Category Archives: early childhood digital normalisation

National accommodation of the young being digital?

 

Mal Lee

Oh, wise ones

A national policy question for a group highly versed in the impact of the digital.

The scenario

Developed nations have for the first time in human history a near universally digitally connected young – with considerable agency over their 24/7/365 use of the digital – who, with the support of their digitally connected families have naturally grown being digital. A similar uptake in connectivity is happening at pace in the underdeveloped and undeveloped worlds (ITU, 2017).

Governments and schools have played no real part in that burgeoning connectivity or the growing of being digital.

Developed nations seeking to grow their digital economies unwittingly have in their youth being digital a vast, largely untapped human resource – on trend to naturally evolve and grow.

If successfully built upon nationally it could go a long way to ensuring the nation stays or moves increasingly to the fore.

The resource has grown naturally and largely unseen over the last twenty plus years outside the school walls – totally unplanned, a natural outcome of the Digital Revolution.

The question for you – can nations accommodate the development and consciously build upon it in an astute national education strategy?

Can highly competitive economies afford not too?

Can governments that want to control and micro manage every facet of schooling accommodate the natural unplanned seemingly chaotic evolution – where the young have embraced a mode of learning with the digital antithetical to the school approach?

We know exceptional schools, with maverick heads can

But can every school, every head, every school administrator, every tertiary educator accommodate planned, structured and unplanned laissez faire learning?

Can highly inflexible, insular linear hierarchical Industrial Age schools provide a learning culture that accommodates the digitally empowered young? Are the legacy systems of the developed societies too hard to change?

Would most governments, schools and tertiary educators even want to change?

Do nations adopt a way forward – shock horror – that like now by-passes formal schooling?

Do we have to wait for the parents get angry before real change occurs?

Be interested in the thoughts of the wise – even those enjoying summer

Folk can email Mal at – mallee@mac.com

 

 

 

 

Empower and Educate: Not Ban

 

Avoid Damaging the Schools

 Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Being digital in a universally connected world is a core educational capability all the young will require.

At first glance, it is logical to expect schools to lead the way in growing that capability.

When a nation like France decides to ban the use of smartphones in all its schools many will ask how is it going to ready its young for being digital?  The same holds of schools that chose to ban the children’s kit.

Isn’t it better to educate them on the use of the digital astutely, than to ban the technology and abrogate responsibility? Shouldn’t the nation’s schools, funded to educate the young, be nurturing that core capability?

As a general principle, the answer is yes.

That said one must simultaneously also ask a question rarely posed – who is best placed to grow the young’s being digital?

History (Lee and Broadie, 2018) affirms that while ‘being digital’ is in part an inherent capability, that will largely naturally grow from birth onwards it does require the astute guidance of elders to support and shape its appropriate growth.

Seemingly highly logical.

The answer as to who is best placed is however not black and white.

Twenty plus years of history and digital disruption (Lee and Broadie, 2018) suggests the best way forward is rather more nuanced.

Governments, schools, many academics and even the media seemingly have no doubt it should be the schools, with the teachers implementing the policies of government.

History and near two billion digitally connected young say it should – and will be – the digitally connected families of the world.

And that parents globally have – largely unseen – already adopted the new global normal, where the families play the lead role, from the day the child is born. The trend is very strongly for the digitally connected families to play an increasingly central role in nurturing the children’s learning with the digital, and for the schools at best to play a complementary role, and critically only when they are prepared to create a learning culture akin to, and build upon the leadership of the families.

This development is a natural flow on from the Digital Revolution, and the continuing exponential digital evolution.

The current reality is that it will make little or no difference to the world’s young being digital if most schools and governments ban the use of the children’s personal digital technologies in the classrooms. It hasn’t made any difference since the mid 1990’s when society began going digital, and the schools retreated behind their cyber walls and successfully repelled the Digital, and Mobile Revolutions (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

Ironically the bans will likely negatively impact the schools more than the young.

The natural growth of the young’s being digital will, on current trends, continue unabated.

