Your Kid Is Not Good At Computers [What The Tech?!]
When I was a kid, no battery operated toy was safe from my 6-year-old screwdriver. I’m not sure when it started, but since before I can remember, I was pulling the motor out from the rotary plastic fishing game or ripping the simple circuitry out of the Operation man’s face.
I should make it known that I hated Operation. The damn thing gave me a heart attack and I wouldn’t go NEAR it if others were playing. The suspense, followed by the heart-stopping and the unpredictably timed BUZZZZ were all a little too much for me. And yet, for some reason, every time Santa had discovered I’d ripped the poor man’s nose out he’d bring me another one!
Listen, Santa (mom), I didn’t want another Operation game. It wasn’t getting destroyed due to regular wear and tear. I can’t even say I had ever played one single turn. What I really wanted was a circuit set or electricity kit or a “My First Soldering Iron”. I was intrigued as to how and why this stuff worked, what made it do what it did, how it was made and how else it could be applied.
My learning never went very far though. I mostly just tore stuff out and tried hooking it up to Legos. Nothing really ever DID anything and I never really LEARNED anything until the introduction of the internet in my life around the 7th grade, then I was able to just dial up and AOL [verb] how to REALLY get stuff done, like linear editing on my VCR and rigging an old mouse as a bedroom door alarm.
I only wish that there were the resources for kids back then that there are today. I think every single kid should be encouraged to explore and should be given the tools and kindle they need to light the fire of discovery and invention inside of them.
I can’t imagine what I’d be doing with myself today if someone recognized my habits as more than just a nuisance.
A 15 year old developed the first early test for pancreatic cancer which is 168 times faster than the old standard and costs 5 cents. When asked about his childhood, what he reflects on the most is the fact that his parents encouraged exploration in him more than anything else. They never directly answered his questions but encouraged him to experiment, to find his own answers.
Now, I’m not sure what trust-fund-millionaire-don’t-have-to-work-a-day-job-so-can-be-parents-of-the-century-family this kid CAME FROM in an alternate universe, but maybe the least we can do is equip our kids with the tools that tickle their exploration fancy.
It’s important right now that you know what an Arduino is. They call it a ‘micro controller’ but that’s a little too fancy so let’s just call it a ‘mini computer’ (but don’t actually call it that because technically, that’s not at all what it is).
Arduinos are like the Legos of the future (read: the NOW). They’re circuit board sets and accessories that you can use to build virtually ANYTHING, from alarms that email you when certain events take place, to ‘brains’ for a 3D printed robot, to a tracking device.
Arduinos exist so that REGULAR people can learn about how stuff works and make that stuff work for themselves.
Adafruit is a website with the most user friendly FREE tutorials you’ll find to learn about and become advanced with Arduinos. I recommend anyone who’s ever wanted to learn how to make cool stuff (or to program, for that matter – they go hand-in-hand) take a look at that website and tell me you don’t want to buy a starter kit right now!
Now that you’re a little familiar what an Arduino is, I’ll tell you how it’s going to make your kid a genius.
LightUp is a fully funded startup that exists to use augmented reality (AR) to show kids what’s happening INSIDE of Arduinos as they’re functioning. It’s taking the programing language from the computer screen straight to the creation itself by illustrating through AR the processes as they’re happening.
Imagine trying to teach a kid about a circuit from a battery to a light bulb? You’re going to have to ask them to imagine something invisible taking place (the flow of electricity). With LightUp, the kids build the circuits with Arduinos, then use a device held over the circuit to view a real-time visualization that’s invisible to the naked eye.
My mind is being blown as we speak.
Another cool project you can get your hands on which will teach your kids about programming is Turtle Logo. This program scaffolds kids to learning programming language by first figuring out how to move a turtle around on a screen. As they complete fun tasks, they’re learning about how to think like a programmer and execute commands which will directly carry over to becoming mad geniuses.
There are a couple other really good programming kits for kids out there. Again, as I always say, do your Googling and find something that works well for your child. Oh, wait, someone did it for you.
People. Seriously though. It’s SO important to get your kids involved in what’s going on. I know stuff is moving at a ridiculously fast pace, but take a look around! How many times a day do you interact with technology?! All fricking day!
Why wouldn’t it make sense to get your kids discovering how it all works and figuring out how to interact with it on a much deeper level than handing your two-year-old your iPhone at Denny’s to play Angry Birds?
The next time I hear a parent say their kid is “good at computers” because they know how to look through your photos on your tablet, I’m going to lose my shit.
The least we can do is give our kids a leg up in life by handing them the screwdrivers!
In 20 years, if your kid doesn’t know anything about what’s inside of that iPhone, they’re going to be the ones who are screwed (ba-dum-ch!).
Image Credit: Instructables
Image Credit: The Independent
Image Credit: Hack N Mod