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Stocking Stuffers & Time Wasters

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A group of sixth graders were recently asked what they wanted as the grand prize in an upcoming contest. Not surprisingly, the kids chose a PSP “Slim and Lite.” Perhaps, if that first graduating class of Singapore School Manila had known that laptops were required when they went to high school next year, they might have asked for a real computer instead. Then again, maybe the kids knew all along and still opted for the Playstation. Although requiring laptops in high school may be a bit over-the-top, it does show that Singapore School is serious about leveraging technology, which is certainly a step in the right direction.

Contrast this with the wrong way. There’s a parochial high school in Antipolo that uses a textbook on MS Publisher. If you’ve never heard of that piece of software, it’s because MS Publisher is hardly ever used. Ask any IT manager what he’d think of a job applicant who includes MS Publisher in a résumé, and you’ll likely get a few laughs.

Sure, there are textbook scams aplenty, but this story gets even funnier. The teacher then gave the sophomore high school class the assignment of submitting a hand-drawn copy of a screen shot in the book! So which do you think is more patently useless, the cheap newsprint the textbook is printed on, its contents, or whatever debris resides between the teacher’s two ears?


Parents are often told they should assume primary responsibility for their children’s education. I get the feeling that some schools are off-loading the heavy learning onto assignments that kids are told to do at home, in order to make up for poorly paid or unqualified teachers, who have a hard time doing a proper job in the classroom. Whatever the case, what can parents do to maximize out-of classroom learning?

Parents have always expressed a preference for “educational” toys, in word if not in deed. This was true in the bygone days of the Etch-A-Sketch. (Are you old enough to remember “Pick it up and shake it”?) This was likely already true when cavemen tossed bits of not-too-sharp flint to their bruins for them to play with (“Careful with that, Junior, or you’ll scorch the bearskin rug!” cave-moms probably chided.)

Nowadays, there is certainly no lack of choice. If anything, the wide availability of technical gadgets can be confusing. Which of these have real “educational value” and which are merely “toys”?

Clearly a top of the line Lenovo or Vaio would be overkill for a 12-year-old. But would an Asus eee be better than a PSP? All these tech gizmos have both practical (educational) and recreational uses. But note that some adult working professionals can turn even sophisticated cell phones and powerful computers into time-wasting toys.

So it’s not just the tool but, more importantly, how you use it.

Childish Reactions

One of the main criticisms against computer games is that they are mindless and tend towards repetitive, zombie-like behavior. This is true of some games, but for many others the trick is how you play the game. You can simply go zooming around the screen zapping bad guys, or you can take a more thoughtful, even strategic approach. The better games will provide for and encourage this.

Parents can also help nudge child’s play onto more productive tracks.

The next time your kid fires up a favorite game, you can safely ignore the cartoonish graphics, but don’t ignore the kid. By following the game play, you can observe your child’s reaction to the game and maybe even provide a few tips.

For example, if the child gets frustrated and reboots every time he or she is losing a “level,” you can help by providing early advice on being patient and how to deal with setbacks. They will appreciate the attention and your getting into their stuff. Just take care not too get too involved or intrusive. You may even have to tear yourself away from the games to avoid getting addicted yourself!

Yet another reason for keeping tabs on what your kids do with tech gadgets is to provide guidance against potential danger. In the US, some parenting advocacy groups advise against providing webcams in the bedroom as a precaution against cyber-predators. (Even for very young children, researchers are now studying bullying behavior on online multi-player networks.)

For many kids, what they do online or how they use modern communications gadgets is just as real as real life; oftentimes, more so. It’s not just about the practical utility of the gadget, but also how a child interacts with technology. This behavior will likely affect personality development as the child copes with an increasingly technological environment.

At the very least, it’s certainly a good idea to keep as close a watch on your kids as you do your growing business. Meantime, go ahead, buy your kid a “toy.”

Print ed: 11/08


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