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It seems that by the age of four you learn that the ‘Next’ button speeds things up and avoids you needing to read anything.

 

My four year old son has learnt that by clicking ‘Next’ or ‘Skip’ that he can get straight to the game. He can’t read, however his pattern matching skills are second to none. The 16-18 year olds I teach are just as impatient, but for different reasons. Unlike my 4 year, they are fully aware that programs have terms and conditions and even though we teach them the possible consequences of not checking these first, they click ‘Next’ anyway. There is more to this than simple impatience though. They click ‘Next’ because they cannot be bothered to read through the terms, knowing full well that something bad could happen.

 

This is partly to do with the apathy of youth, but also that they have already experienced the sting of ‘small print’, where they have signed up for something in past and been caught out by the ‘rules’. They now believe that the small print will get them no matter what, so they click next anyway.

 

Adults are just as bad. A young colleague in the staffroom has just had to pay full licence costs on a product he trialed and did not want. Turns out that in the small print it stated that if he did not say that he did not want the product it was assumed that he did want it and would be invoiced.

 

I guess the ‘botheredness’ to read the small print and not just click next comes with old age. Once we become cinical and believe that everyone is out to get one over us, then we become cautious. It will be interesting to see at what age I can get my son to pause before clicking ‘next’, or will he just conform to the norm?

Immortalised on the Web

Are we immortalised in the World Wide Web? Data in a computer is never truly deleted. If you believe all you see in the current collection of forensic science dramas on television then data can retrieved from almost any post-nuclear detonated hard-disk. With the continuing rise if the cloud and greater use of online services our data, and images are stored in my places around the globe.

I was recently shocked, surprised and somewhat pleased to find that my recently deceased grandmother, who had never used a computer in her life, had been captured by Google Street View. I just happened to scroll down her street while showing my Mum how Street View enhances Google Maps when we caught site of a figure in the doorway of her house. There she was in all her glory, the image had been taken in 2009 before a year of degenerative diseases eventually took her life. Google, in what I can only assume is a mark of respect have not blurred her face and she can be seen quite clearly.

My Mum, and myself, where emotionally and physically shaken by this experience. However, my 4 year old son took this in his stride by stating, “it’s Great Grandma,” in a so-what way. He has grown up surrounded by digital images of the family on the computer or conversations via webcam. My son is immersed in a world where close family members who live far away are represented digitally. This was in contrast to the 16 year olds at college who did who some amazement at the story and the images. However, I believe this may be the last generation to be able to emotionally separate the ‘real-world’ from the digital.

Will this be the way to immortalise ourselves. We will not only be leaving our genes in our offspring but also leaving them images and data strewn about the cloud long after we pass away. My four year old’s only confusion was why Great Grandma was on Google Street View and not a star in the sky like we told him. Perhaps the Cloud is the new After-Life?

Can I touch it?

When showing the video clips of the new Apple iPad to my post-16 learners and my 4 year old I got the same underwhelming response, but for two completely different reasons.

My 4 year old was un-impressed as the concept of ‘touching’ information seemed so obvious to him. When I enthused about being able to touch the screen to move images around and to activate his favourite CBeebies characters he just shrugged. He is more than adept with the computer mouse, however has often asked why he couldn’t just tap the screen to get character moving. I now feel even more of a inadequate father having not bought him a HP TouchSmart computer, to go alongside his Nintendo DSi. I believe that his generation will grow up naturally manipulation images, data and files intuitively through touch screens around the home, on their person and at work/school.

It was sad to see that the 16+ learners at college where underwhelmed due to general scepticism of the technology. As much as they thought it was a sexy device, they are far too aware of Apple’s track record of delivering looks without the functionality. It seems that the iPhone’s ground breaking design and interface has also left a legacy of technology doubters, waiting for the next version – the one with the upgrades!

The attractively low price tag and ‘cool’ design will win over one or two of the learners, however I doubt we will see the iPad filling up classrooms in the near future. However, once a device with the same interface and enhanced connectivity is released (e.g. A USB port!) I can see can see great potential for e-learning applications. In fact I may jump on the band wagon and download the software development kit now 😉

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Do we need to blame the schools?

I understand the developmental reasons behind attitudes towards learning changing as we grow up; but just when do we change from a learning sponge in our early years into a teenager that demands to be spoon fed.

My 4 year old is constantly asking about and investigating new skills, whereas my post 16 learners sit there expecting me to feed the information directly into their brains. I am constantly demanding my 16-18 learners to challenge themselves and read around, and it is only now that they are getting the idea. However, they spent the first term complaining that the answers were not being given to them.

Sitting and working things out seems to come naturally to my 4 year old, but not to the post 16 learners – when did this skills disappear? I have seen evidence of creative and challenging learning in primary schools, so is it the secondary schools?

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My college is closed due to dangerous ice and I am wondering what my learners are up to? I am looking after my to little ones while trying to work from home. Their attention is a bit limited to allow me to work for any sustained time. However, my 4 year old did raise a good point. “You have a computer at home, why do you have to go to work?” I have to admit I was stuck for an answer there.

It left me thinking how many of my learners are carrying on their learning from home today? I cam see that there are two learners logged into the VLE, what are the others up to? Strangely(!) When I log onto XBOX live I can find another six learners.

We are going to run am experiment during the learner’s final year project where only half of the group will work in college at one time, the others will work from home; keeping contact through the VLE and social networks. The results should be interesting I’ll keep you informed.

Where has the Telly gone?

I had to use all my teaching ability to try and describe to my 4 year old what had happened when our electricity went off on Sunday. Using several analogies and the help of Peppa Pig I managed to get the message across. This is similar experience to teaching my 16-18 year olds networking, I almost had to rely on Peppa Pig then.

It went dark for only a few minutes before lights came back on, however you have to wait for the Sky box to reboot before you can resume watching the Television. So I used this time to explain to my son about how the power for items around the house traveled down wires from the power station, like roads leaving the Play Centre. If the weather is bad sometimes one of these roads gets blocked and the power needs to take a different route. This means we can be without power for a little while, as the electricity people re-direct the power. Just like if the road to our house from the Play Centre was blocked we would find another road home. No they do not put down cones and signposts, they just send a message to the power to take another route.

As usual with new information he took this in and let me know that there was a Peppa Pig episode where the lights had gone off as well.

Trying to explain to a 16-18 year old how information is passed through a network from machine to machine was a lot harder. I tried to make this more interesting by discussing how SMS messages passed from mobile to mobile, however they were more interested in the model of the phone and the call plan rather than how it all worked. Luckily with a little role playing, computer simulations and practical work it started to become clear to them all. Perhaps I could convince the makers of Peppa Pig to create some teaching aids for older kids.

How fast do we learn?

It is always interesting to watch how long it takes people to learn skills. My 4 year old has taught himself how to play Mario Kart on the Ninento DS and shut down a PC (which is quite a complex task). However, it has taken several demonstrations and ‘walk throughs’ to teach some of 16-18 year olds how to write an effective search string for google! The Net Generation is not as naturalised as some may think.

The young learners on my course are now starting their IT projects and there are some really exciting ideas, which range from travel apps for mobile phones to interesting uses of QRCodes.