Family Practice: To electronic media, with loveWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was growing up there seemed to be quite the emphasis on trying to make education fun. With the constant onslaught of technological entertainment available to my children, I find it more challenging today to make sure their fun is somewhat educational. I do not fear the prevalence of computers, video games, iPods and other electronic devices in my children’s not-so-little world, however they do demand new considerations for at-home learning.
As part of one of the first generations to spend life in front of various pixilated screens, I know firsthand the learning benefits associated with a technologically advanced society. Understanding the benefits of my children’s ever-changing electronic buffet as a parent can be a little more daunting. However, I have discovered quite a treasure trove of usable knowledge hidden beneath a pop culture façade of electronic time suckage:
Super Scribblenauts: Although I don’t know its true purpose, this Nintendo DS game has become nothing more than a spelling tutor at our house. Just about anything a child can dream up will pop up in the Super Scribblenauts fantasy world if he or she can spell it correctly. One drawback is that we’re never quite certain what will pop up. My children were slightly horrified to see a deathly skeleton appear when one of them typed in their little sister’s name. As best I can surmise, Super Scribblenauts defines “Lucy” as the 3-million-year-old skeletal remains found in Ethiopia in 1974, not our favorite 2-year-old.
Accuweather.com: Any local, national or international weather website will do, but my son happened upon AccuWeather and hasn’t been the same since. What started with some investigation into possible school closings last winter has led him into full-fledged weather-watching. When a video game piqued his interest in baseball at the same time he became anxious about thunderstorm watches (or t-storms watches as he so nerve-gratingly calls them), he began cross-referencing national weather patterns with the MLB schedule. Well, that’s something dear old mom couldn’t have bribed him to learn how to do even with a 10-foot pack of Airheads Extreme.
Electronic Sports of All Sorts: Since Ohio curriculum standards don’t dictate that kids even learn the 50 United States until the fifth grade, introducing children to the ever-shrinking world around them is crucial. Again, a couple of days with a video game like FIFA World Cup Soccer can work geographic wonders that a blank map and a nagging mother generally can’t.
Between video games, online soccer and Deportes Telemundo, my son picked up the names, spellings, flags and other miscellaneous tidbits about dozens of countries around the world in a short time. Other sports carried into our home via electronic means have added to not only his U.S. geographical skills, but also to his understanding of math, strategy and problem-solving.
Disney Princesses: Elaine, my little imagineer trapped in a princess’s body, first made her electronic-devices-as-education breakthrough when she discovered that Cinderella had her own Web address. It wasn’t long after I first showed her the Internet ropes that my then 4-year-old began stalking the Disney Princesses all by herself. “Look, Mom, I just put in the D for ‘Disney’ and the princesses came up as a choice.” Well, so it did. Still, the Disney website is not as responsible for my daughter’s foray into Web browsing as the notion that wanting something badly enough will produce the know-how to acquire it.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Speaking of necessity being the mother of invention, SpongeBob is Lucy’s digitally inked sensei. Although SpongeBob has become the poster sponge for mindless children’s programming, his power of attraction was enough to lure my toddler into figuring out how to hook up and operate a portable DVD player. Additionally, SpongeBob has helped Lucy to establish a keen sense of humor beyond her 28 months, which is as important to an Irish-descended mother as anything else.
YouTube: Perhaps the nexus of the technology-meets-education universe, YouTube may just hold the power to disarm the public education system faster than Gov. John Kasich and the 129th Ohio General Assembly. I have no idea who is spending their time compiling videos that teach me how to collapse our pop-up princess tent, but I salute your valiant and no-cost-to-me effort. You are giving me the tools to show my children exactly how the earth travels around the sun and how a tsunami forms, while also allowing computernerd01, this young generation’s “Weird Al” Yankovic, to get Generation X mothers up to speed on today’s biggest pop hits, minus the correct lyrics, of course.
Fortunately for today’s parents, education is everywhere and comes in every format. If we are too quick to dismiss the good with the bad, or fail to recognize that good does exist in a world we may not fully understand, we may be brushing aside effective learning opportunities for our children.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.
Tags: Accuweather.com, Disney, Disney Princesses, Family Practice, FIFA World Cup, Generation X, John Kasich, MLB, Nintendo DS, Shannon Szyperski, SpongeBob SquarePants, Super Scribblenauts, Weird Al Yankovic, YouTube