- Education and Science
What 10 Year Old Children Should Know About Computers
An overview of modern computer technology
Children now aged 10 have been exposed to computers and technology all of their lives. In fact, computers may have monitored children and helped with their survival since before they were born. Children today are in the Millennium Generation. It is a generation that is defined by technology. This generation accepts technology for what it is and what it can do. They have no fear of technology. They understand technology implicitly. They recognize that technology is important to society because they have been exposed to incredible benefits of technology their whole lives.
The Millennium Generation cannot be understood without also understanding of the technology of the 21st century. This generation, more than any other, has been completely enveloped in technology. They have likely had their births announced on the Internet. They have never known a time without instant messaging, social media, real-time games, global interconnection and many other marvels brought about by technology. In fact, the Millennium Generation cannot begin to understand a time when technology was not a vital part of nearly everything that goes on in the world.
We have to remember that while computers have been in existence for more than 60 years, they have not been in widespread use for nearly that long. There was a long period of evolution for computer technology. At first, computer technology was an interesting experiment that promised advances in calculation speeds. Soon the military was able to perform sophisticated calculations at incredibly fast speeds. 50 years ago, computers filled large rooms and though fast compared to manual calculations, they were incredibly slow and primitive compared to even the cheapest modern computer. Storage space was very expensive. The computer required enormous amounts of electricity. The complexity of the computer was amazing. Each computer required scores of technicians to operate it and to direct the computer's actions. There were very few computers in existence. A popular story on the Internet cites that in 1943, "there is a world market for maybe five computers". Even 10 years later, computers cost at least $12,000 a month making the 1943 claim realistic. Barriers to acceptance, besides cost, included the complexity of the machine, the lack of useful applications and the primitive user interface devices. Luckily, great technological leaps have occurred since the invention of the computers.
(This is a historical picture of a 1940s era computer. The computer fills a large building and has about as much calculating ability as a 2011 desk calculator, or less.)
Millennium children are not burdened by the complexity of the computer nor the relatively slow evolution of technology. They have never known a time when disk space was an issue. Slow transmission of graphic screens is a foreign concept to these children. They have always had very interactive computers that were capable of handling most any task, (or tasks), that were asked of them. With this level of technology being second nature to them, they are able to imagine future directions for the technology without being burdened by thoughts that something can't be done. They have every reason to believe that anything can be done by technology and they are likely right!
In time, of course, the worldwide market for computers has exploded to near saturation levels in 2011. In addition to large computers for institutions, there are personal computers, laptops, notebooks and mobile phones with computer capabilities numbering in the hundreds of millions. The Millennium Generation are growing up in a time when there is an unprecedented availability of all types of technology. Computers entertain people, control industrial processes, organize billions of pieces of data and provide an interconnection of all people to all kinds of information.
With the rise in technology, the Millennium Generation is at a crossroads. Some will continue to use computer technology for the rest of their lives and perform amazing tasks with it. Others will gain a deeper understanding of the technologies in use which will allow them to be part of the next generation of technologists. This generation will be able to implement even more fantastic technological advances, limited only by their imaginations. In order to be part of the new generation that guides technology, today's 10 year olds should learn how technology evolved to the current level. They can then explore the components of technology, gain a clear understanding of them and be ready to extend their knowledge. This will ensure that they can become more than a user of technology. They can be the computer wizards of the future.
This lens was produced as part of the Squidoo Jenga Challenge.
(Introduction photo courtesy of wwworks.)
10 Technology Topics That 10 Year Old Children Should Know
1) What can a computer do?
A 10 year old child today knows quite a few things that a computer can do. They know about computer games with stunning graphics and vibrant sounds. They know that email keeps people connected. They know that text messages and instant computer messages keep people in contact at all times. But these are a small number of things that a 10 year child sees the computer doing. They should learn more about what the computer can do internally. The computer can add millions of numbers together and never cause an error. The computer can be given the same task millions of times and it will do it exactly the same each time. Children should learn that computers do what people ask them to do. They should know that if the person asks the computer to do something, and asks correctly, the computer will do it correctly. If a person makes a mistake, the computer will make mistakes and there will be no way to know exactly how bad the computer's mistakes will be.
