Should Babies Learn Alexa’s Name Before Mama’s?

Check out a fascinating article, When Your Kid Tries to Say ‘Alexa’ Before Mama, in the November 27, 2017 Washington Post. Tech reporter Hayley Tsukayama describes how a young child responds to the Alexa voice assistant in his house, calling out her name before learning his mom’s. She also writes about the personal voice assistant universe and expert opinions.

51ciPnzyhQL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_I am not sure what to think and, yes, it is amusing.

Yet I keep wondering whether digital toys and devices, especially those that talk, tend to distract babies and toddlers as they go about learning words and begin to carry on a basic conversation. Babies are hard-wired to learn the language that their parents speak — the words, the pitch, the intonation — and it seems like inserting digital conversations into the equation could slow down the process, or at least not be helpful. Twenty-first Century life is becoming more complex for every age as we sail nonstop into an increasingly digital world.

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Melinda Gates Parents Digital Kids, Too

Parenting digital kids?

kids devices Gates

Image downloaded from Pixabay.

If you sometimes feel lonely and unprepared as you take steps to craft appropriate media guidelines for your family, check out Melinda Gates’ digital parenting essay I Spent My Career in Technology: I Wasn’t Prepared for It’s Effect on My Kids, appearing in the August 24, 2017, edition of the Washington Post. Her family experiences some of the same 21st Century challenges.

Despite spending years working at Microsoft, Gates describes her amazement at the pace of change and the ways that digital activities have taken over, in different ways, the lives of her children. She compares and contrasts her older child’s technology experiences with the increased access of her younger daughter. And she thinks about and shares a range of resources to help parents understand more about digital wellness and how to raise children who understand the digital world where they live.

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Virtual Reality Is Amazing & a Little Bit Scary

My virtual reality head-gear.

Many years ago, at a conference on the campus of Virginia Tech, I entered a virtual reality (VR) area — I think it was  called “the cave” —  with all sorts of things going on around me. I think I was expecting the holodeck from Star Trek, where they went through a door and suddenly found themselves on vacation in a beautiful and peaceful place (check out what Virginia Tech’s video that describes virtual reality and the holodeck). Instead during my first foray into VR I wore big goggles, and I got a bit dizzy. So I’ve been a bit hesitant to try again.

This past week I gave virtual reality another try, this time at the Newseum VR Lab in Washington, DC. I was handed a pair of goggles, put them on, and followed the instructions to start the show. Continue reading

Are You Sometimes “Botified” When You Communicate Online?

Watch David Ryan Polgar’s video below.

Take some time to watch an interesting video, Are We Becoming Bots, presented by tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar. In his video Polgar describes how in today’s digital age, each person is connected to many, many other people. Too many connections can lead individuals to send “botified” responses —  meaning that we sometimes behave more like robots and less like people. “Botified” behavior occurs because of the digital world challenges that arise when we try to accommodate way too many online connections.                                Continue reading

Digital Kids to Parents — Don’t Break Your Own Rules! A Poem

Several years ago I uploaded a post, Advice from Digital Kids to Parents, including some of the thoughts that kids in grades 3-6 shared with me about adults’ digital activities. My students often commented that it was unfair when parents asked their kids to sign a digital life contract or agreement, because adults then proceeded to break many of the common sense rules.

For some time I’ve felt those children’s voices bubbling up with their ideas, and since today (Sunday) is the last day of National Poetry Month 2017, I listened to those voices, penning this poem about kids, parents, contracts, and common sense.

So here’s my second, and I hope amusing poem about digital life from kids’ perspectives. (Read my first poem.) Children have brought up all these events in discussions with during digital citizenship activities.

Hey Mom and Dad…

I’m really glad I got my phone,
It’s cool and lots of fun.
I’m texting friends and playing games,
It seems I’m never done.

I signed your contract with my name,
Yes, it was right to do.
But I wish you’d take the time
To follow those rules too!

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Even a Web Founder Worries about Today’s Connected World Climate

the-innovators-9781476708706_hr-1Can a world wide web creator be a doubter about what he helped to create?

I’ve just finished reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, a book that highlights the many people who helped create, step-by-step, the digital world where we now reside.

The book begins way back in the mid-1800s with the ideas of Lady Ada Lovelace, an amateur mathematician (and the daughter of poet Lord Byron). It was Lady Ada, Isaacson writes, who provided the ideas and laid groundwork for early computer developers to use nearly 100 years later when they created their first computing machines.                              Continue reading

Admiral Grace Hopper & Her Singular Achievements

Public Domain from the U.S. Navy website.

Public Domain from the U.S. Navy website.

In the late 1980s, early in my educational technology career, I attended a one-day conference about technology in schools. Held in a hotel in the Washington, DC area — I don’t remember which one — the conference convened a small number of teachers, identified as early adopters, people from that National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, what seemed hundreds of technology consultants from places like Cambridge, Palo Alto, and various state universities, and one older, somewhat fragile woman far ahead in the front of the room, who attended for a short time.

That was my first encounter with the life of retired Admiral Grace Hopper. She lived for only a few more years after that, passing away at the age of 85, but I remember her face, her eagle-eyed attention, and the reverence with which others in the room regarded her.

Yale University has decided to change the name of its residential Calhoun College to Grace Hopper College, honoring the computer scientist who played a significant role in moving the country (and the world) into the age of technology and who became a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy. Hopper received a master’s degree and PhD in mathematics from Yale and was one of the mathematicians  who programmed some of the earliest computers before and during World War II.                                             Continue reading