Simone Bocedi // June 13 2014

Our children are the real digitalists, are we ready for it?

“Kids know how to use an iPad before they know how to talk.”

This thought sparked the idea for this blog and I would love to see what you think about it. Let me start with a story. I was visiting my family in Italy where my cousin, a 6 year old, asked me to play with him. I opened an old box full of LEGOs and started to create a spaceship. After about 20 minutes he screamed in his frustration: “I can’t build anything! This is BORING!”. -“Allright, so what you wanna do?” -“Let’s play Playstation”. In less than 10 minutes he was kicking my ass in a game he hadn’t played before. The big difference was, he’s born digital. For him, as well as millions of other kids, the first phone will be a smartphone. They won’t call to say they’re coming home from school. They can just simply “share their location” with their parents. They can get news and gossips through Facebook and Twitter (and whatever will be there in the future). Real-time stories will be the norm, not just an useful commodity. By the age of 3, children know how to use a smart screen, something that didn’t even exist until I was already an adult. We profess ourselves as Digitalists, but really, we are just pioneers in a world that’s changing faster than we can follow. While we will soon have difficulties to grasp the whole digital complexity (sorry, true story), our children, the Generation Z, won’t have that problem. They are the real Digitalists. As they have been born into a world without privacy, they won’t care about it. We care about privacy because we remember a world where it mattered. This lack of care show as daring new innovations and unconditional sharing.

“Who cares about privacy is a little like the weather. You can care about it, but it’s not clear there’s much you can do once surprise goes away and the engines of commerce and power kick in.” (Seth Godin)

This is a phenomenon that is already taking place and we parents cannot stop it nor can we control it. What we can do about, is to help the revolution. There’s something we should take into consideration when talking about children, teenagers, New Digitalists: education.

“The school system was invented too long time ago, during the Victorian time. [The system] is continuously producing identical people, for a machine that no longer exists” (Sugata Mitra-Ted talk)

The biggest problem today’s society is facing is in the field of education. Schools are not prepared to educate and grow new Digitalists. The way I see that we teach kids is to study for a test so they pass it. On the other hand, there are other educators experimenting new ways of studying . A way of not giving direct answers. Kids need to find the answers on a “closed” internet and learn during the process. Children don’t need to know so many things by heart when they can just get the answer by googling it from their smartphones. There is about 0,1% of knowledge that we can’t find online. Enciclopedias have been replaced by Wikipedia. No one reads a book back-to-back in school anymore, or at least they shouldn’t. Digital books could be interactive and teach even more. Most of books can be found in their digital versions and with some interactive content as well. Schools need to replace books with tablets within the classrooms for interactive exercises. While Apple introduced a new coding language, shouldn’t schools substitute an additional foreign language with coding? While languages like French, Spanish and Swedish are important, learning to write lines of codes is even more important, because lines of code can literally change the digital world we live in. Schools can really make a difference, but I’m afraid the educational system won’t change fast enough for my little girl to be the New Digitalist she deserves.

“The question is not what have school done wrong. The question is how are we going to prepare students for the challenges to come” Jay Heinrichs

We are responsinble for our children’s culture (or lack of it) and I think we could boost their digital experience. Mashable tried to find a correlation between children’s development and playing with an interactive toy (an iPad app) vs a real toy. You know what they found out? NOTHING. The data available is too little to get conclusions. What they did say was that applications should be treated as TV or other entertainment platforms, therefore be consumed only little time per day. Less Netflix and more Toca Boca? I really don’t know the answer but I wish I could help and schools could help too. Us, parents, should direct the children to have digital experiences while making it rich and interesting. School should help as well in developing people who know how to code and understand digital behaviours. Can we have it please? Or is it too late?