I have another reason that speaks in favour of smartphones and applications in general, and that is learning. I looked through my 9-year-old son’s homework and was overcome by feelings of nostalgia. I had to learn the same things, and it was such a long time ago. I remember how I loved one thing and loathed another. Hang on, when I studied the same thing?
At this point I was struck by the realisation that my son is studying more or less the same things as I had. How’s that possible? Since I grew up, the Internet and IT have revolutionised the world — how can subjects, materials and methods still be the same? That makes no sense.
All the knowledge that can be obtained from books and millions of questions and answers are there in our pockets, but somehow the answers to the major questions of life have always seemed to be missing from the books. “Back in the day, when I was your age, there weren’t even such things as textbooks,” our grandparents used to say about this, but I never understood why things should be just as bad for us as it had been for them if it can be avoided. In other words, I don’t want my children to learn to about life only from textbooks — especially as this is not possible anyway.
My 9-year-old son is an expert on car brands, adores cycling and spends hours staring at a huge screen killing zombies. He hasn’t got a clue about bills (he knows they exist but he has nothing to do with them), doesn’t know what climate change is (and neither does he suspect what a big impact it will have on his life), watches sci-fi non-stop and might become an astronaut. He doesn’t understand why he should eat so much fruit and vegetables, and why French fries don’t count as vegetables. The last time we went shopping he was surprised that chicken is not born in pieces and the polystyrene tray and plastic wrapping are not its natural habitat.
In school children learn nothing about money and it is not part of the curriculum, but you must admit that life is hard to imagine without it. So there are problems.
Luckily there are some applications that may help me and thus him as well. These are not based on school subjects but seem to try and rediscover education and prepare children for day-to-day life in a playful way. Although these are directly opposed to the strict requirements of dry educational material, every parent knows that kids learn much faster if it’s fun.
Left to their own devices, children would play all day long and that’s not a bad thing. However, you can have a say in what they should play with. Mincing zombies for hours certainly sharpens a child’s reflexes but there are also games that teach about living in the real world. Indeed, they may be better at that than school.