Little Children: Computers V Play
According to the ABC news site:
‘Queensland prep students as young as four will be learning how to code from next year as schools fast-track the teaching of digital technology.’
(Me: ‘Digital technology? Four-year-olds?’)
‘An education summit in Brisbane has been told Australia is set to become a world leader in digital learning.
Griffith University education lecturer Professor Jason Zagami said from 2017 all Queensland schools would adopt lessons similar to a program implemented in the UK.’….
"We have to acknowledge that this is the world students now live in," he said.
"We have to prepare them for that world, as much as it might be different to the world we were brought up in.”
"We have to acknowledge they may need different skills that we may not have ourselves."
Professor Zagami said children as young as four would start with "coding lessons" to operate tiny little robots.
"They will be learning about how to create sequences, programming a robot maybe to move around some squares and get to a particular position."
Is this true?
Is it a ghastly joke?
Do the people who have made - and announced - this decision actually have any experience with small (very small!) children?
In my 30+ years of working with small children, I have had the delightful and privileged experience of being involved in many little people’s lives as they soaked up knowledge like little sponges. I have participated in the joy of watching tiny kids leaping over and around word flashcards as they joined in fun games, happily learning to read. I have watched in awe as they quickly accumulated word and number recognition, ultimately leading to them reading books and calculating simple maths.
And I have watched them play and interact with their peers as they learned the art of living.
Children around ages four and five bring with them myriad and varied life experiences: some have enjoyed enriched early years and are ready to read, write and calculate, while others are only just becoming used to seeing books and holding a pencil.
The expectation – no matter how the world has changed – that mini-people of four years of age should be confronted with ‘coding lessons’ as they start school is not only appalling but extremely sad.
On the same day that I read of the teaching of coding to prep children, a friend shared (on Face Book) an article on children’s freedom to play in association with learning.
The article, ‘The Play Deficit – an essay’ (look it up – and yes, it is a couple of years old) quoted American psychologist, Peter Gray, who is research professor at Boston College. He writes the Freedom to Learn blog, and is the author of Free to Learn (2013) and Psychology (2011).
In claiming that it is more playing time that children need, not directed school work, he says:
“Play deprivation is bad for children. Among other things, it promotes anxiety, depression, suicide, narcissism, and loss of creativity. It’s time to end the experiment.”
He deplores the reduction on playing time experienced by today’s children
He writes further: “….the rise in mental disorders among children is largely the result of the decline in children’s freedom. If we love our children and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to play, not less. Yet policymakers and powerful philanthropists are continuing to push us in the opposite direction — toward more schooling, more testing, more adult direction of children, and less opportunity for free play.”
IT IS ALSO MY OPNION that play promotes creativity in children. It is free play that produces an almost accidental passion for learning, coming naturally through experimentation and interaction with others and a wide range of experiences.
People who suggest that you cannot make a living out of creativity are short sighted. Creativity, in all its guises, is what keeps the world spinning. On the other hand, it’s difficult to make a living – or especially a happy living - out of nothing more than learned facts and figures – or being able to recite back what has been fed to you, (via rote learning or computer programming).
As far as communicating and social skills go, to me, social play is the great teacher of fairness, empathy and the art of negotiation. Not to mention the acquisition of emotion managing skills.
Sure, I accept that in this age of computers it is essential that little people are familiar with technology, but first things first, I say. Let them PLAY.
All in all – give me little kids exposed to lots of free and creative play as opposed to the ability to code and program a robot any day.
Fast-track the teaching of digital technology to prep children?
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