Most schools have long been dealt out of the main play in the young’s learning with the digital.

Near on 70% (ITU, 2017) of the world’s young are digitally connected and have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital, from the age of three upwards.

Governments and most schools globally have played no significant part in that connectivity.

It has been – and continues to be – the digitally connected families of the world that have funded the technology and connectivity, and been willing to empower and trust their children to take charge of their learning with the digital, largely unfettered.

The governments and schools have provided the families of the young little or no funding or support, all the while spending billions of taxpayer’s monies ineffectually on school technology.

Indeed, from the mid 1990’s most schools have operated behind their walls, isolating themselves from an increasingly connected world, refusing to recognise the out of school learning with the digital, preventing the classroom use of the children’s mobile digital technologies, and leaving the families to fend for themselves.

Significantly the schools have not – and still don’t – attach great importance on the digital underpinning all learning. They see no need to grow the children’s being digital as a core capability, or to move away from their use of the traditional highly controlled and structured, linear teaching, within what are still Industrial Age organisations.

Critically most schools have not given their students agency over their learning with the digital. The students are disempowered, distrusted, have no voice in what is taught, are obliged to learn what the experts believe right, are compelled to use the school technology and to follow the dictates of the teacher.

In marked contrast the digitally connected families of the world, from the 1990’s onwards believed being digital in an increasingly connected and networked world was vital for their children’s education and life chances (Lee and Broadie, 2018). Revealingly a 2018 US Gallup survey on digital devices concluded while 87.5% of parents believed they were important to their children’s education only 36% of teachers held that belief (Busteed and Dugan (2018). Tellingly the same poll revealed that while only 13% of parents believed the devices could be harmful to the children’s education 69% of teachers believed they would (Busteed and Dugan, 2018).

While US figures little is the wonder that scant if any notice is taken of educators’ invariably negative advice on the acquisition and use of the most sought after devices in human history; devices that daily are becoming more central to life, learning and work in a digitally connected world.

Significantly the families not only provided their children the technology but supported their use of a strongly laissez faire, non-linear, naturally evolving approach to learning, where the children largely took charge of their use and learning with the digital.

As the technology evolved and became simpler to use so the age of those using the digital outside the school walls plummeted.

For at least the last five years, most children born into digitally connected families will by three have largely naturally grown the key elements of being digital, capabilities they will use, and grow lifelong – regardless of what schools or governments desire.

The die is largely cast before governments and their schools come into the children’s education.

The young will only use the structured learning approach of schools when compelled.

The several billion digitally connected young – and those millions being connected weekly – are not about to give up the agency over their learning, and abandon their highly successful, enjoyable and strongly individualised approach that naturally keeps them at the cutting edge. They are not about to revert to a dated, ineffectual approach, where their learning with the digital outside the classroom isn’t recognised, and they are distrusted and disempowered.

Governments and schools could learn much about who is best placed to grow the young’s being digital by comparing the development with the young’s learning to speak.

Both are inherent capabilities, naturally grown by the parents in the family setting, ‘operational’ with most children well before starting school.

Tellingly learning to speak – although one of the most basic of educational capabilities – isn’t formally taught by the schools, except with children struggling. A core skill that underpins all learning is naturally collaboratively built upon by the school and family.

The growing of the nation’s young ‘being digital’ from birth onwards, and having it underpin all learning 24/7/365 could and likely should be approached the same way.

It would necessitate the schools – and government – recognising the families’ lead. It would oblige them to appreciate that for decades the best teaching practice with the digital has been be found outside the school. It would entail schools growing a learning culture like the families, and being willing to empower and trust the young. The schools – like with speaking – would be complementing the efforts of and adding value to the efforts of the digitally connected families.

That is what is happening with those exceptional schools globally that have long ceased doing the digitaland are being digital.

Schools, governments can continue to operate alone, controlling every facet of learning with the digital within the school, dismissing the efforts of the digitally connected families, banning the student’s use of the personal technologies and declining to build upon the children’s digital base but all that will do is lessen the standing and relevance of the schools.

