In mid-September, the city of New York announced its commitment to offer computer science to all public school students within the next ten years, investing $81 million. This plan calls for teaching basic programming languages, such as Scratch, as well as actually building robots.
With this commitment setting a precedent – tech becoming pivotal in children’s lives – we can expect to see not only educational commitment to robotics, but also parental. That’s to say, the state of play is poised to shift towards one that embraces tech as the curiosity implicit in education impacts the playroom, as well.
According to national figures, 40% of children use iPads before they even speak. The integration of tech into children’s lives and, therefore, play is already underway. That said, parents must strike a balance between screen time and physical play in order to achieve a healthy balance.
Tech Players Make Their Moves
Signaling the future of gaming, tech giants such as Apple and Google are slowly moving into the realm of play. This summer, Google launched YouTube Gaming, which allows gamers to keep close tabs on their favorite games. While YouTube Gaming doesn’t necessarily skew young, Google’s commitment to play is underscored by its late-September unveiling of its Expeditions Pioneer Program. The program brings virtual reality to the classroom as a tool to enhance teacher-student engagement. Students will take field trips without leaving their seats, and this will naturally prompt tech-rooted curiosity.
Adjacent to Google, Apple recently demonstrated their new Apple TV, packaged with it a motion-controlled remote and games suitable for iOS. Though not yet gaining strong traction, Apple’s dip into gaming waters shows that the future is in play, and that the next consumers of tech are children.
More About Educational Robots
Tech, Kids and Parenting
As major tech companies make their moves and as children become more hands-on with tech and gaming in the classroom, technology will also impact children’s lives at home. This means parents will play a role in mediating technology, and that’s a good thing. According to Microsoft, in school, the fields parents are most keen for their children to pursue are engineering and science. By introducing STEM-leaning concepts such as programming, coding and robotics, parents can open the doors of the maker movement and instill not only real-world tech skills, but also a sense of play, entertainment and even wonder that comes with it.
By promoting robotic toys that encourage programming skills – and there are many – parents have the ability to provide their children a pathway to hone their computer science skills from an early age, which is essential, while enjoying the experience of learning. Within the next year, we can expect to see educational toys become the primary toy of choice across households.
This in mind, while the integration of tech into children’s lives has many positives, for example driving brain training and cognitive understanding, there must be a balance between virtual and digital worlds. For parents, as educational toys become the norm, the key will be to bridge high tech (e.g. virtual reality, or robotic programming) with real world, interactive game play. It’s a delicate balance, but one that must be struck.
As gaming becomes decidedly ed-tech driven, we can also expect that every toy in the near future will have the capacity to be Internet-connected, with built-in intelligence allowing toys to talk, listen and move alongside children. We’re heading quickly towards a future where toys will not only teach children – after all they’re already entering the classroom – but will grow and evolve with children’s interests and learning requirements. This means play will become more tech-focused than ever. In turn, children will become more tech-savvy, programmers from an early age. Parents must facilitate this shift in play focus in order to embrace a welcome STEM-focused future, but must also root play in the physical world, as well.
About the Author
Ricky Ye is the CEO of DFRobot, a robotics and open source hardware provider that is dedicated to creating innovative, user-friendly products that foster a strong community of learning. Ricky and his team are focused on home robotics, technologies and applications. Ricky is a graduate of the The University of Nottingham where he received his Ph.D in robotics.