Educating Kids with Technology

Internet DNA Podcast

What if technology could educate our children better than we can? What if it was a force for good? Kids use technology so how do we help them get the best from it; what can it do better than humans? This episode looks at just that -  the ways to engage children with technology to inspire, educate and create better human beings... how we ended up on banks and a lesson in taxation, the economy and the environment I am not sure, but a meander through the good, the bad and the downright ugly.



Hello, welcome to this week's episode, Internet Dna with me, Abby. This week we're going to discuss the possibility of educating kids with technology. There's so much bad press about too much screen time, too much social media time, too much gaming. But what if actually technology could educate our children better than we could ourselves. So let's say we have decided that we're only going to educate our children with technology. What would we do? I mean, what is it a two year old can use an iPad? Is that correct? They can work things out pretty quickly with the sliders and things. So if we were saying right, the best interaction they're going to get is where the computer, where would we start?

Well, I think you actually need to start with what do they already like doing? Because I think one of the problems with technology in education is that there are a bit worthy or they're a bit rubbish and often both spelling frame and mass watch and Oh, I don't know. All sorts of crazy things that they do and some of them are right. But for young kids it's got to be fun because this is the problem with all educational two's that I see certainly for the younger ages when we're talking primary and below, which is if it's not fun, they just don't play it. Our kids played something which was to help them with their math and their spelling and it was very flash animation to the games, but actually all they did was customized their advertisers because that was more fun to them. And so one of the biggest problems with education for kids is making it actually involving, and I don't think there's a one size fits all. I think you need a range of different tools and find which ones each kid goes for.

If it starts with a really early age, we have obviously voice interaction and screen interaction. Now the tiny children, if we say we're only educating with technology, it would be extraordinary to see how far they could go. Talking to say Alexa or a voice interface and they knew that if they got a gurgle they might get a boo back or they know if they did a far they might get fuck back to. They could take it further and further improving and coming up with creative noises they were making to get a funny thing back and they could probably ask for more stories by going more, more so even when the only just talking, they could be increasing that awareness and broadening how they communicate by the reaction to the noises they got that something like collects would make.

I think there's also quite a lot of scope for noninteractive. I actually think teletubbies in the night garden are really, really good examples of learning. They count all the time. They say words the same words over and over again so that people understand it. They recap the story and all of these things are about how you teach children to learn. It's not all about press this or say this, get this back. Sometimes it's just teach people in a different way. Make it almost not like learning. And I was talking about this the other day, about two years ago, I read heart of darkness again for the first time since school. And that school, I hated that book because it was just chunked down so small that you didn't get the brilliance of the book, which is, it's just the most intense piece of prose. Sometimes we'd learning what you lose is the actual meat of a thing.

And so if for kids things like identifying numbers, identifying words, letters sounds making it fun. So for really young kids, I think that's quite important. Recognition of Glyphs, be those letters or numbers, understanding how numbers work. Little basic things, but really focus on the fun because the learning happens by accident. Well, one of my things is I don't think children should go to school at all until they're seven. I just think they should be allowed to play. That gives them a physical experience of the world that will then tie into the rest of their loan

learning accident.

Yeah, that was a fantastic point. Okay. So I'll give you an example of, as an older chap, I play games and one of the games I have played in my history is a thing called world of tanks. And it's given me an absolute fascination with armored vehicles in a way that I would never have got into. And another one is assassin's creed odyssey, which has just given me a, an absolute interest in Greek mythology, the Greek world history of that period, not the direct teaching,

what technology would lie you, which is what I think is really clever when you said the learning by accident is the discovery of things that aren't 100% related to the subject that you were being taught. So when you're with a teacher, you are taught a subject and you don't digress. But if you are being taught by a screen, you could like Pinterest, like Google, like any of these things. You could go down rabbit holes and as you've just said, find out something that really peaks your interest and burrow into that. And that's where the learning by accident helps you learn so much stronger and better because it's grabs you. You're going to keep going at it because you want to, not because you have to,

especially for boys. Cause obviously I've got three boys, you've got two girls, you're gonna have a slightly different perspective on this. And I actually think in their younger years they need to be taught slightly differently anyway. But for instance, if you want to teach kids about vikings, if you gave them a viking game proper, so actually had the nuances of what Viking life was like, then what you might do is Pique an interest into that completely. But like young boys get into dinosaurs, there's something about a dinosaur that just blows kids' minds. And I think it's cause they were real monsters. But that thing of taking people into a world so that they can experience it, it's probably a much better way of teaching them than just rote learning because it links into a broader experience.

Yeah. So getting a bit older, let's say primary school or for any age, if you engage a child through fun, yeah. Then they will engage themselves in the learnings. But if you try and engage them into the learning, they'll go and find fun. Yeah. And they might not be finding the fun in the area that they're meant to be doing it. Yeah. So if you flip those on your head again, something you could do with technology, then you would find that they did it off their own back.

