How to Teach Kids to Deal with Technology?

Why do we need to learn things we can just find on the internet? What is wrong with the way in which we teach children how to handle technology? Doctor Theo Compernolle answers these questions regarding modern day education.
24-08-2015 -  by Kevin Van der Straeten

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Why do we need to learn things we can just find on the internet? What is wrong with the way in which we teach children how to handle technology? Doctor Theo Compernolle answers these questions regarding modern day education. 


Dr. Compernolle, welcome back to our studio.  


Hello, I'm glad to be here. 


Today's topic is education, schools and more in detail about how we start to learn working with technology. Are we doing it wrong right now?  


Well, there's a big risk that we're on the wrong track. The most important message is: "there is nothing wrong with the technology". The technology is fantastic. However, if we let the technology lead, we're going in the wrong direction. Because the technology is in the hands of people whose only goal is selling things. They want us to be as addicted as possible to our technology. And so for children it's similar. We should not take the technology away, but we should teach children how to be the Einsteins of the future. If Einstein would have been glued to his iPhone or his smartphone, as so many people today, he would never have invented these world-shattering formulas that changed our view of the world. So it is not what you can do with the technology, but it's how they do it and the things that they don't do anymore. 


People always say: the sooner you start learning working on for example a device or technology, the better. 


Yeah, that's what I thought myself. I'm sorry to say... 


That it was not true?  


It was not true. No, it was the biggest disillusion of the research I've done the last six years. I thought that those digital natives, who have been connected to the internet from the crib and who are multi-tasking all of the time, that this was the hope for the future, and I was totally, totally, totally wrong. Totally wrong. So every aspect. The younger and the more you are connected, the worse your homework, your thinking, the way you ask question, your interpretation, your reflection, even social contact. So it's not a good idea. So the solution is not to take the technology away, the solution is to teach our children to use the technology. Like the last generation, they did the same thing in the relation with the children, with television. You didn't let your children lie on the couch and keep changing channels for hours. No, you taught them how to do it: "first your homework!" "But all the children..." "No, in this house you first do your homework." "I want to see this". "No, no, you have to choose: this or that." So we taught our children how to use this fantastic technology that television is. And it is the same now for this technology. Yeah, because a lot of children are texting now all day. 150 messages a day. 


A day? 


150, yeah 150 messages a day. So every moment they are interrupted. From a consumers point of view: no problem. But when you have to do homework, when you're in the school and so on, we have to teach them similar to how the adults have to learn. Some of them also get caught in the trap of being a consumer and gulping this totally irrelevant but interesting information all of the time. And their job is about relevant information, processing relevant information. For children it's the same: if they want to spend some of their time as consumers of irrelevant information, very good, no problem with that. But they should earmark time for homework. They should earmark time for study. They should earmark time for reflection. To become the adults we will need tomorrow. 


We are now talking a lot about the parents. Is there a rule for the schools in this to play?  


Absolutely, and I discovered that in Belgium and the Netherlands, and recently now also in the United States, the organizations of teachers and so on, are really interested. They are really concerned. The problem is that a lot of teachers are already caught in the same consumer trap. And they are using their technology as consumers more than as professionals. So my first idea was: we have to reach the children. But no, now I learned we have to reach the teachers. And they will do something about it, I'm certain. But it's going to be difficult. Because it's more difficult than television, because television was at home, but now the kids have this seductive technology in their pocket all the time. So it's going to be a much tougher job to teach them. 


A lot of schools tend to stop teaching what you can find on the internet, because there is no use in knowing what you can find on the internet.  


Yeah, well that's a very good example of a misunderstanding, or ignorance, or a combination. That is to be able to look for information on the internet about the subject you have to know something about the subject. If not, you don't know how to ask the question and you get all kinds of wrong answers. And you don't know what to do with the answers. I did a little test myself by asking on Google: "what are the dangers of vaccination". It is amazing what I got. Page after page after page of totally stupid, totally ignorant information. And here and there, there was a link to somebody, or a research center who really did research about this. And there I really understood how this works. A lot of the answers came from Trump, who is in housing, building, skyscrapers, and an ex porn star. And then you understand, and that's what children should be taught, that the non-informed ignorant opinion of a film star, a porn star, a building developer, gets more attention on the internet than the people who know about it. And so this porn star is tweeted and retweeted and blogged and so on. Then I said: "this can't be true". Then I asked my question differently, and I asked: what are the advantages and disadvantages of vaccination. And the answer was totally different. I think about a quarter of the answers were relevant. Came from sentences from people who have talked about it who were knowledgeable. So that's the first thing: you have to know the subject to be able to ask the question. And then when you get the answers. You need a little bit about the subjects to praise the answers you get, and that's something that we should teach the children. How to ask questions, how to understand the answers you get, and also to look at the source. And then a little video with a little porn star telling about vaccination... That's what they remember. A page text... Boys won't even read a page text written by somebody who knows about it. No, the 6 second video will get more attention and they'll remember it better. 




We have 9 minutes. 


Okay Dr. Compernolle, thank you for coming over to our studio. And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!