This is Abby, my adorable 18-month-old neighbor, playing with my iPhone. No one ever taught her how to navigate around an iPhone; no one needed to. Abby, like most children her age, figured out this technology by herself through innate toddler curiosity and intuition – it’s what I call “toddl-olology.”
Is Abby’s comfort with my iPhone a testament to Apple’s ability to create extremely intuitive products? Definitely. But there’s more going on here.
I believe that, as the user interface of technical devices become more intuitive and as children as young a year old make their way easily around iPhones and intuitively fire up the family Kinect simply by walking into a room and waving their hands in the air, toddlers and technology will co-exist in a happy, seamless, oblivious partnership.
I would even say that, because children today have such vastly different experiences with media than their parents did as children, and because this relationship begins so much younger than ours did, their brains are actually being “wired differently” than ours, and they will grow up using their brains differently than we use ours.
My children, who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, were taught by instructors who didn’t grow up during the digital era, so the technical disconnect between teacher and student was, in many cases, quite significant. It wasn’t unusual for a teacher to come to a student for instruction on how to navigate the technical world. By the time Abby enters school, though, chances are that her teachers will be vastly more comfortable with technology than my kids’ teachers were. As that digital divide shrinks, I believe that education will go through a metamorphosis of sorts, resulting in a cohesiveness and effectiveness that we can only imagine now.
Fast-forward ten years. What are your predictions for Abby’s 6th grade year, regarding technology and her education?