By: Christina Keasler, Middle School Librarian
Technology is taking over the world! But that’s not a bad thing. Technology is supposed to enhance our lives, making them better and easier. Why not embrace it?
Some may think kids these days are born with a mouse in one hand, and a touchscreen in another, but just because middle schoolers were born in this technological era, does not mean that they’re naturally competent in all things digital. It’s important to immerse yourself and your child in technology so you can both learn savvy techniques to survive in our digital world.
While it can be challenging, it’s important to steer into the techno-wave instead of skirting around it and hoping it’ll all blow over. With gift-giving season upon us, it’s hard to avoid things that need wires and batteries. Technology can be a great starting point for a conversation, or even a stronger relationship. Now is the time to start across the technological bridge into the future.
You can adjust slowly by using technology at a lower competency level. Maybe you don’t want your kids to be staring at a screen. Perhaps you want a way for them to connect to you or other loved ones without the hassle of their own smart phones or social media accounts.
Talkies by Toymail suggested age range goes from years 3 and up, but they’re so adorable that people of all ages will love them. Adding in the gold tooth factor ages these to younger middle schoolers easily.
Kids can have up to ten people in their “trusted circle” of messaging. Voice messages can be up to 30 seconds, and don’t delete until the Talkie runs out of storage. The toy messengers work on WiFi, not Bluetooth, but can only be assigned to one WiFi network at a time.
If your child is selfie ready, but you’re worried about the dangers that come with potentially hazardous selfie situations, you can try Snap Pets by Wow Wee. These adorable creatures, that come in dog, rabbit, or cat, help take hands free selfies – known to the older generations as a camera with a timer. They hold up to 20 pictures at a time, and can be sent to a trusted device where they have the ability to be edited or shared.
Technology can enhance and improve your life as well. Most know that fitness trackers can help with health goals and running techniques, but technology has taken it one step further with Wilson, who makes a “smart basketball” that can track and improve your skills on the court.
Like the idea, but not a basketball fan? Try the smart football instead.
You can’t have a blog about technology without bringing up robots! Robots that are available today can be for educational or recreational purposes. The Cozmo by Anki is beyond cute, with facial expressions and its own attitude. Cozmo can play games and evolves the more time you spend with it. For the more advanced user, Anki offers an open-sourced platform where you can edit and build new features for your little friend.
There are a few robotic options that have a more obvious educational track. Spheros have single and multiplayer games on them, but also teach simple coding structures. The coding missions are challenging but not impossible. Third graders from Wisconsin went above and beyond and programmed a set of Spheros to replicate our solar system’s orbit and were featured on Astrology Night at the White House. Students programmed speed, distance between planets, and the degree of their rotation to achieve this feat.
Ozobots teach basic concepts of coding with color coded line sequences. You don’t have to worry about purchasing expensive refill packets, since any brand marker will work providing that it can make a ¼ inch line. Ozobots come with markers, a helmet, and a book of activities and puzzles to get your child started. Once they get the hang of it, they can think way beyond the parameters to create costumes and even stories for the tiny robot that fits in the palm of your hand.
Dash from Wonder Workshop is the more advanced bot from the Dash and Dot duo. Kids learn coding starting with the Dash tutorial. Their free apps can teach kids by playing, and you can enhance their entertainment with add-ons like brick connectors and xylophones. Kids can operate Dash with any smart touch screen device, and can do anything from complete an obstacle course, to make a ball launcher.
Technology has advanced beyond the physical realm and into virtual reality. Devices like Google Cardboard, Playstation VR, and Oculus Rift all allow people to enjoy virtual reality in their own home, at different quality and price tiers. Virtual reality can be used at home or in the classroom to provide more personal experiences in environments that would otherwise be unattainable, allowing for more knowledge retention.
While new technology might be daunting and intimidating, there are a lot of benefits that can enrich your life, as well as your relationship with your middle schooler. Maybe you will purchase one of these gadgets for hours of family fun, or maybe you’ll stop by the library to play with them here. Either way, there’s nothing to be scared of. Jump in!