Children and families that have only ever known a digitally connected world will regard those schools increasingly as out of touch with reality, dated and irrelevant, with the students becoming increasingly disengaged and likely alienated.

Hand written exams are not their world.

The young – with the support of their family, peers, networks – will continue to take charge of their learning with the digital, to grow their learning how to learn and to apply that talent in an increasingly connected world to learn what they desire, by-passing the schools when they want.

Schools that try and compete with the families will lose. What little influence they have with the digital will continue to decline as those schools lag increasingly behind the families’ thinking and usage.

Significantly the schools that try and compete, and which ban the technology will deny the nation’s digitally empowered young the opportunity to work with many talented professionals, who if empowered and allowed to fly can take the children’s thinking and learning to an appreciably higher order. The untapped potential of the digital remains immense. All the nation’s young – and not just the ‘self-starters’ – need to be challenged and extended. It is not enough for the young to be digitally proficient – all should be continually challenged and supported by astute teachers and innovative teaching to operate at a high plane lifelong – whatever the young’s interests and passions.

Conclusion

While the history, research and logic strongly suggests governments and their schools should move immediately to genuinely collaborate with the digitally connected families the same history, and governments near universal desire to control every facet of schooling, suggests very strongly it isn’t about to happen.

There will be exceptional schools, and likely more exceptional schools that will be willing to distribute their control of the teaching and learning, and genuinely collaborate with their families, but most will not (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

Most schools, usually with the support of government, will continue with their insular Industrial Age ways, placing limited importance on being digital or empowering the young to take charge of their learning, and banning or inordinately controlling the young’s school use of the technologies they use 24/7/365.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digitally Connected Families: And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Three years ago, we embarked in researching the history of the digital education of the world’s young between 1993 and 2016, concerned the world’s schools were making little progress in going digital.

The journey took us into unchartered, and largely unseen and yet fascinating territory where the families of the young globally had for the past twenty plus years successfully readied the young worldwide to learn with the digital, from birth.

More than 60% of the world’s young are now digitally connected, and have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital – with no financial support from government.

We are delighted to be able to now share our insights into this historic educational development – with the release of Digitally Connected Families: And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016.

It is available at – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/

At this stage, it is only available as an e-book.

It is – as far as we know – the first historical analysis of the young’s learning with the digital, in and out of schools, in the period 1993 – 2016, from the release of Mosaic and the world going online, through to roughly today.

The desire was to provide a research base upon which the authors’ and others could build.

The chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Digital Revolution and the Changed Nature of Youth, and Youth Education
  3. The Young, and the Evolution of the Personal Mobile Technologies
  4. Schools, Digital Education and Mobile Technologies
  5. The Evolution of the Digitally Connected Family
  6. The Two Models of Digital Education
  7. The Digital Learning Environments
  8. Learning with the Digital
  9. Pre-Primary Digital Education
  10. The Mobile Revolution
  11. On Reflection
  12. Conclusion

Digitally Connected and Proficient at Three

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Children born into digitally connected families will likely be digitally connected and proficient by the age of three, be operating in the state of being digital, and have adopted the natural mode of learning with the digital they will use throughout life.

The implications of this quite recent global development are potentially profound, but still largely unseen.

The new reality became increasingly apparent in researching the authors’ Digitally Connected Families (Lee and Broadie, 2018a) and readying A Guide for Digitally Connected Families (in press). In examining the digital education of the world’s young since 1993, in and outside the school walls, and analysing the key developments in the period, particularly within the pre-primary years the following pattern emerged.

What we now know is that the children will likely learn with the digital from the day they are born – if not before –  and mum and dad post the first photos and videos of the newborn to their friends and social networks.

The parents – indeed the family’s – every use of the touchscreen technology will be observed, internalised and mimicked by the child from that day on. In the same way children have always learned.

