Tag Archives: Computers

Screen Time

Yesterday I read an interesting CTV News article about children and screen time.  I thought it was wonderful to compare screen time to nutrition – an analogy that puts the focus on the content of the programs.

Recently I was asked to speak to a group of Red River College students who were just completing their ‘Introduction to Family Childcare’ course.  As part of my presentation I included a slideshow of the past and present learning environments in my childcare home.

Screen time was briefly discussed during my presentation and the subsequent question period.  Yes, I used to have several computers available for the children in my program to use – and I did not even restrict the amount of time they engaged in the activity.

No, I don’t currently have any computers, tablets, or televisions that are available for the children to use at any time during the day.  The reason for the elimination of the ‘computer area’ was due almost entirely to the quality of content available and the fact that the children had no interest in ‘healthy’ content once they had experienced the ‘junk’.

Years ago when I first started my blog I wrote about the use of computers in my childcare program and their gradual elimination.  It is not that I don’t value technology – I use it all the time.  When the children have questions that I can’t answer we can find the answer on the internet – it is an invaluable resource in addition to their hands on experience.

Unfortunately I think the content of children’s media today has far too much focus on competition instead of collaboration.  The smaller screens further emphasize the ‘individual’ over the ‘group’.

I once had a discussion with the staff at my son’s school.  My son was extremely slow to engage in new situations and had a tendency to withdraw from social interaction.  They were concerned because he refused to use a new program they had recently introduced in their computer class.

I suggested that they should let him sit with and watch another child until he felt comfortable enough to try it himself.  They said that was not possible because it would be considered cheating and would not be fair to the other child. Seriously?!?! What were they hoping to teach?

The children and I have discussed the use of screen time – they all have access to screens at home.  They’ve described how they like to use their hand held devices when they are bored – it is easier than finding something else to do.  They’ve retold me all their favorite parts of the movies and shows they’ve recently watched.  If there are any ‘good’ parts in these shows I haven’t heard about them, the children  focus on the violent, destructive, mean or rude segments – that’s what they remember.

As I write this there are two children here – they are reading the label on a cereal box and debating the nutritional value.  Maybe I’d have screen time as part of the program if there were ‘nutrition’ labels on the content of every program.  However, I’m not sure I have the energy to break through their addiction to the junk so instead my program will continue to be screen free and really they don’t complain about the absence of screens when there are healthier options available.


Acceptable Risk

I have surpassed my Post A Week promise as this is already my third post this week – yeah!  I’ve checked out the suggestions for post topics and some of them look really interesting but at the moment I’ve got plenty of ideas of my own.  I’ll keep them in mind for when I have a dry spell.

It has been a busy week – my regular 60 hour work week also had an additional 4 evenings of networking meetings etc which left me little time to ‘play’ with my new computer.  I use the term ‘play’ here because it is through play that we learn.  Since my new computer has a new operating system, new versions of several of my old programs and some new programs too there is plenty for me to learn.

When I’m busy I easily get frustrated by power struggles with my computer.  The new operating system has added ‘security’ features to keep me ‘safe’ – or to irritate me. Trying to work through some of these issues also got me thinking how much my computer makes me feel like a child with an overprotective parent.

There I was, 6:30am, already finished preparation for the day’s activities and meals and no children due to arrive for an hour – plenty of time to work on a blog post.  First, I’ve got a picture on the camera that I want to use.  Getting it from the camera to the computer took way longer than expected because of the unexpected hide & seek game we played as I tried to figure out where I should stick that card.

Once the picture was finally moved to the computer I was able to edit, crop and resize the photo fairly quickly because I demonstrated incredible self control to not play with all the cool features that the fancy new photo editing software has.  Then, my computer and I had this ‘conversation’;

  • Me: Save photo.
  • Comp: No, you’re not permitted to.
  • Me: Yes I am, try again.
  • Comp: No, it’s read only
  • Me: No it’s not, I checked
  • Comp: It’s mine and you can’t change it
  • Me: I took the picture — I can change it if I want to.
  • Comp: No, it’s mine
  • Me: Fine, keep that one and ‘save as’ a second one that I can have.
  • Comp: No
  • Me: Look, I’m out of time just forget it! Close program
  • Comp: You have unsaved changes. Would you like to save them?
  • Me: Oh! Yes please.
  • Comp: No, you’re not permitted to.
  • Me: Keep your stupid picture and go away.

