“Who wants to buy something? Who wants to buy something?” Sebastian’s keen and blaring pitches have become my wake up calls. I turn over in bed, glance bleary-eyed at the clock, and muster all the energy I can to call back in a semblance of great enthusiasm, “me, me, I want to buy something!”
The strident sing-songy pitch comes to a halt (time for another brief moment of shut-eye? I ponder dreamily), and Sebastian approaches my bed. After doling a detailed account of his offerings, he states simply “It’s $3.41.” I smile and nod; I knew that.
The other day, while trying to peer – rather inconspicuously — through the window of the door to my kindergartner’s class, I discovered I was not alone. Joshua’s dad and I (“Sebastian’s mom”; you lose your first name when you have kids) started talking. The first topic naturally had to do with the great care with which one had to master this covert undercover feat of espionage; if you are noticed by a single child, it’s game over. The conversation then developed to a discussion on the benefits of ipads. Josh’s dad had mentioned various math learning games and exercises that he uses with his son. I offered that I know that their kindergarten teacher, Ms. Griggs, has an ipad and allows the kids time on it occasionally, though I didn’t know how much or in what capacity. And that I once saw a very moving documentary on autistic kids and what an extraordinarily revolutionary tool the ipad was in helping these kids express them-selves.
As Josh’s dad continued to sing praises to the ipad’s educational potential, I nodded, thinking, wow, I really ought to “get with the program.” And then I thought of the grand meal I had been served earlier that morning consisting of a plastic pizza, a plastic artichoke, and a plastic bunch of grapes. The meal, at Sebastian’s store, generated the usual bill, scribbled on a piece of lined paper torn out of a notebook: $3.41. The three is written backwards. I also thought of the note Sebastian handed to me after I had offered forty-one cents: handwritten from bottom to top in wobbly letters, it said: Sebastian’s store for Ima keep this until you pay 3 dollars.
Sebastian’s store is a fixture in our home. He plays it every day, offering fare, declaring prices, adding, subtracting, and making change. We have glimpsed in it teachable moments to foster math skills and writing (the addition of menus!), and the speed with which this five year old counts and makes change is remarkable. I only recently figured out why so many of the meals at his store come to $3.41. That way he gets one of each coin: twonie, loonie, quarter, dime, nickel, and penny.
And so, for what it’s worth: my musings on the wonders of technology. And the marvels of going unplugged.
Learning is about being open to avenues of innovation while safeguarding the traditional. It is about creating an environment where both the new and the old can dwell side by side; where one can garner information from a computer and discuss this information — face to face. Ultimately, it is the “face time” that we make, both on and off screen that shapes us.
When I sit the kids in front of the tv screen and pop in a dvd, I try and be present with them. To add the human, the interactive, the face time to the screen time. Unless it’s 7 am on a weekend; at these times I let the technological wonders stand on their own, and marvel at their miraculous ability to perform as a snooze button. In the pm spectrum, I try and be there; to prepare some laundry to fold, some popcorn to munch on, some snuggles to steal. In these moments, the speed and brightness that technology provides is balanced by the slowness and cloudiness of intimacy. That’s worth at least $3.41.