Research on Child Trends

This may be old news for some of you, but I just came across a website  – Child Trends that seems like it would be a really useful resource for planning new school programs or for writing grants. It covers research on children in many areas including child health, education, behavior, and more. Although not technology related, often it helps to reach out to other areas of research to justify practices that support technology use with youth.

For example, teaching children about online safety, dealing with cyberbullying and other online risks is not just about teaching technology. And looking to research to find out “what works” to prevent face-to-face bullying or preventing risky behavior means you aren’t reinventing the wheel.

Here are just a couple of their reports on youth development that offer some lessons for the design and support of well-rounded cybersafety programs:

Research Briefs (all PDFs)

The site is well worth exploring further.


The Gift

1076955_vibrant_giftA few weeks ago at the Constructing Modern Knowledge 2009 institute in Manchester, NH, I needed to make some copies. I walked down the quaint main street of this lovely New England town and found the local copy store.

Inside, the machine wasn’t working so the owner came over to help. We started talking and he asked me what I was doing in Manchester. I told him I was at a workshop with teachers learning about how to use computers in school. He immediately said something to the effect of, “That’s funny! Why don’t you have students teach the teachers, the kids know everything about technology already!”

We both laughed, sorted out the copying mess, and I walked back to the hotel meeting room where teachers were intently building robots, making movies, programing, creating art, building webpages, and more. Suddenly, it struck me. How wonderful is it that society actually believes that children are competent at something. Here in Everytown, USA, a random guy in a random moment confirmed a commonly held societal belief that children are competent human beings, in fact, MORE competent than adults. And better yet, competent at something important.

We see it in commercials where the exasperated parents hand the new, incomprehensible cell phone to their five year old to figure out. We hear ordinary people joke about getting their grandchild to set the blinking 12:00 on any appliance. And we all know that TV commercials and marketing professionals are very adept at mirroring the “norms” of society. Mention some problem using technology and more likely than not, someone will say, “Ha! You need to find a ten year old!” It’s always good for a chuckle when you tap into commonly held beliefs.

Of course this isn’t a sophisticated or deeply thought-out conclusion. There are underlying contradictions, simplifications and outright myths. The “digital native vs digital immigrant” slogan is a symptom of buying too deeply into this belief.

But what irony and what opportunity this is! What a gift that society actually thinks that children are competent at something, anything, especially something that is so vital for the future. When does this ever happen?

How can advocates for using technology to enhance learning leverage this gift to advance the cause?

I don’t think the answer is to lean on this myth or use it to justify NOT teaching students about technology. My main criticism of the digital native/immigrant metaphor is that it is used in just this way. (See my post Digital natives/immigrants – how much do we love this slogan?)

I DO think we need to find ways to build on this gift, to acknowledge that yes, indeed, kids do know a lot about technology, and that school must take that natural talent and nurture it into something MORE valuable for the student and for society.

So thank you, Madison Avenue, for helping portray children as competent individuals. Now, what can we do with this gift?


Subscribe to the Generation YES Blog

ASCD does it again! Free e-book: Challenging the Whole Child E-Book (Limited Time)

ASCD has done it again!

A few months ago they published the first of a series of e-books on the “Whole Child”. I was honored that my article (Working with Tech-Savvy Kids) was selected to be in that issue. My post about that is here, but now you have to pay for that first issue.

Now the second of the series is out, and ASCD is offering it for free for a limited time.

Challenging the Whole Child E-Book Free for Limited Time – ASCD blog post explaining offer (August 3-16, 2009)

Sample chapters (PDF)

I’m not in this one, and not as familiar with the authors, but I trust ASCD and the editorial staff of Educational Leadership. The selections look timely and useful, and you can’t beat the price.

And don’t miss the companion study guide and the always free, always updated Whole Child Blog.


Give a Laptop. Get a Laptop. Change the World

Starting today the XO laptop will once again be available to consumers in the US and the EU. This is the remarkable laptop invented by the One Laptop Per Child organization for children in the developing world.

In the Give One, Get One (G1G1) program, you have the opportunity purchase two XO computers. You get one, and a child somewhere in the developing world gets the other. Last year, over 100,000 laptops were donated to children this way. (See photos)

This year will be even better!
Last year, there were problems with the distribution, as OLPC was running it by themselves on a shoestring. This year, Amazon will run it. It would be the understatement of the year to say it will be better. There are a few other changes this year as well – it will include EU countries plus a few extra (full list and FAQs here). Sorry my Aussie friends, no mention of your part of the world.

Other good news, this will be an ongoing program. So if you have an idea about doing a fundraiser or planning a school event to get your own XOs, you have time.

Posts about the XO
Last year I got an XO laptop through the Give One, Get One program. Some of my posts from last year:

Spread the word! Here are some suggestions from the OLPC G1G1 wiki page:

  • Blog it, add a comment about it to every article about OLPC and the XO.
  • Social site updates — Facebook, Twitter[1], MySpace : there are OLPC accounts on many of these sites which need maintenance and regular updating. For instance some 2007-era badges and promotions need to be updated to link to the Amazon site.
  • Viral marketing. Put in your e-mail signature. Mention G1G1 in blog posts. Comment on misinformed or incomplete articles online, and include the link and the date, Nov. 17.


Subscribe to the Generation YES Blog