When I think of what opportunities children have today with technology, the biggest detriment to their potential comes from our own limitations that we place on them.
You’ve seen board games, STEM toys, and online children’s apps recommend a suitable age for your child and start to wonder, this can’t be. My son or daughter is way beyond that. Do we really have to wait three more years to play Monopoly, Scrabble, or Minecraft?
When you leave this world you can leave behind a house, nice things, and a treasure trove of an estate. Any child would be blessed to have acquired wealth by inheritance. In my worldview, the primary goal is to transfer as much knowledge and as many skills as possible in the little time I have with my son.
In no particular order, I outlined some learning objectives that help you establish a strong foundation in technology, what tasks you can perform yourself, and then coach your child so they don’t think about doing them, they just do.
- Explain why technology is a gift and why we should be grateful to have it so easily accessible at our fingertips.
- Define the true cost of technology compared to the cost of toys, clothing, and food.
- Explain why passwords are important for their safety and yours.
- Explain why we don’t share our passwords with others.
- Identify the consequences of throwing, breaking, hitting, or hiding the technology from you.
- Develop your own personal policy with regards to device usage, duration, allowance of social gaming, etc.
- Perform the steps to turn the computer on and off using the power on button and restart the computer.
- Identify the alternatives to choosing another activity if the Internet or technology doesn’t work.
- Explain the difference between FREE apps and paid apps.
- Observe your child when using the computer, tablet, or smartphone. Never walk away to use on their own without supervision.
- Demonstrate how to find an app on the iPad by swiping.
- Demonstrate to find an app on the iPad using Siri.
- Discover where to find and type familiar letters on the iPad.
- Reveal why speed, intensity, and repetition are important when mastering math.
- Search for a word in a dictionary.
- Demonstrate how to pronounce a word by asking Alexa, “How do you say _____?”
- Demonstrate the shift, enter, and escape buttons on your computer and when to use them.
- Identify what is a website browser and what type of information can be accessed there.
- Explain how to use a mouse, a keyboard, and other accessories that can be used with a computer.
- Request them to connect headphones to your device.
- Explain why it’s important to wear blue light glasses when you are in front of the computer.
- How to turn yourself on mute and unmute on the phone or Zoom.
- Explain why we have two screens for our desktop computer.
- Explain what each of the ports, inputs, and outputs on the computer mean and why they are important.
- Explain why it’s important NOT to touch power outlets on the wall or stick your fingers inside them.
- Define a power strip and why it’s important to have one to protect your devices.
- Compare the differences between USB, mini USB, and micro USB cables.
- Compare the difference between VGA, HDMI, and micro HDMI.
- Define WiFi connection and why they don’t get to choose which devices have access and when.
- Demonstrate CAPS LOCK.
- Demonstrate how to use a QR code.
- Define HDMI cable and how do we connect it to the TV.
- List the reasons why it’s time to stop using technology.
- Demonstrate the steps to make a phone call to trusted people using phone numbers on a mobile phone.
- Demonstrate how to bookmark favorite school websites and visit them later.
- Explain email and how it is different from sending a text message.
- Demonstrate how to take a picture and a video with a smartphone.
- Repeat the importance of keeping your devices fully charged.
- Change the ringtone for someone your child knows so when the phone rings, they know who is calling.
- Immerse yourself in their technical pursuit of technology as their best cheerleader.
- Demonstrate how to charge a smartphone, tablet, laptop, smartwatch, or mobile accessory using a power source.
- List the important components when sending a text message.
- Define a green screen and how you can use one to create unique photos and videos.
- Outline the things we do NOT say to Alexa.
- Demonstrate how to type letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs on the computer.
- Demonstrate how to add shapes, lines, and graphics into a Word document.
- Demonstrate how to change the font size, type, and color of the text of a document.
- Demonstrate how to change the header and footer of a Word document.
- List some useful things we can say to Alexa to get the response we need.
- Ask Alexa to calculate simple math problems.
- Type a scripted message into an Alexa blueprint template in order for her to repeat it back.
- Demonstrate the basic keyboard shortcuts to select all, copy text to the clipboard, paste text from the clipboard, etc.
- Demonstrate how to use a calculator app on the computer, tablet, and smartphone to add up the cost of toys we want to buy on Amazon.
- Demonstrate how to change time zones on a world clock.
- List the steps to upload videos to your YouTube channel.
- Compare Alexa vs. Google Assistant vs. Siri.
- Produce a pre-recorded video using pictures, sound, and text that supports your kids’ favorite interests.
- Explain why it’s important to buy flowers for other people.
- Demonstrate how to print address labels of the same address for holiday cards.
- Compare file sizes kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, etc.
- Why’s it’s important to power down your devices when you are finished using them.
- Demonstrate how to print a page from the computer and iPad.
- Demonstrate the steps to creating on-demand greeting cards using your own pictures at Walgreens and their mobile app.
- Outline the key features of using an online map.
- Compare the differences between scheduling an appointment and a task.
- Demonstrate how to start and end a Zoom meeting on time.
- Produce a video thank you for a message to someone who has helped you.
- Demonstrate how to pack your devices, cords, and books securely in a bag to carry wherever you go.
- Demonstrate how to join someone else’s Zoom meeting and how to be on your best behavior.
