Sunday, August 24, 2008

Laptops for Infants

I certainly know the argument for waiting for children to have access to the digital world as stated in the Alliance for Children Report, "Computers and Children", and "Fool's Gold - A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood."

If I did not know that my 9 month old grandson, Ilan, had a home where rich experiences with attentive parents was commonplace, then I might not have done what I did. Ilan and my daughter, Jessica, are from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, visiting for a few days. Jess is a physician in the Chapel Hill area and my son-in-law, Sal, is a new assistant dean for student affairs at the University of North Carolina. Ilan is getting to the age where he likes to bang on the keys of his dad's new laptop. So my thought was, why not have an older computer that is made just for that purpose, one that you wouldn't be worried so much if it got damaged . . . so I cleaned off one of the g3 iBooks I had purchase a couple of years ago, added free AlphaBaby, TuxPaint, and an icon with a link to Starfall. At this point, I suspected that AlphaBaby would be of interest, providing visual and audio feedback to whacking the keyboard. And though I caught Ilan just before he was ready for a nap, we weren't disappointed in his enthusiasm.

What other good baby software is out there?

But the real question is this:

Was I a bad grampa for introducing this device so early in baby Ilan's life? What do you think?

Another Question:

What do we lose by moving learning to machines?

See earlier post: Read Aloud and Baby Einstein


Mrs. W. said...

I don't think you are a bad Granpa. Granpa's are supposed to enrich and enhance the lives of grandchildren.

Have you seen BabySmash?

Jim Burke said...

Hey, Deb, that's what I wanted to hear! :))))) But . . . the Alliance for Learning Report DOES have some good points. I think we still have a ways to go to sort this all out.

I did try out BabySmash . . . just preferred the name AlphaBaby! :)



Carl Anderson said...

Regarding your 2nd question:

I don't think we ever really move learning to machines (unless you are talking about AI). Behind every LMS, website, educational game, or instructional software there is a programmer, developer, author, and/or teacher. Would you ever say, "What do we lose by moving learning to books?"

Jim Burke said...

Good question, Carl. In hindsight, perhaps my question was stated incorrectly . . . it didn't convey what I was really wanted to ask. So I'll try again with a couple of other questiions: Is there a danger of reducing the amount of human contact at a basic level by entertaining a baby with a machine? Is there a more important need for babies to connect first with people and his/her immediate environment through the sense of touch and eye contact . . . bonding with the natural world, if you will?