OK, it was a temporary setback and we’ve worked it out.  I understand the need for protection – I’ve had my share of ‘OMG I can’t believe I just did that’ moments when I wished I hadn’t been allowed to delete two years worth of important data.  But really?  This was an acceptable risk.  What’s the worst thing that could happen if I modified the picture, saved it, and then changed my mind?

We learn from our mistakes and if we are never allowed to take the risk and make mistakes we won’t learn from them.  Overprotected children can’t learn to recognize the risk – to differentiate between the acceptable risk and real danger.

So I say, let’s play, take risks, make mistakes, try something different and learn.

New Beginnings

As we welcome in the New Year many people choose to make resolutions to change certain aspects of their life.  For some ‘Out with the Old and In With the New’ is an exhilarating experience and they embrace the opportunity with enthusiasm. Others are slow to warm up so adapting to ‘New and Different’ can be stressful and demanding even when the change is an improvement. I generally fall into the latter category.

For me this New Year brings a new laptop (Happy Birthday to me) and along with it a mixture of excitement and frustration.  My new laptop has a beautiful brown earth tone color which is visually appealing to me, and it is super fast compared to my old one – an aspect that will be greatly appreciated.  It also has a new, very stubborn, operating system that doesn’t want to let me do things the way I am accustomed to doing them.  In this battle so far the computer is winning as I was up until 2 am – not ringing in the New Year – just desperately trying to synch new and old.

I’ve finally installed the 2007 version of Word that we bought long ago but I never installed because I was working on my CBA portfolio and felt learning to use the new program would just be disruptive.  Even after completing my portfolio the time just never seemed ‘right’ and besides, the old version was working fine and I was comfortable using it – told you I was slow to warm up.

So I sit here at my desk, old laptop and new laptop side by side, importing and exporting, trying and retrying, sometimes successful and sometimes not.  Other household tasks go uncompleted, partially because I am too busy but also because according to my computer there are no ‘To Do’ items due before 2013.  Maybe this is due to an importing error even though I’ve retried it several times – secretly I believe my computer is trying to tell me it will be years before I finish setting things up here.

Still, I vow not to be defeated. Instead, I remind myself of the optimism of the 5 year old who whispered “Welcome to life” as she gently poured water over the soil containing the seed she had just planted.  This too is a new beginning.

Computers in Childcare

I have been an avid computer user since 1990 and computers have been available for use in my childcare program.  In the past we have had specific computer areas set up alongside the main play space

or in a separate area

The computers were always grouped close together and there were more chairs than computers to encourage cooperation and collaboration.  After school this was the social hub for the school-age children and my teens who also acted as mentors for the less experienced users.  Internet access was always restricted unless it could be directly supervised and the program options available were limited to what I felt were appropriate and open ended.

One of the favourite programs has been Pivot Animation — a simple freeware program that allows children to create videos using stick figures and drawings.  It has no cutting edge graphics, no special sound effects, and no high scores.  They could create freely — there was no right or wrong. They were learning basic computer skills, mouse control, and understanding the file structure to open and save their own creations.  Drawing these animations requires some understanding of physics and the interaction between objects and because they often worked in pairs or groups to create these animations there was also a social component. 

As my teens have grown to young adults and moved out of the daycare space they have taken their computers with them.  The older computers have become obsolete and not been replaced.  I still have one computer set up in the sunroom but it is rarely used by the children here.  I am finding that many of the children are uninterested in any programs without high entertainment value – time fillers with little useful content – like watching TV (which has never been part of my childcare program).

I don’t believe that any of the so-called ‘educational’ computer programs do anything to enhance children’s learning or creativity – just memorization and following directions.  These programs don’t allow for ‘free play’ – the open-ended learning the children enjoy most in their non-computer activities.  Exploration and experimentation develops creativity, imagination and teamwork without a predetermined goal or ‘correct’ answer.

I do think that computers are valuable tools and it is important for children to learn to use them correctly and efficiently but is sitting a young children in front of a computer screen to play the way to do this.  Sitting them at a table with wood scraps and woodworking tools or screwdrivers and old electronics are wonderful open ended activities that allow children to explore and learn about using tools.  However, these activities require direct supervision and guidance and are not appropriate for all age groups.  Computers as tools – not entertainment — are no different.  I have considered purchasing one or two small laptops that could be used for a scheduled group computer time but I’m not sure the cost could be justified for the limited amount of time we would actually spend using them.

So for now, the lone computer sits idle in the sunroom waiting for a school inservice day when I’ll have a group of non-nappers who want to practice some computer skills instead of playing a board game or working on an art project.