Tuesday, 3 December 2013

(82): The age of smart kids

In the late 1980s, I could vividly remember arguing with fellow school mates about the computer, most of us have not seen one physically except in some movies. “Duk Kano babu computer, sai dai ko a gidan gwamna” (there is no computer in the whole of Kano, may be in the government house), said one of us. To the kid, computer was basically imaginary; it is associated with all sorts of myths. One day while passing by Kantin Kwari market, I overheard one mai waazin kan turmi (street preacher), talking to an assembly of youths, and he mentioned something that left me perplexed. He was talking about a computer that is used to catch fish,  people were listening attentively, yet you could see clearly that he was describing a device he has never seen in his life.

But this has changed; we now live in the world where technology is as accessible as drinking water. In a 2001 lecture delivered by Professor Ali Mazrui at the Bayero University, Kano, he mentioned that there are more computers in some universities in the developed world, than in some African countries. Today, it is extremely difficult if such a statement will hold. If there is one segment of the society that has been affected today by the digital revolution,  it is no more than our kids. They are growing in the age of laptop, iPad and iPhone.

One scholar who appreciates the changing nature of our kids is Professor Don Tapscott whose book “Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World” explores the attitude and culture of the 21st century young people, whom he fondly calls the Net Gens. In a review written for the Economist magazine, Professor Tapscott stated that “Net Geners are more active. Almost 80% of them read interactive blogs daily, leaving comments and adding links. They multitask, watching TV while texting, talking on the phone or surfing the Internet. They’re more likely to use their cellphones as everything from alarm clocks to GPS devices. They may even use their phones’ cameras as a kind of instrument for social action, for instance, to document police misconduct. They see the computer as more than a tool, as a place to congregate with friends. Their safe communal spaces aren’t mainly in the physical world, but rather online, on social networking sites like Facebook. Rather than being antisocial, Net Geners are developing an entirely new set of social skills”

South Korea is one country that appreciates this changing nature of young people, and decided to come up with an educational policy that integrates the use of technology in education. As a result of that, children from South Korea are ahead of kids from other countries including European and North American nations.

Of course in developing countries, we are yet to reach a stage where our primary and secondary schools will be digitally revolutionalised, and it will be hasty to pull the trigger without working on some fundamental issues such as teacher training, child poverty etc. Yet for parents who can afford, there are so many useful applications to help their kids learn from their iPad and other devices. The Quiz up app is one example to aid the learning of your children. It can help your children especially with mathematics, history, geography, science, health education and other subjects. In fact your kids can invite children from other places around the world to compete in these subjects and see how far they have mastered the subjects in their school.

Of course supervision from parents will be useful, especially to educate your children on the content of certain subjects that might have cultural implications on your child.  It is important to understand the positive aspect of these devices by parents, so that children do not just use them for games and chatting unnecessarily, while gaining nothing in terms of their intellectual development.



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