By the latter part of the first year of life the child will be trying to swipe on the family smartphones and tablets. By the latter part of the second year, and most assuredly by the third most children will be readily using all the main functions of the smartphones and tablet, will have begun taking control of their learning with the digital and using the laissez faire mode of learning with the digital (Chaudron, 2015), (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

By three the signs and research (Chaudron, 2015) suggest most of the world’s children in digitally connected families will be largely directing their own learning with the digital.

Moreover, they will naturally, though unwittingly, be operating in the state of being digital (Lee and Broadie, 2018b), having adopted a strong digital mindset, and grown and be using the core capabilities they have acquired in their natural informal learning with the digital (Lee and Broadie, 2018a).

As with much learning in the formative years of life the die is seemingly largely cast very early, well before the children start school.

By three they will likely have adopted for life an approach to learning with the digital almost diametrically opposite to that used in most schools.  While more research is required, particularly into the likely inherent aspects of being digital, ten plus years use of the touchscreen technology by the pre-primary globally, and a recognition of the children’s use of their inherent visual intelligence already provides an important insight into the pattern of learning.

As indicated in ‘Being Digital’ (Lee and Broadie, 2018b) in many respects the learning timeframe with the digital mirrors the young’s learning how to speak, and the educational importance of speech.

Tellingly both capabilities are largely in place before most governments play any formal role in the children’s education.

Unwittingly from birth the parents – and likely the brothers and sisters, and possibly the grandparents –  become the child’s first and prime digital ‘teachers’.

None of the family have any say in the appointment. Their every move with the digital in the child’s presence, astute or ill-judged, will – like many other aspects of learning – be observed and mimicked. All parents will have seen their mannerisms in using their mobile replayed.

The lesson for all digitally connected families – and not simply the parents – is that if they want their children to use the digital astutely in growing an apt and balanced holistic education the family must model the desired digital usage, the values it wants to grow, and as family agree on the ground rules that will be ‘taught’.  If the parents immerse themselves in their own kit – if they immediately respond to every ping and call, even in the middle of a meal – those are the values the child will likely mimic and learn.

The bit of being digital that is set in stone from age three is the absolute awareness that being connected aids their learning, and that connectedness is highly visual and aural, as well as being textual, and includes connection with people as well as information. They have probably also internalised that they can interact creatively with the digital environment and everything in it, to aid their learning.

Hence the comparison with learning to speak, in that it is messy, diverse, involves a lot of trial and error and has concepts built and rebuilt from a multitude of influences.

The potential for learning of kids that are digital is appreciably greater than for those of us who grew up pre-digital, with only our parents and limited friends to ask, verbally not visually.

It is a new global reality all families – and indeed educators – need to understand and address.

The corollary of this development is that children born into families not digitally connected – by circumstances or parent choice – will not be operating digitally by the age of three. They will likely show few of the attributes of being digital, until they normalise the 24/7/365 use of the digital.

To what extent the lag will place them at odds with their peers, will set them apart from their friends, and the children without will be disadvantaged in a digitally connected world we don’t know at this stage.

We can however appreciate why nearly all the digitally connected families of the world have chosen to give their children access to the digital technology from birth, and why today across the developed world in the region of 80% plus of pre-primary children (Chaudron, 2015), Johannsen, 2016) (Rideout, 2017) either own or have ready access to a tablet.

We can also understand how a three year old girl in a digitally connected family in Nairobi has in a $US22 smartphone the facility, with the support of her family. to fundamentally change that girl’s education and life.

Conclusion

The first and most important step for all – parents, older siblings, carers, grandparents, early childhood educators and researchers and governments – is to recognise the new normal, its significance and to openly discuss the myriad of implications that flow from this global societal shift.

Not least of those implications is what needs to be done with those families in the developed, underdeveloped and undeveloped world unable to afford digital connectivity for the newborn, and from what age?

Being Digital

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

 In 1995 Nicholas Negroponte wrote in his seminal work of ‘being digital’.

The book didn’t define what was meant by ‘being digital’, but simply exemplified what it was likely to mean.

Twenty plus years later, and the movement from an analogue to digital society and with more than half the world digitally connected we can go a long way to clarifying what is ‘being digital’, and to attest why the growth of this capability is critical to the life and education of world’s young, from birth onwards.

