Sticky Fingers: Our Children’s Technological Future

I have sticky fingerprints smeared across my flat-screen TV. They’re not mine, I might add. Rather they belong to my five-year-old son. Unlike his other random markings around the house (walls are a particular favorite), these are deliberate and with purpose.

He tries to operate the TV like he would my iPhone. That is, he competently swipes and pushes objects (buttons) on the flat screen as a means of navigating to the content he wants.

When the TV doesn’t respond he gets annoyed and airs his displeasure. For instance, a favorite program of his starts and ends with the characters entering a lift (elevator) – the top floor housing a fun playroom.

One day, as the program was coming to an end and the doors to the lift closed on the departing characters, he began to furiously ‘swipe’ the doors on the screen, yelling “no, no, no!” – desperately trying to open the doors so the program wouldn’t end.

But end it did, and in tears.

It struck me watching this, that he’s two years old and already he’s frustrated with the speed of technology advancement. To him, there is no reason why a TV shouldn’t work in the same way as Daddy’s iPhone.

Which makes me wonder, will he be able to afford future college tuition fees and how fast will technology evolve in just the first couple of decades of his life?

Flash Back

When he’s old enough to understand, he’ll probably laugh when I tell him about the technology I had when I was growing up.

Two main broadcast technologies, TV and Radio – three channels on the former and mainly national stations on the latter. As a kid, the height of cool was owning a twin deck radio cassette player (for recording the Top 40 Charts on Sundays). And…, well, that was about it for the early years.

Then came the technology revolution, as the (top-loading, not front-loading) video player burst on to the scene to change the entertainment world forever. Not that our family was an early mover on this one. We were well into the Late Majority before I discovered Vader was actually Luke’s father.

Consumer-owned computers appeared in my teens in the 90s but I barely touched them until I left college (mid-90s). Then of course technology exploded again, as we marched in the new millennium, with the next wave of game-changers – the iPod and iPhone.

The odd thing for him is that these new technologies are all standard devices. They are so everyday things in our house that he doesn’t understand why the other (older) shiny things don’t work in the same way.

Flash Forward

Just like in the days of the former decade the NAVTEQ Global LBS Challenge was organized annually to challenge application developers in developing LBS (location-based services apps that worked on smartphones, today’s technological innovations and developments will influence the way of acting and thinking of future generations.

Being fortunate (unfortunate?) to have a parent working in technology, there is a good chance that he’ll adopt emerging technologies and activities quite quickly. From a school perspective, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops.

I still remember the excitement of being allowed to use a calculator in class for the first time, I can’t imagine being able to open up a browser to access the web via the school WiFi.

Much will depend on education funding, but isn’t it likely that within just a few years all school children will be working from laptops or iPad-like devices in class, rather than with books and pens?

Much of this technology is already available, but what else is to come? How about:

  • User-Generated Content Storybooks, placing the child within the (e)book (viewed on a Kindle-esque device, naturally)
  • Desks and ‘blackboards’ using Minority Report-style interfaces?
  • 3D experiences of faraway places, visiting the Pyramids or back in time to ‘witness’ historical events?
  • Virtual classrooms, with remote teachers delivering lessons by teacher cam or holographic projection?
  • Collaborative projects using wiki-based platforms?
  • Start-ups formed as part of the Business studies or Economics curriculum (with Intellectual property rights shared with the school, of course)

All of these things are achievable within this next decade. I can’t even comprehend what it will be like by the time he reaches his teens.

I have no doubt children of his generation will readily adopt any new technology and application that emerges – perhaps the biggest question will be how will WE keep up?