The tech savvy four-year-old
“Miss Mills were you alive during the war?” is the obligatory question asked in most History lessons and it was once again asked this week.
Having heard it for the hundredth time my bruised ego decided to skip over and continue sorting toys into past and present when I was thrown by a new question, “What’s a Game Boy?” Having recovered from the shock, I realised that this is now a toy which has been resigned to the past sitting alongside the humble spinning top and moth eaten old teddy.
For those of you lucky young ones who cannot recall the Game Boy I can even add to the reject list the humble computer mouse! I recently witnessed one of my pupils attempting to swipe the pc screen; on suggesting that she needed to use the mouse she looked at me as though I had two heads.
No one could have anticipated the digital age and how since the Game Boy we have been careering through at an epic pace. Changes and new amazing possibilities seem to occur daily rather than over the course of decades or years. As a result, education has had to quickly adapt, grow, in a constant attempt to keep up. The digital impact has had many consequences and one of these is that many children are now entering school at four with a completely different skills set. It is now becoming a reality that the question asked to parents won’t be, “At what age did she talk?” or “When did she start to walk?” but the potentially new one will be “When did your daughter first swipe?” This is not surprising as according to Ofcom research last year 1 in 10, 3-4 year olds have their own tablet. Babes in arms can be seen swiping through photographs and even knowing where the selfie button is.
Whatever viewpoints we hold, we cannot ignore technology and it is a reality that children need to be able to work within this digital framework and this, in itself, is a very exciting prospect. Therefore we need to prepare our pupils, in the best way possible, by giving them the skills to make the most of these opportunities whilst keeping them as safe as possible. E-safety is the new “Stranger Danger” and is an area of key importance to us and this has to begin at the earliest age in order to support and protect the younger tablet user. Look out for the e-safety books “Dot” and “Chicken Clicking” in the Pre-Prep book box and please ask us if you wish to borrow them, which you are welcome to do. The digital world provides so much for the pupil of today but we are mindful of the fact that this must not replace human contact and first-hand experiences which is possible as children aged 5 to 16 spend an average of six and half hours a day in front of a screen.
Over Christmas like thousands of others, I imagine, I read a small book highlighting the virtues of hygge and the happy Danish way of life – “an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with people we love. A feeling of home”. The author Meik Wiking reminds us about the value of nostalgic memories we particularly hold of our childhood, I could empathise with tales of his adventures and experiences as I was lucky enough to have the same bonfire lighting-hot chocolate drinking-flower picking childhood. But after a while I wondered if the children of today will be able to recall such experiences when they are adults. What will be their nostalgic memories? And will the digital age provide those special moments with loved ones, friends and in our achievements. Therefore, it is essential that children need to experience first-hand rather than through a computer screen, just last week I witnessed in Pre-Prep a pupil playing a violin for the first time, pupils in Prep 2 shrieking with laughter as they programmed their Bee-bots in their ICT lesson, a first Pre-Prep hockey game and two best friends sitting in a tuft spot scanning the pages of a “Where’s Wally?” book – now that’s what I call the hygge.
The key word here is balance; we need to take the positives from both of these words. So whilst we should embrace the digital age we must never forget the past and people on which it was built upon. Achieve the balance and our future generations are hopefully on to a winning combination.
Finally if you venture through the Pre-Prep corridor you will see that the royal Game Boy has been placed in the “present” giving it the honour of representing all electronic devices and making myself and many others I suspect feel just a little bit younger!
Miss Helen Mills, Pre-Prep