Over the last twenty plus years, but particularly the last ten society worldwide has largely unwittingly adapted it ways to accommodate the Digital Revolution and naturally evolved a mode of learning with the digital, from birth onwards (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

It is the state of being digital.

It is already core to the young’s learning worldwide outside the schools, on trend to grow in importance as the digital technologies evolve, becomes increasingly sophisticated and powerful, and digital ecosystems underpin virtually all areas of learning.

It is far more than digital proficiency. While dependent on that proficiency, it is a mindset, a mode of thinking, an expression of values, a set of ever rising expectations, an ability to draw on many connected elements, a way of learning and understanding how to learn, a taking charge of one’s own learning, being able to network, to accommodate accelerating change, to continually grow the capabilities and to use them 24/7/365, lifelong.

It is a suite of linked attributes that will naturally evolve in harmony with the evolving digital technologies, technological practises and changing social mores.

It is a suite that simultaneously draws upon and enhances the other areas of learning.

It is moreover a suite that while containing many common features is individualised, with each child in being digital having the capabilities needed to pursue their interests and passions.

It is most emphatically far more than a variant of handwriting or digital literacy.

It is a connected way of learning that is richer, higher order and more diverse, which can amplify all the non-digital learning interactions.

As the children within digitally connected families grow, mature, develop their cognitive, inter and intrapersonal abilities, become sexually aware, build relationships, socially network, operate at a higher order of thinking and continually attune their ways to the evolving technology so they will develop their own form of being digital – and will continue doing so, in subtly different ways, at the various stages of life.

Being digital as a low caste child in Mumbai, a Masai herder’s boy, a seven year old girl in Riyadh, a ten year old in outback Australia, an Inuit teen or a sixteen year old in Vancouver, Seoul, Sao Paulo or Edinburgh will in many ways be different. But that said all those young people will also have many common attributes, not least is being digitally connected and able to take charge of their learning with the digital lifelong – albeit in their respective cultures, outside the classroom.

The global variability, the continual evolution, and the individualised and highly integrated nature of being digital should quash any moves by education authorities to try and assess the capability, and particularly to try and compare student attainment nationally and internationally. But let us be clear and affirm that the billion plus digitally connected young have never had need for their being digital to be formally assessed (Lee and Broadie, 2018) and that it would be educationally invalid, inappropriate and unnecessary to do so.

Rather let’s recognise what being digital is, and appreciate that in many respects it mirrors the development, importance and the way schools handle children’s ability to speak.

They both grow naturally from birth onwards, if not earlier.

Both likely build on inherent capabilities. With speech those inherent capabilities have been obvious for thousands of years.  Being digital draws extensively, particularly with the very young, upon what has been for centuries a largely dormant visual intelligence (Strom and Strom, 2009) that was most obviously brought into play from 2007 and the release of the various touchscreen technologies. While employed increasingly from the 90’s the visuals controls of the iPhone were a game changer, allowing all the young, and not just the teens to readily use and learn with the technology (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

The visual cues on the touchscreen suddenly made it simple for those in the first year of life to mimic their parents and siblings use of the technology, and by the age of three to largely establish the approach to learning with the digital they would use lifelong. By three most children born into digitally connected families will have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital, to the extent its use is so natural as to be invisible.

Both are of critical educational importance in a digital economy, and need to underpin all learning.

Tellingly both have been naturally grown by the family, with government and its pre- schools and schools playing a limited or no part, except with children who have difficulties.

Tellingly – but invariably forgotten – in an era where the focus is on the basics and testing the young’s ability to speak has rarely been rarely formally assessed. The development has been left to the family.

The big difference between the two vital capabilities is that while the importance of speaking has been understood for literally thousands of years the educational centrality of being digital is a long way from being fully appreciated by most in authority.