That's a real key driver for learning is, wow, that's interesting. I'll find out more about that. Social is another thing that has a massively into and harnessing some aspects of social to help them learn. So to create, Gosh, you know, I'm not here to develop the next generation learning systems, but maybe you should be some form where you've got points that were valuable in some way or sticker for completing tasks or or something. Now the problem I find is that it's difficult to imbue those things with any coolness.

Well, mine love the mathletics, which is that sort of age. And again, you have your avatars and as you move up you become a rushing demon or something and there's a good healthy bit of competition. So you do your, what you've been set in class and then you can go and play against other people. So your prize for having completed the school part of it is to then having good healthy challenge and a leaderboard. Still very educational because you're using exactly what you learned in the task set before in a time sensitive situation. So actually mathletics I've got it really quite spot on,

quite spot on for kids at that are good at it. I think you're fine for kids that struggle. Third core tile, fourth quarter kids, they don't do it at all because this is one of those things about competition, which is it's very encouraging for upper core tiles, but it's actually demotivating for lower quarters. What they actually did was they played the games they were good at and so all they really did was strengths and things that they were already strong at.

So how do you get them?

Yeah, I think get them wrong at the things they're not good at. If you think of a game mechanic where everything's balanced, let's say a typical thing, you have resources, you have our armies, you have science, you have, I don't know, economy. And if you have those out of balance, you won't progress.

So you have to go and do the things that, yes.

Yeah. So even though you don't want to go and do your economy because it's boring, but actually if you don't, you can't. Yeah, exactly. And you call him.

It doesn't have any [inaudible]. It doesn't matter what it is. So you have another thing earlier as well about how could we use social media in a better way. Now interestingly, there's a lot of games, and again, maybe this is girls, adults as well actually, where you have a virtual pet on your phone and you constantly have to give it love and food and time. And I've always gone, oh my goodness, what a waste of time. But if in social media you could get points for being nice to people, showing empathy, putting something that would help someone. So using that pet mentality across social media with your friends and your family. So the way you write gets you points, the way you help gets you points. The way you respond gets you points. Then you are encouraging children to be nice over social media, posting a picture, go look at me. You're posting a picture saying, hey look, I had a really boring weekend to look at me type thing and maybe that will get you more of a point that when someone had been upset then I will look, this is me in the sun on a speedboat possibly bringing in the empathy and the kindness into a social media style game.

I think the biggest problem with any digital learning is making it valuable to the child. It's very easy for these things to become uncool so that actually having 1,500 points on school media is seen as a thing. One of the things I hate about social media for young people is the focus on the self. I find that very worrying in a more long term sense. I think that this individualization of society is actually quite heartless.

And the other thing that children really love, and I think because they're such sponges, could be used to help them, is how to videos. So they all love Youtube already and they dump times. If I say go and do something creative, they'll have watched a youtube video and then the half will just be filled with these beautiful flower displays made out of paper and we'll and stones that they're like, oh yeah, we learned with this great Swedish girl on Youtube and so short movie clips. That's another way that you could use that and educating way

and there you go, which is peaking someone's interest. Blake, who's now at secondary school, you just some maths thing and they haven't the bottom, a little youtube video that explains to you how it's done. I think everybody uses youtube to learn how to do things because it doesn't matter what you're trying to do. There's at least 50 videos on how to do that. Not to be underestimated is how do you channel it though when there's so much distraction. And this is why I think that digital is good and digital is really interesting. But I used to take the scout beavers to duck's foot and I was surprised how much more they got out of touching and feeling and being in aircraft then doing the simulators.

But that's because they're so used to it these days. You know, when we did simulators they were uh, they were the best, but the whole thing, because we weren't sitting on computer games all day long. So it's being interested in what you don't do all the time.

Another way to look at it is history. So I don't know how you were taught history, but I was taught history in these little boxes. You know, you'd learn about the civil war, but you wouldn't learn anything about before the civil war. After the civil war, you just learn the English civil war.

So then you had no timeline of when these,

well, exactly. That's where computing can be more interesting. You can be learning a subject and they can show you nodes off it like did you know that this is related? And that's related. And I watch with the kids, I think called extra history, which is just history broken down into little 10 minute videos animated. They also do mythology and Saifai. Weirdly, you should watch that actually for instance. So here's a bit of learning named me the first ever Saifai book,

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I did know that. Love, horrible histories. That's some things that have really got it right. Yeah, that's great learning thing they do, which actually I wants to move on to as well as they put everything to song and there's something about songs I could remember things in history by putting them to a rhyme. I could remember to spell thrive, a horrible histories sing and it makes it so amazing. I'm going to tell you in a minute about my history teacher and why I loved history, but I'm just going to carry on with this. I now know that there's a revision APP, which I can't wait for my lot to be old enough to use for GCSE and a levels. Basically it puts it to rap, so they're learning all the elements of history that answers that periodic table, them mathematical equations in a rap and apparently it's really taken off because obviously it's catchy and it's cool.

