When I recently posted about toddlers and computers, I got a lot of great feedback, more than anything else I've posted, and some encouragement to keep posting about the issues of kids and technology.
Fine with me, because that happens to be a special interest of mine. A couple of years ago, I spent a summer as an instructor at a technology camp, and since I mostly taught the youngest group of kids, ages 7-10, I had plenty of opportunities to see how children interact with and use computers. Without a doubt, the biggest lesson I took from it is that kids are much, much smarter with technology than we give them credit for. All they really need is the equipment and a push in the right direction. The rest they can figure out for themselves, and they generally will surpass your expectations.
Example: this BBC article about letting a nine-year-old test drive the first One Child Per Laptop computer in Britain:
I had returned from Nigeria not entirely convinced that the XO laptop was quite as wonderful an educational tool as its creators claimed.
I felt that a lot of effort would be needed by hard-pressed teachers before it became more than just a distracting toy for the children to mess around with in class.
But Rufus has changed my mind.
With no help from his Dad, he has learned far more about computers than he knew a couple of weeks ago, and the XO appears to be a more creative tool than the games consoles which occupy rather too much of his time.
As worthy as the OLPC project is, there's also the perfectly valid point that there are plenty of young people here in "First World" nations who still don't have access to computers. Next post on the topic, I'll suggest some options for them.