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Geoff Ashton

Blogs by Geoff Ashton
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8 minutes reading time (1538 words)

Should I let my child use their device as a tool for learning or is it distracting?


For good? Or for evil?

Is tech always a good thing?

  It's tough, as parents, isn't it? From day one we have a tough deal, navigating our way through parenthood and being constantly bombarded with information on what we 'absolutely should' and 'absolutely should not' do with (and for) our children. I'd even go as far as to say parenting is getting harder nowadays, especially compared to when our parents were parents! Controversial statement, I know! (Parents of the older generation had family for advice - that's it. No social media, no forums, no Google.)

But I say this because the influence of technology seems to have gotten a huge grip on the new generation of youngsters, and really doesn't seem to be letting go. We're faced with complaints from our 'little 'uns' if we're not keeping them up to date with the latest gizmos and gadgets, and told off for not being 'cool' enough if we're limiting our teenagers' screen time in favour of completing their homework with the traditional pen and paper method – "but that's soooo last century..."

Ipads for babies?

Kids on tech from a young age these days

  The desire and need for the latest gadgets seems to be grabbing our children's attention at increasingly younger ages now – I myself am a new mum to a six-month-old, and the discussions in our house about technology already seem to be starting. Only last week my husband asked, 

"When do you think we should be buying Freddy an iPad?"

(We're all Apple in this house, so there's absolutely no entertaining another brand of gadget, which is a little silly really, as we could definitely save a bit of money on a different product!)

I can almost hear your outrage at my husband and his question! Don't worry! We're not planning on buying our little baby a tablet quite yet. But we are worried about striking the balance right – how soon is too soon?

When will we reach the point where we may actually be hindering our son by not teaching him to use technology? So with us having these questions already, at just six months into our journey through parenthood, it's no wonder mums and dads of older children and teenagers are finding it tricky to strike the balance just right when it comes to technology and learning.

Paper or tablet?

  Okay, so will your child be totally uncool if they don't do every scrap of homework on their tablet or smartphone? 

Absolutely not! Plus, as I'm sure you'll agree, there's something to be said for developing their writing skills by using good old-fashioned pen and paper (as my grandparents would've put it)! After all, the pen is mightier than the sword, and all that. (I know, I would say that, being an English teacher and all!) 

Personally, I'd say the younger the child the more important it is to help them develop their traditional writing skills before they turn to typing and touching a screen as a method of producing a piece of homework. I certainly prefer marking a good handwritten story to a run-of-the-mill typed piece of writing any day.

Spell-check heaven!

​ However, so much research shows that the use of digital technology can be a really important and crucial tool for learning, and not just when it's simply used for typing pieces of work to make them look neater (as well as utilising that all-important spell-check we know our teenagers heavily rely on these days! (I know, what happened to a good old dictionary, right?!)

In fact, nowadays many schools and colleges are actively encouraging teachers to utilise digital technology as much as possible in pupils' everyday learning environments.

Get outa that shell-suit and into the 21st century!

Get up to date granny!

  As a teacher, I cannot stress how important it is that your child engages with their school or college's digital learning platform. Platforms such as Moodle, Edmodo, iTunes U, Google Classroom etc are becoming increasingly popular amongst educational institutions and are an excellent tool for parents and pupils alike. 

Personally speaking, as an English teacher (and I reckon I can vouch for most teachers of most subjects here) I spend a lot of time putting resources and homework on to our chosen platform, Moodle, and often get concerned that these are going to 'waste' (for want of a better word!) because parents and students don't access them. 

Moodle can also be used as a brilliant tool to keep yourself informed as a parent as well. Many homework tasks set through these digital learning platforms are marked online through them too, so you can see how well your child is doing in a particular subject, and, more importantly, where their targets are so you can help them to strive to achieve their goals. By keeping up to date regularly, you may also be able to spot opportunities for intervention earlier, and identify if they need extra help, such as private tuition, in a certain subject, too.

 You might be interested in this post: Screen time for kids: how much is too much?

The place for technology...

Blended learning

​ One of the huge buzz terms flying around in education at the moment is 'blended learning'. Simply put, 'blended learning' is a teaching technique utilised in many modern classrooms, where the teacher utilises digital technology as a tool for learning during at least part (if not all) of the lesson. If you're encouraging your child to use their digital device as a tool for learning at home, this will, in turn, help them during these particular lessons at school or college.

It's a joint responsibility between parents and teachers alike to ensure our youngsters use technology positively and sensibly in order to help broaden their knowledge of the world. Imagine if we'd have had all of these facts and resources at our fingertips and in our pockets when we were at school. We'd have been over the moon! (Although I'll never forget my maths teacher telling me how important it was to work things out in my head, because "you'll never carry a calculator around in your pocket when you're older, Rachael!" Oh how wrong she was!) 

It's also important we help our younger generation to gain confidence in using technology to learn, rather than to just be 'social' (I've used inverted commas here as there's clearly an argument against the 'social' aspect of 'social media' – but that's a whole other blog post and debate in itself!)

 Be careful out there...

It CAN work well...

  So, how do we make sure our children use technology positively and sensibly, then?! There are simple steps we can take to make sure our youngsters use their digital devices as a tool for learning rather than a massive distraction. Yes, some of it involves us monitoring their usage a bit more closely, but it also involves being very encouraging when they are using their devices for homework and research. With some devices, we can set parental controls to ensure they spend less time on social media (or no time at all, if that's the rule in your house). We can also encourage them to use educational apps to show them that learning can be fun, not a chore, and not something limited to schoolwork alone! (See my recommendations for top educational apps, broken down into age categories, below.)

  Finally, I bet I can guess what you're thinking! That the responsibility is all on us as parents, as per usual! But I promise you, it doesn't have to be a constant battle to pry the tablet out of your child's hands. The mere fact you're reading this post means you care enough about your child's screen time and use of digital technology. Give yourself a huge pat on the back and trust me when I say, you've got this!

Our Top Educational Apps

Try our recommended educational apps...

 Early Years (Up to 5 Years Old)

  • Number Train Early Learning
  • Noa Magic Pond
  • Magical Maxwell
  • Lipa Theater: Story Maker
  • Moving Books! Jajajajan: Kids'n Songs & Books
  • Richard Galbraith's Cartoon Workshop 1
  • Edukomath: Times tables
  • I learn
  • Room on the Broom: Games
  • Kids Educational Games

 Key Stage One and Two (Ages between 5 and 11 Years Old)

  • DNA Play
  • ExplorArt Klee
  • codeSpark
  • Squeebles Maths Bingo
  • six-month-old
  • DIY Nano
  • Ibbleobble
  • Highlights Every Day
  • Books and Magic
  • HangArt

 Key Stage Three and Four (Ages between 11 and 16 Years Old)

  • IXL Maths and English
  • Qlango: Learn Languages Easily
  • Equii
  • Universal Zoom
  • six-month-old – English with movies
  • Improve English: Word Games
  • Learnji – Vocabulary App
  • Epic Maths
  • DoodleMaths
  • Read2U

 Key Stage 5 and Further Education (Ages between 16 and 18 Years Old)

  • Synap
  • Elements
  • Snap Revise
  • Cell Biology 101
  • Curious – the game of lifelong learning
  • Lifeline
  • StoryCorps
  • Solve the Outbreak
  • iMindMap
  • Gojimo

 If you'd like to explore the possibility of one of our highly skilled tutors taking your child to the next level, then visit our 'Let's Find A Tutor' page.

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