As many of you know, I have a seven year old daughter. Most folks assume that since she’s my daughter, and because I’m perceived to be technically adept, that she must be immersed in technology. Well, she’s not. She uses a computer some and she does have a blog that she occasionally posts to, but I would guess that she’s less technologically literate than the average seven year old. Actually, I should clarify that comment; she’s less technologically literate than the average American, middle class seven year old. She’s certainly more literate than the millions of seven year olds in the U.S. and around the world that have little or no access to technology, but that’s a topic for a different post.
But she now has a new interest in the computer because a little over a week ago her friend (also seven) introduced her to Webkinz and my daughter decided to spend some of her savings to purchase a Webkinz (in her case, a black lab she named Jack). If you aren’t familiar with Webkinz, the 20-second description is that you purchase a stuffed animal, but you also go online and virtually take care of your Webkinz – play with it, feed it, play games to accumulate Webkinz money to buy it food, furniture, etc. This happened to be two days before we were leaving town for a week. (My wife and daughter are on fall break and my school feels guilty for me working basically all summer so lets me take a week off during the year if I want.)
We went to visit my in-laws in Florida. They live full-time in an RV and spend the winters in Orlando (where they lived before they retired to the RV), so we stayed at an apartment for guests on the RV campground. Like many RV campgrounds, you can get high-speed, wireless Internet access for a fee (often it’s free, but it cost us $20 for the week). I took a laptop with me so that I could do a little work each night after she went to sleep, and we thought that she might like to wind down each night after very full and active days at Disney/Sea World/the beach by spending a little time in Webkinz World.
Well, she did want to do that and that worked pretty well. But on about the third night, her seven year old friend calls on the cell phone and wonders if Abby would like to get on Webkinz World and see her “room” (the room she’s built for one of her Webkinz). So, that led to this picture (not posed). Take a look and then I’ll talk some more about why I thought it blog-worthy.
So, we’re in Florida. Abby’s seven year old friend is in Colorado. They are talking on the cell phone. Abby is sitting in an RV campground using a Dell laptop connected wirelessly to the Internet. Her friend is sitting at home on an iMac that is connected wirelessly to their cable Internet connection. And they are interacting in Webkinz world, with Abby’s friend talking her through a few things since Abby is a newbie and the friend has at least several months of experience (“It works better in Firefox.”) At one point I had to help with something, so I get on the phone and Abby’s friend talks me through it – much to the amusement of my father-in-law. The rest of the time the girls were fine on their own.
Now, this is not an exceptionally powerful example of an educational use of technology (although from what I’ve seen so far, Webkinz World doesn’t look too bad). But it brought home to me once again what a different world my daughter is growing up in compared to the world I grew up in.
Her world at seven: cell phone with free long distance, laptop, wireless broadband access, interactive web-based software. (And if I’d brought a webcam they could’ve videoconferenced as well.)
My world at seven: wired phone (I think just one in the house), we didn’t use long distance except for very special occasions because it was so expensive, no computer, no Internet (much less wireless, broadband, or web-based software), and certainly no videoconferencing. (Coincidentally, when I was seven, Intel released what’s generally considered the first microprocessor – the 4004 with 2300 transistors. Today, Intel is about to release the Penryn chip with 820 million transistors.)
Some folks may argue that they prefer my world at seven, but that’s not what this post is about. What this post is about is the fact that none of this fazed Abby. She doesn’t think it’s fantastic or outrageous, cool or amazing – it just is. She just thinks this is the way the world is – she can connect pretty much effortlessly to others across space and time - and she’s right. That doesn’t negate the fact that she had a great time at Disney/Sea World/the beach, or that she would’ve enjoyed the vacation just as much if she hadn’t happened to be introduced to Webkinz just before we left. But I think this is hugely important as we think about her education, her expectations, her capabilities, and what’s going to be possible as she grows older.
She's a native. She's connected. It just is. Shift Happens.