Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A little confirmation that something is working here... and some thoughts on technology.

Just a small, special moment that I want to remember:  last night at bedtime, as we sat down for storytime and I started to read, Monkey took the book from my hands and took over.  He read The. Whole. Thing.  That's right, my boy read his little brother a bedtime story last night, while I just sat back and watched with a glowing heart.

This was especially exciting to me because lately, Monkey has been very reluctant to do any reading. I have backed off and waited for him to be ready, because my goal for my kids is that I want them to love reading as much as I do, and I don't want it to ever feel like a painful chore.  He was very excited about sounding out words and learning to read for a while, but then he suddenly began resisting.  Maybe I started putting too much pressure on him, or perhaps I was correcting him too quickly when he would made a mistake, instead of giving him time to figure it out on his own.  Occasionally over the past few weeks though, he has been jumping in and reading a few lines of whatever I'm reading aloud - and he is constantly surprising me by knowing many words (and some are big words!) that I didn't think he knew.

I think some combination of watching/listening as I read aloud, and also playing video games has sparked this seemingly spontaneous learning.  After much internal struggle in trying to decide how technology should be handled in our home, right now I do not put limits on screen time, but I DO limit what he *does* with his screen time.  Meaning, I monitor what tv shows and movies he watches and what kind of games he plays, but he is free to choose what to play or watch within the approved selections, and how long to do so.  Some days he spends a lot of time playing on the computer, and some days he doesn't.  But on those days that he does, I do not think it's wasted time.  This is just a format that "toys" have evolved into, IMO, and I think there is a great deal of learning happening during this kind of play.  He often chooses educational games - for example, those on www.pbskids.org and www.coolmath.org.  But even in games that are not specifically educational in purpose, there is still value.  Besides motivating learning to read in order to navigate menus and learn intructions for how to play a game, he is also learning basic logic - what steps need to be taken to solve a certain problem (i.e. get past a difficult level) and the satisfaction one gets for solving a tough problem on their own.  He learns how to deal with frustration when he doesn't succeed right away, and he definitely practices persistence and keeps trying over and over until he figures out the solution.

I am constantly reading conflicting articles about this subject, and you can find many on both sides of it.  So far, I have found the pro-technology side of the argument to be more compelling.  I think technology gives us amazing tools to make learning interactive and FUN, and I think people fear it unnecessarily.  Just because it's relatively "new" to the educational scene doesn't make it a bad thing.

Here's a list of links I've bookmarked over the past year or so, that I've found particularly thought-provoking:

No Thank You, We'll Stay Plugged

TED Talk - Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make A Better World

TED Talk - Gabe Zichermann:  How Games Make Kids Smarter

Limiting Video Games is Delusional

Video Games:  An Hour a Day is Key to Success at Life

Surprising Things Parents Should Know About Video Games

The Many Benefits for Children Playing Video Games

Value and Uses of TV for Unschoolers

Benefits of Video Games

A final thought, which came to me as I was thinking about this one day:  I wouldn't buy a kid a toy car and then say, "Ok, you can only play with this toy for one hour a day, and then I'm going to take it away."  That seems silly, right?  Well, I think the same thing applies to technology-based "toys" too.

I welcome any thoughts from anyone on both sides of this issue.  How do you handle technology use in your home?

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