Most governments and schools worldwide have over the last twenty to thirty years have tinkered with aspects of learning with the digital. They have focussed on some of the parts and never the totality of being digital. They have toyed with programming, web design, learning to use Office, cyber safety and more recently coding, but only ever within the school walls, always deciding which aspects of being digital are appropriate to be taught and assessed – and which should not.

It is difficult to find schools that have naturally grown Negroponte’s concept of being digital.

It is similarly difficult to find schools or education authorities who recognise being digital is a state of mind, with immediate access to an integrated suite of digitally based capabilities, coupled with the facility to use any of the capabilities and the understanding of how to learn when desired 24/7/365. They seem not to have grasped that the suite has evolved naturally, been individually shaped and can’t – like the facility to speak – be validly measured.

They most assuredly haven’t been formally recognised in their teaching, assessment or resourcing the young’s being digital outside the school walls, or the central role the digitally connected families of the world have played over the last twenty plus years (Lee and Broadie, 2018) in facilitating and supporting the growth of that development.

It is time this critical capability is seen, understood and accorded the kind of recognition given the ability to speak, and the educational, social, economic and logistical implications of being digital addressed as part of a wider contemporary education.

The latter we’ll tackle in a follow up article.

With the advantage of hindsight and historical analysis (Lee and Broadie, 2018) there might be value in pursuing the reading example further, accepting with being digital that the die will be largely cast by the age of three, that the young of the world will lifelong employ in their use of and learning with the digital the suite of attributes associated with being digital – regardless of what government of schools might desire – and leave the core digitally based education to the families.

It is a radical thought, with immense implications, but there is much to be said for formal education complementing and adding value to the work of the digitally connected families, and ceasing senselessly trying to compete with the families in growing the young’s ‘being digital’.

Conclusion

At this point in history ask any digitally aware parent or grandparent what they understand by ‘being digital’ and they’ll likely quickly grasp the concept, but initially only at a rudimentary level, and that it will likely be only when prompted will they appreciate the many linked universal elements and their significance.

The same folk will likely also pick up the reality that they – like the other 3.65 billion plus digitally connected of all ages are also ‘being digital’. While the strength will vary let’s remember there will be seventy year olds who have played a lead role in using and learning with the digital since the 1970’s who in their thinking and actions have long ‘being digital’.

The new but largely unrecognised reality is that in the twenty plus years since Negroponte postulated being digital the world’s digitally connected peoples have become so.

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2018) Digitally Connected Families. And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016, Armidale, Australia, Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Negroponte, N (1995) Being Digital Sydney Hodder and Stoughton
  • Strom, P and Strom, R.D (2009) Adolescents in the Internet Age Charlotte, Information Age Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-Primary Digital Normalisation

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

[ Sitting beside us at a restaurant last Friday night a two year old was very happily immersed in the Australian Play School app]

Largely unseen, the digitally connected families of the world have over the last four to five years taken a lead role in providing their pre-primary children, from the first year of life onwards, the start of a quality 24/7/365 lifelong digital education.

Critically they have employed the same naturally evolving, highly individualised laissez faire model of teaching used so successfully by the digitally connected families of the world in providing millions upon millions of their older children the desired education.

It is a success that should be proclaimed universally and the parents commended for their success in contending with a rapidly evolving, uncertain digital environment.

The very real challenge for pre-primary parents worldwide will be to build upon that model, to proclaim its success and prevent bureaucrats and educators – no matter how well intentioned – from instituting the stultifying structured approach found so wanting within the schools.

The pre-primary children of the developed, and increasingly the underdeveloped world, are on track to begin formal schooling having normalised the astute use of the digital, and for the digital to play a central role in their upbringing, lives and learning.

The implications of the pre-primary digital normalisation are immense and are only now becoming apparent.  They will impact on every facet of the children’s vital early childhood upbringing and education, whether governments desire it or not.

It is a development all need to better understand if it is to be used astutely and enhanced.

Evolution of pre-primary digital normalisation

The origins of the development are to be found soon after the emergence of the WWW in 1993, in the historic change to the nature of youth, and youth education, that flowed from the digital empowerment of the world’s young, the evolution of the digitally connected families and the introduction of digital touch screen technologies.

