a gmail account. Can you send me the link to the program you use?  You can go on my website to send me a message.”

At that point the conversation veered off to the technicalities of the rivalries between the Yankees and the Red Sox and why Phillies fans don’t like Mets fans and what it’s like at the new stadium. And then it was time to go back to class.

Centuries ago (well 1993) Seymour Papert called the computer The Children’s Machine.

He was right.

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