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Should we really be so impressed that kids can use digital things?

It IS impressive for a 2 year old to navigate an iPad to find her show, or even manipulate her singing dog to play her favourite song. But, isn't this just memory and habitual skills? We are so amazed at how kids can navigate these relatively more complex toys, because we sure never had the same intuition with them. But is it really a higher-form of learning? I suspect that it's not really. If these things break down, kids don't know why or how. They can't fix them--this just reveals a consumer-level of knowledge, still. Being a digital native, whatever that is, is largely passive.

I really like the idea of true tinkering, creation, first principles and just making things from scratch. And not with just digital things: creating a meal, a garden, a wearable garment, a vehicle etc. Though, if we are going to talk digital--we need the programmers. Why is it that everyone can complain about what's wrong with Facebook, and no one can hack a better version?

I don't know, surfing, deciphering, clicking on the right spots and knowing what technology can do for you is one category of skiils, but this is quite separate from an understanding of the depth, algorithms and logic behind building a system that enables the "magic"--we need to save our awe for THAT.

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  • Nov 22 2012: I applaud all learning in children. I believe that it is the responsibility of the parent to see that the child has what they need for success in life. School provides an academic portion of this learning, but not all. We should be looking for the gaps and supplementing with background, context and experiences.

    I think you are absolutely right about first principles, tinkering and creation. The Scouting program supplements education in many of these ways and provides and age appropriate structure for children and their families to explore some of the things you are describing. Visits to museums, exhibits, public buildings, public services, libraries, and similar experiences offer some context for what they learn in school.

    Increasing skill levels as users of computers is a very important skill these days. Going from software and hardware user to developer and inventor is challenging. There are age appropriate programs for this experience. First robotics, Great Computer challenge, gifted programs, special classes through schools in electronics and robotics are all available. The hobby stores also have remote control and robotic kits that are designed for children. I might caution you that there will be times when adult supervision and assistance is required. Many professional organizations also have outreach programs for kids. I know in the US, ASME, IEEE, most professional engineering organizations have these programs. Japan must surely have something similar.

    Here are a few web sites that are pretty neat. The fist one is a neat tinkering magazine, then a few professional organizations with outreach programs. The last two are what I believe to be the Japanese equivalent.

    http://makezine.com/
    http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/
    http://www.asme.org/
    http://www.ieee.org/index.html
    http://www.iee.or.jp/index-eng.html
    http://www.jsme.or.jp/English/

    If the parents stay engaged with the kids, and do not give up on the kids, they should succeed.

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