The move by parents globally twenty plus years ago to empower the young outside the school and provide them with largely unfettered use of the online and the digital has as mentioned had profound implications.

By the early 2000’s the adolescents of the developed and increasingly the developing world had with the vital support of their families normalised the use of the digital, albeit outside the school walls.

As indicated by around 2007 – 2009 the digitally connected family had become the norm across the developed and increasingly the developing world, with the digitally empowered parents taking a greater lead role in their children’s 24/7/365 digital education.

It bears remembering that until the mid 2000’s digital usage by the world’s young was primarily by the teens, and while much younger children used the technology the keyboard and the mouse were not exactly child friendly.

The release of all manner of touchscreen technologies in the 2007 – 2010 period – the iPhone, the iPod Touch, the Android mobile operating system, Apple’s App store, the iPad and the Android based tablets– changed the scene irrevocably overnight.

Very quickly the age of those of using the mobile technologies plummeted. Devices like the iPod Touch and the iPad became very popular with the young, with many a young child also accessing mum and dad’s smartphone.

By 2012 – 2014 children as young as two or three were readily using iPads and the various Android tablets, with the parents having to contend with the development.

They, like the digitally connected families before them, moved naturally to using an informal, non-linear, highly fluid, self-directed, individualised, play based, parent or older sibling guided model of learning. Any who have sat and observed the very young at play on an iPad will have soon noted the children’s excitement, the use of the visual – and rarely the verbal –  intelligence in navigating the device, the integrated approach, the speed of learning but also the vital role the family members play in assisting the children over hurdles, and bringing the usage to an end.

The digital connected families of the world have – largely of their own volition –  accommodated the surge in pre-primary use very well.  A read of the European Commission’s study (Chaubron, 2015) of 0-8 digital learning in eleven European countries or the Erikson (2016) study of US families reveals the common sense, the balance and networked learning brought to play by the parents, and the limited contribution made by educators.

It bears noting that the UK Ofcom (Ofcom, 2016) reported that 37% of 3-4 year olds accessed YouTube from a mobile device in 2016.

We suspect every parent with a pre-primary child would appreciate some support and direction in the use of the digital, but the vital message should be one of commendation for their success in a period of rapid, accelerating and uncertain digital evolution and transformation, where few experts globally have much more insight into the path ahead.

In many respects the success should not come as a surprise. The current digitally connected families are among the most educated in their nation’s history, who have long normalised the everyday use of the digital. They have, particularly in the last decade, grown their ability to lead the out of school 24/7/365 digital education of the young and to use a learning model that continually delivers in an era of rapid uncertain digital evolution and societal transformation.

The Way Forward

In looking forward and providing advice to the parents of pre-primary children we’d suggest they

  • approach the role with confidence, and as a digitally connected family
  • continue using common sense, and treat each child as a unique individual
  • continually look forward, and not seek answers or ‘best practise’ from an analogue mode
  • reject all moves to structure and assess the learning except where this is part of the child’s delight in gaining mastery
  • continue drawing upon the emerging global research on pre-primary digital education
  • appreciate the pre-primary children’s application of their visual intelligence to their digitally based learning will likely over time occasion a reworking of at least sections of the Piagetian base upon which educator’s work.
  • become intolerant of schools that continue to refuse to recognise the very valid and important learning that happens in the out-of-school and in the family environment.

Appreciate as part of a digitally connected family parents are embarking upon a lifelong education, that will invariably entail all continually making the best use and application of an ever evolving, increasingly powerful, sophisticated and integrating suite of digital technologies.

One most assuredly is not on a short sprint where the parents will hand all digital education over to the school. Schools that do not collaborate with their families and listen to their pupils on the digital will not only fail their societal remit but will educationally, socially and economically disadvantage their students.

If very fortunate the children will attend a digitally mature school which will respect and build the children’s learning and genuinely collaborate. Sadly most schools won’t be interested and will expect the children to conform with the traditional one size fits all highly structured teaching program.

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