The other thing that's really helpful as well as things like music exams on your phone, you can now do the practice theory, which was always really, really difficult for us. It's an extension, isn't it? That's why I always say to people when they're like, oh, technology's going to take over and take our jobs. I was like, no, technology is going to give us a basis so that we can start higher up so that we can get further. If we're aiming for the moon and we're starting from the ground, it's going to take us a long time, but if we're starting from halfway up, because technology, I've got us that first off and without much ocean. That's what I feared about technology and all these aides that it gives us.

Actually, I think what it's going to do, just a slightly different nuance on that is it will remove all the low skill jobs,

but then they can do something. It's slightly higher skilled, higher up,

so much more important. Now the days when you could say, oh, I'm going to muck about at school because I can go and be a truck driver or a van driver. Those jobs will be gone. Shelf stacker delivery person because why would you pay a human being to do a job that a computer can do 24 hours a day? I actually think that's why education becomes really important because low skill jobs will disappear out of the market over the next 50 years because it will just be cheaper to run computers and it's one of the things I say to the children, which is it's absolutely essential that you find yourself or subject is a way to education like pizzas. What Blake's totally into video editing just into it. I've never taught how to do it and never done anything. The stuff he does in premiere and after effects, it's just unbelievable. And he will sit for hours doing it.

Well, we get him to edit a podcast for us each week.

Well, it's video editing.

I know, but therefore he can do voice sing as well.

Yeah, well maybe he could ship board so city with it, but that's where technology can be really, really interesting. You find people in our industry who just discovered a love for programming because they like the creative aspect for it or they love graphic design. It's an enabling part of technology that I think is the real key to learning

enables you to go that much further, doesn't it? And it enables you to get a passion or even obsession for something which wouldn't have been possible before because you just didn't have access to the amount of information or the amount of tourists. So it enables you to just really immerse yourself in something that you're interested about and become top, not today. That's what we were saying last week about the different types of jobs and we were saying the systems administrators, they really had a knowledge but certain deep obscure things because of that were very interesting. Yeah.

[inaudible] science part of it. The key things that the internet does give you or technology does give you is the ability to keep learning incidentally through your life. I've been doing that whole middle medieval period, Persia and especially the Byzantine Empire and that's all just being kicked off by, I was interested in this and then I got interested in that and then slowly my whole interest in that subject has grown because as you fill in details you find, oh, what's that about them? I mean it's that kind of learning. It's very, very good for,

yeah. I love historical fiction books because you learn so much about history and you've got a really good story interwoven in it. Accidental learning. Again, this is isn't it accidental learning. That's the way forward. It's fun. First discover later.

I'm a real proponent of later school entry. I think that children should be allowed to just be for quite a long time. Actually. I don't think putting a five year old into a classroom isn't necessarily the environment that they're likely to thrive and out playing with sand climbing trees, understanding the world as it actually is rather than a constructed world that you get through education,

learning themselves before learning in the way that seminars is telling them to. Yeah. So making their own discoveries first before someone puts a rigid structure onto them. And I think that puts in the rigid structure to early dampens the ability of your own creativity.

It creates more subjugated subjects and so it leads to a society of apathy. What do you mean? If you read the news or you watch TV or you look at Youtube is full of nothing. Nothing at all. Celebrity nonsense, right?

So you're not learning

and also you're not getting a well rounded view of the world and it's almost like distraction therapy, which is what's this? So that you're not watching that.

Oh the again, how

exciting. So we're all being brainwashed and just sort of being la, la, la over here, well over here, destruction and death fed frost all day long so that we don't, what do you mean

bye subjugation and apathy?

Well if you want to control a populace, the best thing you can do is make them not give a shit. Cause what you don't want is people who care a lot because they do stuff. Wow. And I'm not saying it's direct, I don't believe there's some kind of crazy overlord over the top who's going on this is, I think it's been a natural, I was just thinking it's been a natural media is notice that people like frothy things cause like they get back from work, they're blown away. They don't want to get into anything meaty. But actually what it's led to is this world where no one's really watching anymore. What's actually going on. I always shy away from conspiracy theory because I just, I know how difficult it's just to get a project done. Nevermind a bloody conspiracy when they want those, what's going on.

So I'm a little bit shy of conspiracy, but I do feel that this media fed, we just consume a lot of rubbish and kind of miss a lot of the point. I've been learning a lot about banking recently, oddly. So there you go. Education banker. No, no. But for instance like I wasn't really aware that banks just make money and then lend it to people. They just magic money out of nowhere and then lend it to people to make real money. It's a very odd banking system. And when you look at that and then you want to try to understand what is inflation, like national debt, like just understanding what national debt actually means and when, what it is and the fact that we have to borrow more money every year in order to pay the money back that we borrowed last year. But the problem is you always have to borrow more money.

And if the media told us constantly about how is each individual's, we could do a little bit towards stopping climate change or stopping the plastic in the sea or I mean basically what David acid resident will handedly well with his team is doing. If they taught us a bit about that every day, apart from Brexit and celebrities, we will be doing so much more.

We wouldn't know because we get poorer and poorer everyday in the western world. So actually if you really want to change it, let's say ecology, this is what taxation is about. If you want to make things more ecological, you tax the things you don't like and you don't tax the things you do like. So if you say right, what we don't want is plastic, but we do like glass. Yeah. For example, I'm not saying that's true, but let's say it was then what you do is you tax plastic quite heavily and you don't tax glass at all. And what will happen is automatically through the economic system, people will shift away from plastic to glass. If you just say to people you shouldn't use plastic, people go, no, I shouldn't use plastic. But it's so convenient.

So actually way to change the world is through a top down capitalist society.

Uh, if it's top down, it's not. Calculus is so, um,

top down. What I mean is you're using economics and you're using people at the top to make policies about it. So people just doing good, just thing's never going to change the world. I'm really gutted. Well, no, I'm sure we'll just try and do three little things a day.

We could do three little things a day and some people who can do three things a day, but a lot of people who don't give a monkey's about it or think it's nonsense, you know, don't do those things. And so how do you can see you're going, I don't like to top down idea. Well, you know, the other side of that is the free market where there's no regulation and you just allow the economy to settle where it is. But that doesn't work because they're already entrenched. People with an advantage. There's not really a free market because there's not a level playing field like you and I can't start Google tomorrow because we're not.

So, um, I was just think he just earlier today when I was talking about goggles about the fact that there was life before the word Google and nobody had heard of that word before. No, I knew it's going to be invented. Isn't that funny thing? Yeah.

Is if I'm watching with my eldest son of a program called skins, which is mid thousands, I'm guessing it's good. They don't have mobile phones. Well they have mobile phones, but they don't have smart phones. In fact, we saw the first smart phone in an episode yesterday and we were in season four, but they had an episode where they were trying to find somewhere with a map. And Blake was just like, what madness? That is,

how the hell did you get anywhere ever? What is that funny thing?

Yes. Not only that, but he couldn't understand how you'd actually get anywhere with a map. And then the other thing was I said, yeah, but when I grew up, they weren't even mobile phones, so if you've got lost, you were lost. You couldn't ring someone and go, I'm going to be late, and that allowed a lot more freedom. When I left the front door of my house, my mom couldn't contact me until I came back in through that front door.

Sometimes when we went away to India, it was months and months on them and they just hope and wait. Yeah,

they were used to hoping and waiting so it didn't scare them. Whereas now, you know, we don't hear it from our children for half an hour and we're like, oh wow, I wonder what's happened to them. You know? My mother would never wandered after half an hour. What had happened to me. Do you know what I mean? Cause she has been her whole life in a flat panic on Valium. If that had been the case.

That's true. I'm not convinced. That's a good thing that we're always panicking and worrying and expecting our children to have texted or look for a picture of this on Instagram or something. I think you need to be able to stand on your own two feet. But then there's the bad side. You know when something does go wrong. Yeah, but does it though?

Well at that time, this is the thing that I say, oh I saw it in the news. The very fact you saw it on the news shows you how very rare that is because if it happened a lot it wouldn't be in the news car crashes on in the news. They just aren't that happen all the time. But they got in the airplane crashes don't happen in almost ever. Maybe once or twice a year if that

they over in the senate involves prince that exactly. Now we're back to celebrity our way. So we sort of go thought to follow that. And I just want to finish off with Minecraft because I have to say with those few blocks to create activity that I see my daughter come up with the farms and the rooms, no lofts and the waterfalls and them just beautiful environment she creates from high memory, from her imagination is astounding.

Perfect example of something that's fun with no learning in mind. I'm not trying to teach you to some thing. I'm trying to let you teach yourself anything. How does physics work? How do I make that marriage work? Yeah. When that block weighs a certain amount and is that kind of thing that, I just think that's an amazing way of teaching children of physics.

Hey, help children to discover themselves, not tell them what to discover. Yeah.

Don't formalize it. Let them learn it in their own way because different children learn in different ways.

So this hype, that's hope. Hope. There's always hope.

So I think for next week we may have a guest podcast. Alright, well it's goodbye from me.

Dan & Abi work, talk & dream in tech. If you would like to discuss any speaking opportunity contact us.