In the late 1980s, I could remember arguing with fellow school mates about the computer, most of us had not seen one physically except in movies. “Duk Kano babu computer, sai dai ko a gidan gwamna” (there is no computer in the whole of Kano, may be in the government house), said one of us. To a Kano kid at the time, computer was basically imaginary; it is associated with all sorts of myths. One day, while passing by Kantin Kwari market, I overheard one mai waazin kan turmi (street preacher) talking to an assembly of youths, and he mentioned something that left me perplexed. He talked about a computer used in catching fish. People listened to him attentively, yet you could see clearly that he was describing a device he had himself never seen.
But this has changed; we now live in a world where technology is as accessible as drinking water. In a 2001 lecture delivered by Professor Ali Mazrui at the Bayero University, Kano, he mentioned that there were more computers in some universities in the developed world than in some African countries. Today, the validity of such a verdict is unlikely. Today, almost everyone is affected by the ever-evolving digital revolution that has gripped the world. But kids are clearly the most affected as they grow up in the age of smartphones, laptops, iPads and iPhones.
One scholar who appreciates the changing nature of our kids is Professor Don Tapscott whose book “Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World” explores the attitude and culture of the 21st century young people, whom he fondly calls the Net Gens. In a review written for the Economist magazine, Professor Tapscott stated that “Net Geners are more active. Almost 80% of them read interactive blogs daily, leaving comments and adding links. They multitask, watching TV while texting, talking on the phone or surfing the Internet. They’re more likely to use their cellphones as everything from alarm clocks to GPS devices. They may even use their phones’ cameras as a kind of instrument for social action, for instance, to document police misconduct. They see the computer as more than a tool, as a place to congregate with friends. Their safe communal spaces aren’t mainly in the physical world, but rather online, on social networking sites like Facebook. Rather than being antisocial, Net Geners are developing an entirely new set of social skills”
South Korea is one country that appreciates this changing nature of young people, and has come up with an educational policy that integrates the use of technology in education. As a result of that, children from South Korea are ahead of kids from other countries, including European and North American nations.
Of course, in developing countries, we are yet to reach a stage where our primary and secondary schools will be digitally revolutionalised, and it will be hasty to pull the trigger without working on some fundamental issues such as teacher training, child poverty etc. Yet for parents who can afford it, there are so many useful applications to help their kids learn from their iPad and other devices. The Quiz up app is one example to aid the learning of your children. It can help children especially with mathematics, history, geography, science, health education and other subjects. In fact, kids can invite children from other places around the world to compete in these subjects and see how far they have mastered the subjects in their schools.
Of course, supervision from parents are necessary, especially to educate children on contents of certain subjects that might have cultural implications for children. It is important for parents to understand the positive aspect of these devices so children do not just use them for games and chatting, while gaining nothing in terms of intellectual development.
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