In England year 7 children (first year of high school) are asking “what is a mouse?”
Secondary teachers are reporting that children are arriving at secondary school not having used a computer mouse. In addition, some children have not used keyboards and have no understanding of word processing, databases, spreadsheets or filing and organising their work online. Quite simply, the use of tablets and smart phones by primary age children is meaning that children are not using computers in the way they did previously. This shift is noticeable throughout the school with teachers in EYFS reporting that children are coming to school more used to touchscreen technology and never having encounter a mouse outside of school. There has been a noticeable change in the last five years.
We would argue that we want our children to use technology in as flexible a way as possible. If we consider the speed at which technology has changed and developed over the last 5 years, it seems very unlikely that children starting school now, will be using technology in the same ways when they leave school. They need to be able to adapt and change, using a range of input and output devices. In order to ensure children can use technology effectively they need to be able to use a range of technology to make changes, present their ideas and find things out.
While we see tablet technology as very powerful, there are still limitations, we don’t see this as a replacement for the PC at the moment. While tablets are being used very effectively in many fields, it is still common place to see PCs in many offices. Ideally we should give children access to a range of devices so that they can pick and choose the tools most suitable for the task at hand, learning how to get the best out of the technology that they use.
Children need to be able to organise and find their work so that they can further develop it and share it with colleagues. Basic file management skills are essential if children are to work effectively.
We are real advocates of computer science, however this is not the whole story. It is essential that we also continue to develop children’s capability within IT and digital literacy, if we want them to be able to control and use technology to its full effect. Right from when they enter school, we need to be teaching children how to get the most out of technology so that they can safely develop their ideas, communicate effectively and make computers work for them.