Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Cat in the App: Children's Books in App Form

Occasionally when I can't think of anything to write, I look for news articles related to books and reading. Sometimes I find something interesting, sometimes the proverbial well is dry. Today, I struck oil...so to speak.

I found this article on NPR about children's books in app form. I'm not really a giant fan of things like e-readers and I also find it sort of disconcerting that there's pretty much an app for everything so of course my opinion on this is going to be a little skewed.

Okay, almost everything...

I'm not against the use of educational apps as long as they are used sparingly. Some apps, like those for practicing vocab or math, are really great tools, especially for students who have an interest in technology or who are more audio/visual learners. But books are just fine the way they are. Sure, they don't have all the bells and whistles that an app does, but that's not such a bad thing in my mind. One of the great things about books, especially for children, is that they encourage us to use our imaginations, even the ones with pictures.

The other thing about this whole idea that bothers me is that the developers are touting this as a great way to help kids read when there is no real evidence that this is the case. Show me a study that backs these claims up and maybe then I'll change my mind.

Also, isn't this just another form of using technology to babysit children? The way the article starts out (if you listen to it instead of reading it) it sounds like this is just another way for parents to get out of interacting with their children. We've already got parents using televisions, computers, and phones as ways to entertain children and keep them occupied rather than play or read with them.

I understand, obviously, that parents are busy people, but that doesn't excuse them from shirking their responsibilities as parents. Children need parental involvement, especially where reading and education are concerned. Too often parents leave that up to teachers and don't live up to their side of the bargain. This causes way to many problems to enumerate here but I feel like technology is widening this gap between parents and children even more.

I feel we as a society need to take a step back and look at where we're headed, especially where technology is concerned. Human beings are becoming so reliant on technology these days and it appears that we are passing this reliance on to our children. If we keep moving in the same direction I think we'll wake up one day to find that we left our humanity behind us and have become little more than walking, talking machines. Is that really the kind of future we want for ourselves? More importantly, is that really the kind of future that we want for our children?

This is your brain on technology.
(Image from the "Do the Evolution" music video.)

Feel free to take a listen to the article and to let me know what you think of it (and my ideas on it) in the comments section. I'd especially love to hear from parents.


PS: For anyone interested, this is the video that the image above comes from. It's one of my favorite music videos as well as, arguably, one of Pearl Jam's best songs.

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