I am part of a very lucky generation. We were brought up during a time when personal computers weren’t yet ubiquitous (and smart phones didn’t even exist!), but they were already common in most schools and many homes. My classmates and I took our first “Microcomputer Class” in junior high. By the time we graduated college and entered the work force, computers had become second nature to us.
Why does that make us “lucky?” Because we got to have a foot in both worlds. We learned how to exist without computers, and we learned how to exist with them. I spend most of my workday in front of a computer, and the fact that I’m typing this note—rather than suffering a hand cramp trying to scrawl it out on paper—is proof of just how much easier my trusty Mac makes my job. But if the power goes out, I can still balance my checkbook or read a map or play a board game, and I will survive!
On the other hand, my five-year-old son already knows his way around an iPad. Now, before you judge me too harshly, please note that the time he is actually allowed to use devices is severely limited. The research being done on the matter provides pretty compelling evidence that technology can be downright addictive for kids, in addition to a whole host of other ill effects it can have on developing minds.
And I was left with even more food for thought on the matter after speaking with Creativity Shell Founder and Director, Shelancia Daniel, for an article on the organization appearing in this issue.
Daniel—who is also an educational psychologist—learned that attempting to teach today’s school-age children how to sew was challenging for reasons she hadn’t anticipated: most notably, that nearly all of them possessed a strong need for instant gratification, and many lacked a real capacity for patience and problem solving.
“But these are essential life skills!” you’re saying. Exactly. Which is why it was so important for Daniel to find a way to teach them. Because in the process of learning something hands-on like sewing, a child also acquires some really valuable peripheral skills, like patience and problem solving. So, even if they never again pick up a needle and thread, they walk away with skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
You’ll have to read the article to find out exactly how she has accomplished this—and I really hope you will, because the work Creativity Shell is doing is inspiring in more ways than this.
On a personal level, reflecting on the experiences Daniel shared really reiterated to me the importance of teaching our son the kinds of hands-on skills—whether sewing or cooking or woodworking or learning to play a musical instrument—that engage a totally different area of his brain and force him to learn patience, perseverance, and problem solving. Because…well…life.
And let’s face it—by the time he’s an adult entering the work force, knowing computers isn’t going to give him an edge, but knowing how to manage when the power goes out…that just might!