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The future of our tech-savvy children will be an exciting one to join says Karen Kay

PUBLISHED: 14:44 24 March 2015 | UPDATED: 14:47 24 March 2015

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

Karen realises that we all have a lot to learn, and the future of our tech-savvy children will be an exciting one for us to join in

My daughter came home from school the other day and asked if she could use my laptop for a Powerpoint presentation. She is seven years old, and up to now had only limited access to some drawing apps and age-appropriate games on an iPad, when we are travelling, and sometimes plays with a childrens VTech laptop she was given by her grandparents.

Phones, tablets and computer screens are intrinsic to my everyday life, and I knew I couldn’t put off forever the moment when she would begin to emulate this. So, when she wanted to share the skills she’d been learning in school ‘computing’ classes, I sat down alongside and asked her to teach me how to do a Powerpoint presentation.

There we were, two people growing up three decades apart, whose childhood experiences to this point had so many parallels: ballet classes, Brownies, recorder lessons, swimming lessons and weekend romps in the Chiltern Hills. But here we were, at the watershed of what was to become a marked difference in the paths our learning would take. To her, a computer will simply be another tool; a way of discovering, collating and presenting information in every subject area from history to biology and beyond.

As I witness her navigating her way around the keyboard, tiny fingers darting nimbly between the trackpad and the QUERTY characters, I feel a pang of envy that she is growing at a time where she has the world in her pocket. Of course, hiding away in a darkened room, sitting in isolation as you immerse yourself in a virtual life, is not a healthy existence, and there is no substitute for the real experience of travelling to places near and far and meeting different people.

But, as this small child begins to build a slick, accomplished looking document with animated headlines and scrolling images, I am in awe of the potential she has in her future. When I started at my all-girls grammar school in the early 1980s, we had BBC computers with black screens scattered with bright green text that spoke an unfamiliar language called MS.DOS: it was intimidating and we only had access every few weeks, when we would sit inputting a series of dictated numbers and letters to get the same results as the girls either side of us. Computing was a subject for nerds and best avoided.

I wanted to learn how to type properly but was told by a stern-looking teacher that I should aspire to be ‘more than a secretary’. Today, I curse that lack of vision, as I dance a clumsy jig across the keys in a bid to take notes during interviews. I can type fast, but the resulting text is riddled with errors and needs to be checked thoroughly before I can do anything with it.

So, back to the future, and the wonder of a child who has the confidence and comfort in her intuition to play with the technology in front of her. There is no fear as she hovers the cursor over icons and menus, deciding what she might experiment with next. “I can always undo it,” she says matter-of-factly, as she tries a hitherto unknown tool in the software. It is a wondrous journey. She enlarges fonts and makes them bold, creating headlines and bullet points to illustrate a presentation on her pet rabbits. I am in awe of her ability to add photos, re-sizing them and moving them around to fit the layout.

I am learning too, and it dawns on me that over the next few years we will share this journey through the new national curriculum. She is expected to learn to code, to understand algorithms and will almost certainly create blog pages and simple apps at some point. I am excited to join in her endeavours, hopefully developing skills that will keep me relevant in the digital workplace.

Who knows where this will take her? She may well go on to work in a traditional profession, but even if she does follow her current dream of being a vet, the role will be markedly different to the one her predecessors in the field had.

It’s hard to imagine the world can continue to change at the pace it has in the last few decades, so I struggle to envisage ‘Tomorrow’s World’ where she is an adult using as yet undeveloped technology to achieve remarkable things. It is thrilling to think of the vast ocean of possibility it brings, but I hope that whatever she finds herself doing with her life, that she still has the ability to have those shared experiences with loved ones, where the wonder of the world still brings a mother and daughter closer together, and creates new friendships, rather than leading to increased isolation.

***

READ ON

Karen Kay on a few megabytes of misery - Girly geek Karen downloads her woes about being left fuming by the snail’s pace of her own technological revolution, having been ahead of the game.

Karen Kay on the cold, hard truth about school meals - A lunchtime meal is essential for growing children, but Karen sees a policy riddled with problems that’s leaving parents doubting its value.

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