2) Where are computers used?
Again, a 10 year old child will know how computers are used but only how they themselves have seen them used. They have seen an extensive number of ways that computers are used, though. These children have used the mouse all of their lives. They have used keyboards. They may even have used touch screens. They know that these devices allow people to interact with computers. They know that the computer holds a vast amount of information that is available for anyone who can ask for it. Their own background using computers positions them well for the evolutionary changes that will occur in the future. If they learn that computers have been to the moon and most of the planets, they may be intrigued. Computers have also been to comets, asteroids and even deep space. Of course, most of those computers are toys compared to the computers used now by 10 year old children.
3) How do computers help with science?
10 year old children are beginning to learn more advanced concepts in school. They know that their computer can help them to research information needed for their assignments. Many may even have their assignments delivered to them in whole or in part by computers. The children know that they can organize their thoughts, observations and work into presentations to be displayed on computer screens or printed by the computer to color printers. Children this age are learning about graphs and data, often with a computer focus. Some may not realize it, but their exposure to science is often a result of technology. They have seen deep space images produced by the Hubble telescope. Do children know that the Hubble telescope was originally flawed and that computers helped to fix the device? They may have seen microphotography of atoms produced by scanning electron microscopes. The incredible images that children have seen were only possible with the extensive use of technology. It is important for a 10 year old child to realize that the computer technology is advancing science but only because computers have been so able to carry out the commands made by people.
4) How do computers help with communications?
10 year old children know that communications allow people to remain in contact despite distance. They know that some communications channels, such as email and text messages, are directly accomplished by computers. They may not realize that most every form of communications that they have ever seen is now equally dependent on technology. This is clear for computer initiated messages like email and video chat but is also true for telephone calls. Other forms of communications dependent on technology include TV and radio broadcasts. In fact practically all modern distributions of information is moved as data by computer technology during all or part of the delivery. Besides voice and written communications, 10 year children may not have ever communicated with anyone without using technology.
5) How do computers help people understand Earth and space science?
Computer technology has helped many 10 year old children with Earth and space science projects. They have been able to obtain computer photographs and organize these with text describing the theme of the presentation. The computer allows the children to present their reports in detail, possibly with good artistic composition and features. Printed presentations, done by the computer, are usually of excellent quality. As much as the computer technology has advanced, so too has printer technology. Children today often have access to sophisticated color printers that use laser technology to produce brilliant and sharp images on paper. The days of a child drawing an ecosystem on paper with crayons are largely gone.
6) How do computers help the environment?
When the Gulf Oil Spill occurred, many 10 year old children were actively monitoring the news using their computers. They produced reports showing the damage to the environment practically as soon as any news was released from the area. Some of the children were able to relate the data they received to other environmental problems. Global warming has been widely reported in many presentations made by 10 year old children. Based on their experiences with such environmental concerns these children understand that computers are giving them an immediate view of both the current environment and what they can expect to happen in the environment over time.
7) How do computers help a team organize an assignment?
Practically all Millennium Generation children have used computers to compose assignments for teams of students. They know that each member can produce individual parts that can be brought together to form a cohesive final presentation. Many such teams have experience joining the works of students located hundreds or thousands of miles apart. The activities of these students show how technology has transformed team assignments just as it has transformed so many other aspects of our modern society.
8) What do computers do best?
This will be a difficult question for a 10 year old to answer. They may choose to give an answer that represents their particular opinion. The answers would be quite variable. Since there really is no incorrect answer, the question itself becomes a learning tool. Children can list a number of things that computers do well. Each child will have their own opinion of what the computer does best. They will be intelligent enough to understand that computers are an extension of the human mind as computers are doing what people ask them to do.
9) How can computers be mis-used?
