Digital technology is the buzz word in education recently, with your school-going child increasingly turning to smartphones and iPads to learn new information. Yet, you still see your child lugging his heavy schoolbag of textbooks when he goes to school.
When will digital technology replace the use of textbooks, if at all? How will the use of digital technology in education transform how your child will learn. More importantly, what does it mean for your child?
Digital technology is “far superior” to print
Mr Lee Han Shih, founder of and director at multimedia group Potato Productions, believes that a child's success would depend on how updated he is and how current his knowledge of any subject is.
In this theAsianparent interview, Lee says that digital technology is, “far superior to printed books” because it keeps up with continuous change. Keeping up with change is necessary so that one does not become outdated and irrelevant. Lee feels that the time to switch to digital from print "should be yesterday".
Even for developing nations, the digital technology expert believes that a tablet-based curriculum is the most efficient and cheapest way of education. This is especially true for poor communities where printing of textbooks can be very expensive.
The modern classroom has yet to arrive, but will come
Currently involved in a project testing the use of tablets loaded with teaching material for a remote community in the Philippines, Lee thinks that the potential of digital technology is not yet fully explored in the typical Singapore classroom. In fact, teachers often seem to see digital technology as, “a mere extension of the teaching aid”, using a tablet as a book or for online research.
What he would like to see is virtual collaboration, discussion and creation among students from the same class, school, country or even between different countries. He cites the example of the Occulus Rift virtual reality, which allows players to step inside their favourite games and completely immerse themselves in the virtual world.
“Imagine studying chemistry where one can see and manipulate the molecules, or simulated human body operations in medicine. And this is just the beginning!”, he quips. Other education professionals also echo the same excitement, such as how digital learning can make algebra more interesting for the child.
In Singapore schools, he predicts that the use of digital technology in education may only become pervasive by 2019.
Should you start exposing your toddler to digital technology now? Find out what Mr Lee has to say on the next page.
Digital Technology is not for tiny tots
“Digital tech cannot replace physical learning”, says Lee. “Even learning to write on a tablet does not give one the same experience and feedback, the muscle memory, of actually writing, pen on paper”.
And if you think searching through the Internet for information and being able to find almost anything is a plus point for your child, Lee cautions that this could do more harm than good. By being able to quickly access any information, your little one may, “stop visualising or imagining the possibilities”, which greatly limits his learning and growth.
Research on children's digital exposure is in its early stages, says Lee, and, “we would have to wait decades before we can get a better idea." There are suggestions, however, that it could alter the way the neurons are formed and thus possibly change the way the brain works, especially in the early years.
He recommends that children grow up without digital aid until the age of 10. From then on, a child would be ready to lap up the benefits of digital technology.
Lee warns, however, that, "digital technology is like a knife or a gun - it is neither good nor bad". It would depend on how wisely you guide your child in its use.
Parents, get on board- quick!
As a parent, you have no choice but to play the catch-up game, says Lee. Children and teenagers are digital natives while parents are, “digital visitors”.
Fifteen years ago or so, teachers and parents were the authoritative sources of information. Today, however, social media has the upper hand. Moreover, to connect with your child and form a bond, you will have to communicate with him, and that communication should be done, “on the same platform” as that of your child.
What is his advice for you? Lee says that while you wait for digital technology to transform the future of your child's education, take the first step to connect with your, "digital native" child.
Lee will be speaking at the Teachers Congress from 30 May to 6 June. He will be talking more about how digital technology will shape education in the future, as part of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC).
How well do you think you would be able to connect with your child, digitally? Share your views with us in the comments section below.