When I saw a workshop called 'Engaging Kids Today, it's not just about iPads' I was intrigued by the idea that technology could work for parents and educators, instead of against them. As a counsellor, part of my role is to work with children and it is important to be able to engage with my clients in ways that appeal to them.
I have three children, aged from 5 to 12 years, who are fascinated by online programs and games like Minecraft. But as a mother who feels it is best to limit the time my children spend online, I was somewhat disheartened when our children's school provided them with a Netbook. I have been concerned about the increased difficulty of monitoring their time online as they get older and need to use their laptops more often for school work. My decision to attend Dan Haesler's workshop was partly for work, but also to help me understand my children's generation. In particular my middle son Magnus, who is a gadget enthusiast and who disappears into the office to play Minecraft at every opportunity.
Who is Dan Haesler
On his website, Dan Haesler is described as engaging,
thought provoking and someone who pushes the boundaries. He gives talks on many things, focussing on the topic of engaging children through online programs or apps whilst they're in school. His 'Happy Schools' program has been widely adopted in Australia and follows the ethos that
engagement and wellbeing are determinants of achievement.
At the presentation, Dan educated us about the power of using Personal Learning Networks (PLN) to support children to engage with others worldwide by sharing information or games. PLNs include Facebook, Twitter, Wikis, social book marking tools and LinkedIn - all tools that can be used successfully to help children engage with each other on the internet. Dan spoke about how, as a young boy, he watched only one channel on TV. He was amazed that his own son now has an almost endless choice of what to watch, not to mention the continuous opportunity to play games on various devices. He said he felt today's generation
learn much more, as they are engaged by technological creation.
Dan also talked about games in education and about the popular apps (mobile applications) that are appropriate for use by teachers in schools. He believes children are engaged enough by those games to want to learn more about math.
My son loves learning Maths online
Magnus enjoys Mathletics (www.mathletics.com.au) because as he learns, he also earns points via a reward system. He explained excitedly,
I have one gold certificate, two silvers, and one bronze in different mathematics activities like long divisions, timing, area and money, minus and multiplying.
Magnus also liked Super Club and Scratch online programs (www.scplus.com.au). He is interacting and engaging with his classmates online by learning and sharing information or educational games. Teachers usually oversee these sessions to observe the children's behaviour online and to answer any questions they may have.
What did I learn?
I came away with a clearer head as a parent and the understanding that there are many things we can do online to keep ourselves learning, amused, engaged or motivated. It is now clear to me that there is a great deal of merit in the use of online programs or tools for educational gain. Some of these same online tools now allow me to interact with my clients anonymously and to share support using technology they are comfortable with. Rather than considering the internet and games to be time wasting and vaguely threatening, I now see how important they can be in both educating and engaging our children. From now on, I will be paying a great deal more attention to technology that, to the newer generations, is as essential as pen and paper once was to mine.