Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tying your shoes: Is there an app for that?

A recent Wall Street Journal blog post notes that very young children are engaging technologies and playing iPhone games like Angry Birds before they can tie their shoes, noting "14% of kids age 4 or 5 could tie their shoes, while 21% could play or operate at least one smartphone app".

It's another example that the early adopter space is a contested site with layered discourses about childhood. Tying shoes is a task where children look to adults for direct instruction and guidance as they struggle and practice the technique; they need us and it agrees with our ideas about developing learners and older, wiser teachers. In contrast, mobile apps seem so intuitive that children pick up iPhones and sweep and tap through games magically--such skills appear to come "naturally" to these "digital natives". (We seem to forget that this is after hours and hours of observing adults in demonstrations embedded in everyday life.)

Remember the advent of velcro tennis shoes and the concern that children would no longer learn the skill of tying, that velcro shoes would somehow produce a generation of adults who fumbled with strings and tripped through life because they didn't know what to do with their shoelaces? Perhaps resistance to new technologies in early childhood classrooms comes from giving up a bit of our expertise, our comfortable stance as all-knowing adults, or from a fear that this app generation just won't need us anymore.

No comments: