Turning kids on to computing

by Carla Schroder

Tis the season to be deluged with ads for all manner of crap for kids, including "educational" computer games. Yeah, right. Wouldn't you rather give your kids something of value, and that will help them develop real skills? Instead of turning into nearsighted wheezing lardbutted obsessive-compulsive button-pushers?


2006-11-22 13:28:53
So today's common denominator is last generations equipment?
That makes sense for social compatibility, but enough with the fat kid associations already.
Certainly kids don't need to forge their own hammers before hammering a nail. We do need to recognize the difference between craft, skill and obsolescence.

Novelty gluttony is bad. Forget Sesame Street, go after Disney.

2006-11-23 00:07:42
Just to finish your argument: As in your wood working example give your kids the chance to write their own programs and they will find that writing their own animal guessing game is much more entertaining than playing what had just been delivered.

And the world would be a better place if more people had an idea how the programs that they use work at least in principle.

2006-11-24 09:00:48
AMEN!!! - I have been preaching this for years. I just get dumbfounded looks by teachers and parents alike. I am in the IS field and I truly believe kids should not touch computers until the last two years of high school - and maybe not even then.

With that said there are some good sites out there that are actually good for kids. mathfactcafe.com - sadler-oxford.com -

I pay pretty good money for my daughter to lease a horse and I gladly pay it anytime - the place I lease it at teaches how to ride and very good safety along with the maintenance involved with keeping the horses and my daughter loves riding and is very happy when on top of the horse.

That is real fun - not this playstation or xbox crap that is constantly being shoved down everyone's throat. If the gaming industry went away today I would not lose any sleep.

Anyway great article and I hope more people read it and take it to heart.

2006-11-24 10:37:39
woah woah woah, hold on. i think that advanced skill in computers benefits children more than you'd expect. a true interest and understanding in computers is something that is very rare nowadays. teenagers think that setting up a myspace page or downloading illegal files makes them a computer whiz, but it doesn't. when parents are active in their childs education of computers, they will learn so much more. i think that by the time a child is ten they should already have skill in some easy programming language like basic-256 and should have skills in web development. If a parent can guide their child's natural curiosity towards something like computers then they will already have skills to put them ahead in the working world. look at the twenty-and-thirty-somethings that started their own businesses and made their millions, are those the high-tech couch potatoes you are talking about? so i agree, educational games and shows are horrible, but that isn't computing, and instead of blaming computers, how about you teach kids how the fancy embroidery program works?

2006-11-24 14:27:21
"Computing is just a means to an end." If I had ever thought that, I would never have become interested in computers. I would have thought them just as boring (or frightening) as most adults do these days. A computer is a machine, but a radically different kind of machine from anything that preceded it. It is of immense philosophical importance, being the nearest approach so far to the realization of intelligence in an artifact. Just a means to and end? You must be one of those lethal parents who have had their vision and creativity killed off.
Uncle Dave
2006-11-28 06:20:39
To those who insist that "today's kids" simply must know how to use or even program computers:

A. How badly damaged were you, educationally, by not having those things when you grew up? Did you ever recover? How long did it take?

B. What, besides how to program or to interact with a program, can you learn from a computer, that you could not learn otherwise? Aren't we bringing all kinds of media to the computer because computing in itself is insufficient?

C. Isn't the real value of computers in education the fact that they can streamline the administrative aspects of learning, but not learning itself?

In other words, let's not pretend that computers are important because we find them fascinating, or because "everybody" thinks they are; and let's get over the idea that there are "automatic" ways for our children (and us) to learn.

2006-11-29 06:10:06
So is this saying that past generations of children before the visual stimulation education turned out to be smarter? I'm pretty sure the kids in school and just out school all had harder educations than their parents. Our kids are constantly getting smarter, and education expectations are constantly rising for most. Clearly adding technology to this learning equation we can at least say hasn't harmed anything.
2006-12-06 08:22:20
Uncle Dave, I cannot answer A since I have been programming since age 10. For what the benefits are: You learn how to express a problem (or a strategy to solve a problem) in a most exact way, so exact that even a dumb computer can understand it. Being able to do so is often a key step in the attack to difficult problems.

Second, it help to categorise and structure your thoughts and ways of thinking. You can benefit from the option of having a functional or an object oriented view on the world for example. Don't do it all the time, but sometimes it is useful.

There are many more examples.

2007-04-24 13:58:00
Well, that is a very fine idea - but where can you get Linux applications that can do the work - even you got an expensive Happy HD-1501-40 Embroidery machine?
2007-08-08 18:28:20
Pardon me, but what is this "real life" you talk about? If you didn't notice, 99% of our life is dominated by electronic devices. The ones who make the real money and become successful are the ones that have the ability to persuade (social engineering) and/or those who can harness the power of technology better than the next person.

I don't disagree with everything you said in this article but you missed one very important thing: every individual is different and has different passions in life. It's our responsibility as parents to find out what our kids like and turn it into something useful for life skill. Too many miss this because they're wrapped up in their own life and would rather entertain their kids.

Some skills that were once useful are now not needed or useful. It would be a very terrible mistake to ban a child from technology, just as devastating of mistake as not guiding them to to use the computer correctly and establishing a solid, focused education at home. Parents are to be the largest role as teachers, larger than the technology we all use or teachers at our schools. Too many people desire to take the easy route and allow anyone and everyone else take the role as teacher.