Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Let the child touch the TV remote and you know that’s their first brush with technology.
Children take to technology like fish take to water. Even as debates rage over how much technology we should let our children use, it comes down to one inescapable fact that the society of today and tomorrow is totally driven by technology. The impact of video games on children is well-researched.
Let’s question – can we be Luddites in a world that is also tapping into children as design “partners” for innovation? Or should we embrace the best of technology and use it to strengthen their literacy and cognitive skills?
Which are the creative technology skills we should encourage children to learn? Maybe, these five (though, feel free to suggest your own in the comments)…
Using Cartoon And Comic Strip Tools
Comics help jumpstart reading habits, but with the right push they can also do the same for creativity and imagination.
Cartoons and comics hold a natural appeal for children. Using any of the freely available online comic strip tools, children can move from passive reading to active participants as storybook authors. As a parent, you can encourage your child by planning out the story and helping the child through the initial steps like sketching the key stages and having them fill in the other steps. Children don’t need drawing skills. If they have a story, they can create simple stick-figure comic strips within a few frames. Even if they cannot draw, they can narrate the story and you can draw the comics.
The Comic Book Project is an after-school national literacy program in the United States. They state — CBP engages children in a creative process leading to academic reinforcement, social awareness, and character development. By engaging youths in the creative process of brainstorming, sketching, plotting, designing, and finalizing original comic books, CBP enables students to become content creators, rather than mere information receivers.
Few other online tools include:
Mindmapping taps into both the right (creative) and left (logical) side of the brain.
Mindmapping isn’t only for adults. The earlier kids learn this skill, the better. Through the school years, mindmapping can turn into an invaluable note-taking tool. Even Tony Buzan, the founder of many mindmapping concepts hasn’t left kids out and has published a full-color workbook. I only wish I had learnt this skill in my wonder years. It would have helped me structure and simplify complex information. It definitely would have helped me save agonizing hours revising before exams.
Mindmaps needs some pens and paper only. But you can take advantage of the many online mindmapping tools. Try Bubbl.us for basic mindmapping and then you can help your child graduate upwards to more versatile apps. With a little help, you can turn to Google Drive and Microsoft Word as well for designing mindmaps.
A few other tools…
Collaborative writing teaches group brainstorming, teamwork, learning and leadership.
If online tools are suited for anything, it is this – collaborative writing. Writing together in teams is a part of many school curricula. An early start helps children not only in the classrooms but also helps them uncover hidden talents related to the written word and go on to greater literary heights. Inspiring examples?
Introduce your kids to Gordon Korman who started at the age of 12 and continues to be a successful author. Or, Christopher Paolini who wrote Eragon after he turned 15. There are many more contemporary examples of child authors who have printed their names because of Web 2.0 and self-publishing.
Here are some online tools children can try.
Learning to work collaboratively could have future benefits as kids grow up and start working in collaborative teams. Start them early.
Making “Short” Films
Children spend hours watching films and TV. Teaching filmmaking to kids is about giving them creative and technical skills. And the power of communication.
There’s this story about Steven Spielberg starting out by filming “train wrecks” with models when he was a kid. Making home movies can be a source of endless joy for kids. Unlike Spielberg, kids of today can make the most of free video editing tools available as downloads and online. They don’t even need a fancy digicam. It’s all there within the click of a video app on smartphones. Windows Movie Maker is the easiest video editing tool you can help your child start out with. WeVideo is a neat cloud based alternative.
The video above has some short but nice tips for kids who want to be filmmakers. Keep an eye open for film workshops and summer camps for kids in your town or city. For instance, The New York Film Academy hosts filmmaking camps for children every summer. Even tech companies like Apple have something with their Youth Programs.
Here are some more resources:
Designing Computer Games
Exciting, engaging, and an fun way to develop STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills.
Remember playing cops and robbers as a child? That was “game design” without the fancy word and frills. There are many cognitive benefits of allowing children to play the right kind of video games. There could be a few more plusses for teaching them how to design their own games. First – it’s a great way to build up a strong base for STEM Skills. Second – it’s great FUN. Then again, learning all about the dominant medium of tomorrow is better than just being a passive participant in its entertainment.
Here are some tools:
Could These Activities Lead To More Engaged Learning?
Look at it this way. These five online activities aren’t just about technology. They are about education. Anyway you cut it, the society of the future is going to be completely digital riding on communication and innovation. Education and learning would be poorer if we don’t tap into the fun element of technology.
Do you encourage your child (or children) in their online creative pursuits? What are the benefits you have seen? What tips would you recommend to other parents?