- List the alternatives to overcome objections when people say they don’t know how to use technology.
- Identify how the options when editing an image from your smartphone.
- Demonstrate how to switch between TV input sources to see Apple TV, Fire TV, or the computer.
- Demonstrate mobile mirroring from your iPad and a digital whiteboard to interrupt the regularly scheduled TV broadcast by writing a handwritten note on the TV screen.
- Compare the differences between production (picking apples), marketing (making signs), and sales.
- Explain the differences between the sizes of graphic design templates and when they are used in their favorite websites, apps, or online games.
- Demonstrate steps need to help kids ask for what they want comfortably over video.
- Identify the steps to creating a graphic design image using a template in Canva to support your cause (like boy scouts).
- Compare web browsing tabs vs. web browsing windows.
- Define an audio file and how can you create one using a microphone and computer.
- Demonstrate how to choose .mp3 sounds to add to your soundboard.
- Compare the differences between an XLR and a 3.5m audio cable.
- Compare the different audio input sources used when plugging into a soundboard to produce better quality audio for videos and more engaging Zoom meetings.
- Explain why the Internet doesn’t work when you drive away.
- List the steps needed to make a photo collage of your family trips.
- Identify some alternatives to handling anger, frustration, and negative self-talk when the technology doesn’t work according to plan.
- List the most popular emojis and when to add them to your messages.
- Outline the common commands used for programming a robot to move around the room.
- Demonstrate how to program the distance a robot will move from one spot to another.
- Dem onstrate how to transfer files from a MicroSD card to a computer.
- Demonstrate how to operate a soundboard by pressing buttons that play different types of sounds.
- Demonstrate how to initiate a Linux operating system on a Raspberry Pi from the command line.
- Supply a business plan using an existing template and ask them to complete it with your coaching.
- Draw a design on graph paper to be used in counting squares for length and height.
- Calculate area using the length and height using squares on graph paper to determine how many blocks are needed to build a street, a wall for a house, or how much to clear the land.
- Explain why it’s faster to write a programming script than it is to build something without one.
- Demonstrate how to edit a Python script template to build a virtual school in Minecraft.
- Produce YouTube channel art in Canva to help promote your YouTube channel.
- Ask kids to use technology to serve and help others, not just be entertained.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Hold onto a vision that one day your kids will know more about technology than you ever had in your lifetime.
- Require fun. If you aren’t having fun with it, either will they.
You are either thinking two things after reading this…
#1 Kids are not supposed to be in front of this much technology.
You are right. I didn’t want my son to attend kindergarten on Zoom. He didn’t have a choice either. He’s been sitting in front of a computer for four hours a day escalated his adoption of using a laptop and Zoom. The next question arose, “What else can this boy do?” On the flip side, we are very active outdoors and involved in many activities where there is no technology. In fact, he writes in his gratitude journal, reads real books, and paints beautiful pictures on canvas. He can swim unassisted in the pool and counts change we retrieve from the deep end of the pool. Any technology we use compliments his homeschool learning plan and helps him acquire skills most kids won’t develop until middle school.
#2 I wish I would have had access to those resources.
You are not alone. I’ve devoured a ton of resources personally and professionally to pass on a wide range of technical skills to my son. Never in my schooling have I had an IT degree. I forced myself to learn new things, do them, and teach others how to do them too. Parents and teachers alike have access to the same resources. It’s up to you whether or not you will rely on the school or other parents to tell you what to do assuming they know your child better than you. I wrote a post called Eight Things They Don’t Teach You About Kindergarten where you can start to explore some very unconventional learning tactics.
Consider these technology-specific teaching tips:
Defining New Terms
When defining new terms, say the name of the term and ask your child to repeat the name of the term. Then define the term. Ask your child if they know why it is important to know what that term means. That captures their interest level. Then define the term and explain an example of what it looks like to reinforce the term at a deeper level.
Demonstration of New Skills
You can show different ways of adding two plus two to equal four, right? This is no different. When it comes to using a device, a website, or app… you need to be able to demonstrate the steps in action, and in some cases, there are several ways to arrive at the same answer. If you can’t demonstrate the steps, the child is going to assume they can’t do it either. Take the Apple store support approach. Hand over the device or mouse and allow them to perform the steps in the sequence you guide them. If they make a mistake, guide them. If they refuse to listen. Remove them.
Choosing the Next Learning Path
The beauty of having options with technology is you can fine tune their learning path according to their specific interests that help stack new skills on top of one another and compliment their existing learning path. There are a number of safe, award-winning children’s apps and exercises you can do own your own. Just don’t walk away after you have handed over your device.
Combine Paper Exercises with Computer Programs
As much as my son loves playing the MathTango iPad app, we do our multiplication and division assignments in the printed Minecraft math book with a pencil and eraser. He sometimes will want to stay up past his bedtime and work on his Minecraft workbook and can’t get him to pay attention to what his school provides him. We also sketch designs in graph paper and edit our Python script to build our virtual school in Minecraft.
A Word with Caution
There are inherent risks with exposing your child to too much technology and there are risks of not. There are some things you can’t control and there are some things you can’t. What you can do is do your best each day and not be afraid of making mistakes. We can learn from one another what not to do as much as what to do.
This is the future whether it wasn’t your past or not your present.