Every once in a while, I blow the mind of my seven-year-old: I tell her that once upon a time, when I was little, there was no internet to turn to when you had a question. If you wanted to research something, you had to buy or check out from the library the specific book that would help you. You had to fill out a form to get this book through interlibrary loan, and that might take weeks. And once you got your book in hand, it still might not have the information you were looking for. You might have to start over from scratch with a new book. Your learning proceeded at a snail’s pace. As I tell my story, my daughter begins to look at me with wide eyes. She can’t imagine a world in which you can’t Google your question and find an instant answer. She can’t imagine a world in which knowledge is inaccessible.
The changes I’ve seen in my short life haven’t all been good, of course. The desire for instant answers sometimes skews our expectations in today’s world. (Not all good things come instantly!) The ability to search the internet so quickly can deceive us into thinking we have more knowledge than we actually do. It can also lead to breadth instead of depth in our understanding of the world.
But even with these caveats in mind, isn’t this an incredible world that we live in? A world in which the wonder of discovery and learning is a constant, a world in which more information and knowledge is available at our fingertips than ever before. It’s pretty awe inspiring when you think about it.
As parents, we can use technology to share a love of learning with our children. Together, we get to explore this amazing world of ours, uncovering new knowledge together. Bonding over mutual discovery can create rich memories with our children. It’s also a wonderful way to become teammates instead of adversaries in our relationship with technology. And a great way for parents who are less practiced with tech to become more fluent in the language of technology, thereby enhancing our boundaries and conversations with our children.
There are countless ways our family has used the internet to help enhance learning. Libraries are starting to catch up with the times, and many are now offering ebook lending. This means that the Kindle your kiddo got for Christmas is no longer limited to the books you purchase for it (a big help if money is tight!). Your library will lend you ebooks for a couple of weeks at a time. Picture books, chapter books, YA, classics, nonfiction--there are lots of wonderful opportunities for getting your child excited about reading. For some kids, the fun of swiping through pages on a tablet, highlighting interesting passages, and looking up unfamiliar words is just the thing they need to develop the desire to read. It’s important to be aware that sometimes the nature of shared community ebooks will mean that your child may have to wait for several weeks to months for specific books, but chances are there will be lots of wonderful material to read while they are waiting.
by Rebecca Miller, Kudoso Kontributor