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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

What parents can learn about technology from teachers

Welcome to the October 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Technology
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their families' policies on screen time.

Media hype around kids and technology often focuses on the dangers. Positive aspects don't get nearly as much publicity. But computers are now used in schools around the world to motivate youngsters, help them learn and give everyone access to opportunities once available only to the few.

One way for parents to get a handle on all this activity is to understand the different ways technology is used educationally. These can be grouped into four broad headings:
  • Research
  • Collaboration
  • Presentations/blogs
  • Games

Research. This is easy to understand but harder to do well. When you ask the internet a question all it often returns is a hundred people with the same question getting dumb answers: "I don't know but have you tried reading a book/asking an expert/phoning a friend?"

So-called humor abounds online. Using my smartphone I recently searched the Internet, when my car broke down, for the location of an elusive towing point at the back of my sister's small auto. The top response, in both Google and Yahoo, was, "What would you tow? A Barbie toy trailer?"

The other problem with children using the Internet for research is unsavoury websites. Schools use filters to block these and parents can set up their own filters on a family computer. Google's safe search can be password protected. But we can't constantly monitor our kids' Internet access on their mobile phones. Talking to them about the dangers and earning each other's trust is the long-term answer. 

Learn more:

Collaboration. A good classroom is no longer a quiet classroom. Teachers now know that learning can be most effective when learners discuss, question, analyse and solve problems together. A wide variety of technology tools support this modern style of learning and teaching

Most children enjoy working together, particularly if each member of a team has a particular role that plays to their strengths in a shared project. Kids with practical skills get a chance to shine not often afforded by a conventional classroom. Everyone acquires the vital adult skills of teamworking at an early age. 

But one aspect of cooperative learning that has taken time to appreciate is that a minority of children badly want to work alone. Kids on the autistic spectrum, in particular, can get stressed if forced to work collaboratively, even in the supportive atmosphere this type of learning tries to foster. If children feel strongly about working alone they should not be forced to work collaboratively.

Presentations/blogs. A key lesson educational technology has taught us is that children are intensely motivated by the prospect of a real audience for their work. Teachers new to technology constantly comment on the performance of pupils not normally expected to be high achievers.

But it is not only a matter of motivation. Creating presentations and writing blogs also promotes learning. “I use presentation software called Keynote," a 15-year-old recently told me when I visited her school.

"It’s like writing paragraphs, but you also put pictures in to show the meaning and make it colorful. I use it even when I’m just studying, because it helps me learn. The colors and pictures stick in my brain. It helps you learn much faster.”

Learn more:

Games. Maria Montessori was perhaps the first person to say that "Play Is the work of the child". But computer games nowadays are often blamed for promoting violence. There is a more positive side that gets far less publicity.

Motivated by the ideas of US teacher and writer Mark Prensky, research studies around the world have been exploring the educational value of computer games. One of the most practical of these initiatives is based in Scotland and led by teacher and lecturer Derek Robertson. "The pupils that we work with, test or interview talk enthusiastically about learning through games," he says.

"Reluctant writers talk about being inspired to write because of the worlds of the games and the images that they find themselves immersed in. Children identified as having lesser ability in math are observed to be more confident and able in mental math. Teachers talk about children buying in to learning through games because it is something from their world." 

Learn more:

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be updated throughout the day on October 8):
  • Has Technology Taken Away Childhood? — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama worries that technology is intruding on the basic premise of childhood - active play in all forms! Join her as she takes a brief look at how play has changed as technology becomes more integrated into the daily lives of our children.
  • Fostering a Healthy Relationship with Technology — Jenn at Adventures Down Under describes her children's love of screen time and how her family implements their philosophy and policies on technology.
  • Kids Chores for Tech PrivilegesCrunchy Con Mommy shares how tying chore completion to iPad privileges worked in her house to limit screen time and inspire voluntary room cleaning!
  • Screens — Without the benefit of her own experience, sustainablemum explains her family's use of technology in their home.
  • Screen Time - The Battle of Ideologies — Laura from Laura's Blog explains why she is a mom who prioritizes outdoor natural play for her kids but also lets them have ample screen time.
  • The Day My iPhone Died — Revolution Momma at Raising a Revolution questions the role technology plays in her life when she is devastated after losing her phone's picture collection from her daughter's first year.
  • Finding our Technological Balance — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she finds balance between wanting her daughter to enjoy all the amazing technology available to her, without it overwhelming the natural parenting she's striving for.
  • Raising kids who love TV — Lauren at Hobo Mama sometimes fears what children who love screentime will grow up to be … until she realizes they'll be just like her.
  • No Limits on Screen Time? Is that Natural? — Susan at Together Walking shares misconceptions and benefits of having no limits on technology and screen time in their home.
  • Screen Time — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares what is currently working (and what hasn't) regarding screen time in her household.
  • Positive Use of Technology with Kids — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her family's experiences with early technology, shares helpful resources from around the blogosphere, and speculates on what she'd do as a parent with young children today.
  • why i will never quit you, TV — How Emma of Your Fonder Heart came to terms with the fact that screen time is happening, and what balance looks like between real and virtual life for both her toddler AND herself.
  • Technology Speaks — Janet at Our Little Acorn finds many uses for technology - including giving her child a voice.
  • 5 Ways to Extend Children's Screen Time into Creative Learning Opportunities — Looking for a way to balance screen time with other fun learning experiences? Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares 5 fun ways to take your child's love of favorite shows or video games and turn them into creative educational activities.
  • What parents can learn about technology from teachers — Douglas Blane at Friendly Encounters discusses how technology in schools enhances children's learning, and where to find out more.
  • 5 Tips for a Peaceful Home — Megan of the Boho Mama and author at Natural Parents Network shares her favorite 5 tips for creating a peaceful home environment.
  • Technology and Natural Learning — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling writes about the importance of technology as a tool for natural, self-directed learning.
  • Babies and TechnologyJana Falls shares how her family has coped, changed their use of, relied on, and stopped using various forms of technology since their little man arrived on the scene
  • Kids and Technology — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis talks about the benefits of using technology with her preschooler, and includes a few of their favorite resources.
  • Using Technology to Your Advantage: Helping Children Find Balance — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how technology can be used or abused and gives a few tips to help children learn balance.


  1. Stopping by from the Carnival of Natural Parenting.

    My son started school this year, and they have smartboards in every room and every teacher has a computer on their desk - it's so different from when I was young. They have online subscriptions to math and reading games, and they research things live online when kids have questions.

  2. Great resources, thanks so much for sharing! I was particularly thankful for the resources on safe search - with my son just starting to be able to search for things on his own, this wasn't something that had been on my radar yet. Google's safe search is now enabled on my computer!
    ~Dionna @

  3. That is one smart 15-year-old! I was reading research on flashcards recently, and it was saying that memorization went way up if an image was included — even an unrelated one. Fascinating how our brains work!

    I love the notes about games. I know for my kid, doing something "educational" can elicit groans, but doing a game that happens to be educational gets a happy reaction. Not that that's why we play games, but it's a nice benefit!

  4. Love that you've focused on the positives of technology! Very refreshing.

  5. Your position is great - I NEVER consider any of the ways my daughter might actually benefit from screen time (for example, she totally learned her alphabet, some spelling, etc. via games and sesame street), only the ways it might harm her in the long run.

  6. Great points and resources, Douglas! Thanks for sharing so many helpful links. I'm always amazed at how much technology has to offer. I bookmarked your post.