Features

Bells and Whistles

CHRISTMAS is only a few days away, and for those looking for presents it represents a special time to make a contribution to others’ prospects for fun, learning and development. What toy will you be choosing? What should that toy be capable of doing?

From a development perspective, there’s a strong view that learning should be fun. The arguably successful Finnish system of teaching is based on children having as much fun as they can and, while in that fun zone, being inquisitive and, therefore, learning in a highly motivated way. Homework, is minimal too.

Tech Tree

The lesson, therefore, is to boost the opportunities for children with the toys being selected for them. Although mature individuals may be satisfied with a gift such as a smartphone or tablet, there is danger in using the same metric for giving gifts to younger persons. While a new smartphone on which your favourite apps can be played will definitely be entertaining, shouldn’t we be concerned if the gift is not causing the individual to develop stronger learning skills in the process?

Although they may be expensive, technology kits to build toys such as drones and robots have a tremendous capacity to entertain and also to spark an interest in learning. Maybe it’s because the toy does something, moving and responding to the joystick or app controls. Especially for young children, toys are usually colourful, noisy and attractive! Now that a toy can respond to you or your own movements, the technology has raised the bar significantly. Do you think we can go back to the simpler days?

The bells and whistles associated with modern tech toys should be the ability to fascinate and influence the innate curiosity of younger minds. During my own childhood, I recall having taken apart many toys, many of which never worked again. The sheer joy of building something — and if it works, of learning how it works — may just be the true goal of toys. Non-interactive toys definitely have their place, but how would you compare that to a toy which walks, flies or dances? How about one that learns? One that you can influence by changing a part of it to work differently?

Ultimately, you must be the judge of what gift that you select, with the knowledge of the needs of the intended recipient. Unfortunately, the trend for newer technology devices is to be black boxes which cannot be opened and repaired. The ability to tinker with a toy should be high on the agenda. As some are already showing, there is fun in learning, and learning should be fun, too!

Merry Christmas to you.

To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The VOICE.

(About the Author: Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant offering expertise in data management, systems design and analysis.)

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