Doubtless, every 10 year old child knows about the dark side of technology. They have seen the security warnings, virus scanners, spam and possibly even pornographic images. Many of these children may have knowledge of computers at school or home that have been subject to a virus attack. They may know a family member who has been a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately, children this age are targeted by some of the worst people in society. By understanding the dangers lurking in the technology field, anyone can take precautions to protect themselves, even young children. Since it is rarely the dangers we know about that affect us, knowing as much about the dangers as possible is the best method of protection.
10) What is plagiarism?
Another thing that computers can do very well is allow people to copy online material and re-publish it as their own work. Children can understand that this is wrong. As they age, they are aware of the effort that they put into their school projects. They know that their work effort is of value and so is the effort of others. Since there is an increasing use of technology for school projects, 10 year old children will realize that plagiarism is a serious threat to their own work. They wouldn't want their fine science project passed off as the work of another student. They can understand that students are allowed to research material on the Internet for their projects but that extensive re-work of these materials is necessary to make it their own. As technology is used more and more for school work, it will be important for children to be aware of plagiarism so that they can take steps to avoid it, starting immediately.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Surran.)
The Future of Computer Technology
When the 10 year olds of the Millennium Generation understand the basics of technology, they are ready to extend their knowledge as well. These children are able to adapt to the changes in technology that will be implemented in future years. Some of these children will even be the developers of those changes. Computer technology in the early 21st century can be compared to the automotive industry in the early 20th century. Back then, many people had knowledge of the automotive field and had adapted to many changes over the brief history of the field. As the new century dawned, there was an enormous potential that was possible for the automobile. Change obviously happened beyond the imagination of most people then alive. While many older people at the time were able to use new cars, it was the children who were able to completely adapt every aspect of their lives to all changes brought by automotive progress. The same will be true as computer technology evolves during the rest of the 21st century.
Much like the 10 year olds in the year 1911, today's 10 year olds will either be affected by technology change or they will be the instruments of that change. While they all know how to use the technology and can adapt as needed when change is introduced, they can continue to be users or they can be innovators. The innovators may have more interesting careers. In order to become an innovator, a child should begin to learn more advanced computer topics. They should know the difference between computer hardware and software. They should be imaginative and consider new ways that computers can help people accomplish things. They will see the uses of mobile computers today with touch screens and see how these will be adapted for even more uses in the future. As these people know, if you can imagine something that can be done, it will be done in time.
Even though computer technology has reached an amazing pinnacle of development, there is much remaining that can be done. Computers are really good at doing what we ask them to do. They aren't very good at predicting what might happen and adapting to it quickly. Actual intelligence is still limited to the human mind despite more than 30 years of research into Artificial Intelligence. Technology has already greatly helped disabled people but many adaptations must be made by those people to use technology. Touch screens, for example, aren't much use to those without fine motor skills. The keyboards and mice used by computers today impose operational constraints on users that must be learned and accepted. Mobile devices have very tiny screens and cumbersome data entry methods. These limitations should be overcome by today's youth as they explore possibilities and invent improvements. There is no doubt that the limitations will be eliminated.
There is a historical body of knowledge that has been amassed as the computer technology field has evolved. Children today are ready to use the incredible power of technology as it is and how it will be. They are not constrained by limitations that were severe but which have now been largely eliminated. Much like a modern driver who need not know exactly how every component of a car engine works, so too does a Millennium Generation computer user not need to know what computer machine language is. Consider, however, the highly skilled racers of today. They are completely aware of every component used in their activities. They might not need to know how a piston works, but they do. In fact, many of these racers are so aware of the race components that they have implemented improvements to them to bring even greater results. This will be true of many Millennium Generation children. Their knowledge of computer technology will be like that of automotive racers, fighter jet pilots or astronauts. The future in computer technology is going to be fascinating.
(Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.)
Computer Skill Poll
Since you are using the Internet, you have the ability to use a computer for education and knowledge purposes. You may even have the ability to pass some knowledge on to your children or grandchildren. Even if you aren't a computer master, you can guide a child's development in technology by providing basic computer technologies to them. Don't be afraid to do so even if you aren't as comfortable with technology as your child is.