How Much Tech For Tots?

Image of baby using a computerThis week’s edition of Deb Shinder’s WXPnews featured an editorial that centered around Jodi Upton’s short essay Handwriting on The Wall for Cursive.   It seems the growing trend is for elementary schools to stop teaching cursive writing as a mandatory part of their curriculum and, like Deb, I’m both surprised and saddened by this.

Unquestionably, I believe there’s no price you can place on the value of teaching children handwriting.   But there’s an underlying issue at stake that’s even bigger than that.   It’s the ever-increasing emphasis on making computer-use skills a priority at such an early age that truly disturbs me. That kids now start using computers in kindergarten is just a bit stunning.   Seems to me that kids need time to just be kids.   They need to learn how to interact with the world around them and develop social skills.   Since I don’t yet have a parent’s perspective, maybe I’m off the mark, but isn’t it more important that kids learn to doodle with crayons or play ball before they learn Powerpoint, video games and/or instant messaging?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a bona fide techno-junkie and I love my PC, iPod, DVR, & other electronic goodies.   And I’m certainly in favor of teaching keyboarding skills in school — nearly every day, I see firsthand how not being able to type well hinders people in the workplace.   But I’m tentative about introducing computers into kids’ lives at too early an age.   The next generation will be enslaved by technology to a degree that we may not even be able to fully forsee.   Computers will undoubtedly dominate nearly every facet of their lives.   So, maybe we need to make sure kids have ample opportunities to learn how to exist & succeed in the real world before thrusting them headlong into the inescapable cyber-world.

What do you think?   Post a comment!

Games Dolphins Play

Dolphin blowing bubble ringsRecently, I posted an article about the discovery that dolphins possess language & music skills previously thought to be unique to humans.   Today, an interesting tidbit over on Clive Thompson’s Collision Detection blog goes even further to establish just how sophisticated dolphin intellect may be.   Stan Kuczaj, a psychologist with the University of Southern Mississippi and his colleagues revealed in a paper to appear in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, findings that dolphins play games!

According to the World Science article Dolphin Games: More Than Child’s Play?, dolphins play a wide variety of games that show remarkable cooperation and creativity that may help young dolphins learn their place the social dynamics of the group.   What’s more, they seem to deliberately make their games increasingly difficult, continually stimulating their development and enhancing the learning experience.   Kuczaj’s group suggests that game play in dolphins facilitates the development and maintenance of problemsolving skills, perfect motor skills, and helps them to recognize and manipulate characteristics of their environment.

Black Friday Madness

We got up at 3:00 this morning to head out to the Best Buy 5:00 a.m. sale. When we arrived, the line stretched about a city block (see photo below) and people had been camping out overnight for more than 9 hours. Needless to say, we didn’t get one of the only 10 notebooks they had available for the sale – or any other computer equipment for that matter. But thanks to our friends Clems, Soph & family (they were part of the crazies that stayed out there all night) who had our shopping list, we did get the other items we were interested in.

There are a number of accounts of shoppers frenzy getting the better of some well-meaning people on this first official day of Christmas shopping, a.k.a. Black Friday:

“The holiday shopping season began early today with a 73-year-old Josephine Hoffman being knocked down as a crowd at BrandsMart USA in Sunrise, Florida pushed their way under a metal security gate to get inside, forcing dozens of people against the walls and trampling the woman.”

“A bargain notebook computer was the catalyst for trouble at a Wal-Mart in Orlando, Florida, where a man was wrestled to the ground by plain-clothed security guards after cutting in line to buy one. Many customers simply carted their stuff out of the store and passed right by the man in handcuffs, without any reaction.”

“A woman was stepped on by several people after she fell when dozens of frenzied shoppers stampeded into a Grand Rapids, Michigan area Wal-Mart store around 5 o’clock this morning. When the rush ended, the woman and a 13-year-old girl suffered minor injuries.”

“Extra officers were called to a Renton, Washington Wal-Mart to help control crowds of shoppers who pushed their way into the electronics department shortly after the doors opened. The shoppers even knocked counters out of position as they fought over a limited supply of notebook computers.”

So, we’re thankful that we were spared from the violence and hope your Black Friday shopping experiences were as productive and hostility-free as ours was!

Best Buy at 4:30 a.m. this morning

Foxtrot Takes Aim at the Sony DRM Debacle

Dunno how I managed to be so unaware of Bill Amend’s Foxtrot syndicated comic strip.   I’ve glanced at it in the Sunday paper a few times but never really paid much attention, but this one caught my eye:

Bill Amend's Nov. 21, 2005 Foxtrot strip

Bill, it turns out, is a techie geek at heart and really hit the nail on the head with this jab at the whole Sony DRM scandal.   I lifted this right off of Jody Cairns’ blog site Steel White Table, so it seemed only right to at least give him credit for the find.

If you’ve followed along you know how much I love music, but am fiercely opposed to the whole DRM thing.   I know lots of people will be getting MP3 players for Christmas this year (Hint: Go iPod!), so take a little time to educate yourself on the digital music scene and, in particular, this DRM stuff before it has a chance to cause you a bunch of grief.

Quick Tip:
You can avoid getting nailed by the sort of malicious copy-protection software that’s giving Sony such a black eye by simply holding down on the left Shift key when you insert a CD into your PC, thereby preventing it from autolaunching.   Dede found out the hard way about rootkits with a Dido CD recently.