How Young Can We Go?

young child with iphone

How young can we go?

Recently I’ve been noodling on the fact that things are changing so fast and the fact that younger and younger children are becoming familiar with, and using, iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches on a regular basis.

I took the photograph above on the train commuting from the airport in San Francisco recently. I didn’t ask mom how old her son is but I imaged he was about 2.5 to 3.5 years old.

young child watching video in stroller

How young can we go?

I took this second photograph in the airport in Los Angeles. I would imagine this child is younger than the one in the first picture.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to any of us that technology is impacting every aspect of our lives – and it probably shouldn’t come as any surprise that younger and younger people will have technology as an integral part of their lives before reaching public school age.

What might that mean to the school environment? Will schools be able to change fast enough to make instruction and learning on par with the experiences young people have outside of school? And what happens if schools don’t change and don’t keep up?

Earlier today I read an article about a survey commissioned by a company that just released an iPad security application for schools. Their report found that 1 in 20 primary school (elementary school) children in the UK own an iPad. 2000 parents of children aged 10 and under were surveyed.

One in ten parents in the UK feels it’s appropriate for children as young as four years old to own a mobile phone, while one in ten kids under the age of ten already owns an iPhone, according to a survey by Westcoastcloud.

The survey also revealed that 1 in 10 elementary age children already have a social networking account.

These facts raise plenty of questions but the ones that I’m interested in exploring here are related to the impacts on the learning environment.

My personal feeling is to run with this trend and momentum and find ways to harness that energy by engaging young people in using their interests and enthusiasm for technology to propel further inquiry and learning.

On one end of that spectrum is simply personal interests. On the other end of that spectrum could be young people as mentors to other young people and young people developing the applications that are used in the learning environment – their learning environment.

But many school environments and school cultures won’t think this way. Many school cultures will want, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, to control and possibly limit the use of technology in their classrooms.

What’s your take on the changes that trends like these foretell?



3 thoughts on “How Young Can We Go?

  1. My grandson, at age 2 to 2 1/2 was walking around with Mommy’s iPhone taking pictures of a dog for the Harry Potter app that did the 3 panel Wanted Poster. He came over to me, showed me, and then opened up the photo/camera app and showed me pictures of himself and his new little sister. His little fingers zooming and flipping around on it like he was just picking his nose. To him it all seemed ‘just so simple’.
    I was impressed. At his age back in the late 1940’s all I could do was take a slingshot and put a rock through a milk bottle.
    Tools are tools, and they will learn to use them.

    • I think you’re right – tools are tools – however, I imagine this puts pressures on schools to change and adapt. In my experience, schools have been slower to change than the rest of society and I’m imagining this kind of change you are noticing is helping to ‘speed up’ some things in one part of our lives and schools may not be able to ‘keep up.’ What are the implications of that on young people as they get into those environments – and what are the implications on the people wanting to teach if they haven’t ‘evolved’ their methods to match some (or all) of the expectations of the learners? Michael

  2. I work in a Title 1 school and have a lot of k-6 students with autism. I’d like to see how these apps work, and if they are hwlpful I’d like to try to write a grant for my school. Unfortunately, we, nor I, can afford one. Does anyone have any idea of companies that would like to donate one?

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