A few months ago, my wife told me a story about my son Dylan that concerned me a bit. Turns out he had been at a friends house and his friend, who is the same age as him, was quite skilled at using a mouse on a computer. Dylan was however not as skilled. He struggled to play the game on the computer. As a result of this revelation, I dug out Tamara’s old laptop and put it in the living room with the intention of having the kids spend a little time on the computer over the course of the week. Just a bit here and there to get them used to using it. The laptop has sat pretty much unused since it’s been brought out. We’ve turned it on a few times for the kids, but by far and large, they prefer the iPad. This brings me to my current quandary.
Dylan and Megan both know how to use the iPad very well. They both know how to navigate around it’s screens, launch apps, and use the apps they like to play. Dylan has become amazingly skilled at playing Angry Birds (loves the new Star Wars one which btw is VERY well done) and Megan loves playing her word games with Super Why and drawing with Dora. Both use the tablet without any issues what so ever. But when it comes to them sitting down at the computer and trying to use a mouse, they get lost, and frustrated very quickly.
Since tablet computing went mainstream with the launch of the iPad, and now multitudes of other tablet/touch devices out there, it got me to thinking about the future of computing. At Dylan’s parent-teacher meeting, we asked about when the kids would start using computers and the teacher indicated that they would get started in the new year with basic keyboard and mouse skills. Knowing that Dylan is going to learn in school anyway, it made me start to re-think whether or not it’s worth it to continue the same at home.
It’s not that I don’t think that learning how to use a mouse is important, but I started thinking about what the world of computing is going to look like to him and Megan as they grow. We are in a major turning point with technology in that it seems things like the PC are slowly dying, and things like mobile phones and tablets are becoming the computing platform of choice in the future. Dylan and Megan have already mastered the iPad and so any other tablet device they go to will be just as easy to learn. If that is indeed the future, is it such a bad thing that I feel like packing the laptop up and giving them more tablet time?
There’s the part of me that wonders if I don’t try and help them learn mouse and keyboard skills at home, I am somehow doing them wrong. But then another part of me wonders that if they are going to learn those skills in school, why not try and focus their at-home skills on things that are the wave of the future. They aren’t going to be using tablets in grade school anytime soon but by the time high school hits, that could be all that’s out there.
I’m somewhat torn because part of me really wants to help them learn more about the same things they are learning in school, but I also want to prepare them for the wave that is approaching. When the time comes that my kids need to have their own computer, am I really going to be buying them a laptop? Odds are they’ll get a tablet device of some kind that will serve them just fine. And if that really is the case, is it such a bad thing to just let the school handle the antiquated interfaces and I can teach them about what they’re going to be asking for down the road.
As someone who grew up with technology, I have been very careful in how much technology I have exposed the kids to. The last thing I want is them to be stuck in the house playing video games when they could be out “playing”. But I am now starting to feel that perhaps a little bit of guidance on all things technology is needed.
I guess the bottom line is that regardless of what I do, as long as they are learning, that’s more important than anything else. I just want to them to learn the things that will be helpful for their future.