Here comes Christmas, and with it the rush to find the perfect gift. At the same time for those in the Southern Hemisphere the long summer break from school awaits, with days and weeks of relaxation and also inevitably calls of 'I'm bored'.
Managing screen time and keeping active
I've observed recently that as parents we're all tangled up when it comes to our children’s screen use. We want them to code. Their future lies in augmented reality. But we want them outdoors, playing. Social media feels terrifying, and the mindlessness of some apps makes our head hurt. But at the same time, we embrace reading - 'If you ask me one more time if you can have book time, I'll scream' said no parent ever, but really, if we're talking relaxation, what's the difference between picking up a book or an iPad, in terms of socializing or being active?
Recently I asked a group of parents to come up with a list of activities for 12 year olds to aspire to. I loved the list, and the full version will be out soon. Activities included pitching a tent, reciting a poem, catching a fish, climbing a tree, flying a kite, building a catapult, bodysurfing, make sherbet, quoting endlessly from a favourite movie, washing a dog or a car or both, telling a good joke, shuffling a deck of cards, moonwalking, and spinning a basketball on your finger.
you've never been
What struck me though is that as parents none of these items were at all tech related, or entrepreneurial, yet we're asking our education system to prepare children for a brave new world full of technology. Are we too worried to embrace it at home? Do we need to discover what's out there? I don't know the answer. But while we all figure this out together, here's my Christmas gift to you: a (mostly free) list of technology related activities for your kids to do over summer. They'll be learning, and creating. They'll be innovating. They'll feel in charge. These are all of the skills we want for our kids to thrive in the digital age.
Our top ten technology and coding holiday activities
- Join a citizen science project and record data from your world: In Australia right now you can join a project to record frog calls in your neighbourhood: https://australianmuseum.net.au/frogid-project
- Teach Google's artificial intelligence bot to recognize doodles: you doodle on screen and Google's neural net shouts out what it thinks you’re drawing: https://quickdraw.withgoogle.com/
- Create your own hologram with some plastic sheet and a short video: install the holaplex app and see your creation jump off the screen: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.holaplex.app&hl=en
- Use Mozilla's xray goggles to peek inside websites and change them to add your own content - imagine if you could change your school website so that the front image was of you eating a giant taco? (Parents, it's ok, no hacking involved, it's just changing the version of the website on your computer: https://goggles.mozilla.org/
- Install an app like Stop Motion Studio (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cateater.stopmotionstudio&hl=en) and create your own stop motion video using lego minifigs or anything else to hand.
- World domination! Plan your first company with a friend: design a logo using free software like canva (www.canva.com), see if the website for your name is taken and convince your parents to give you some seed capital to get started. For older kids use this as a springboard for a program like the $20 Boss.
- Create a game to play with your friends using www.scratch.mit.edu - if you want to go next level invest in a makey makey set and turn your game into a real life board game.
- Create your news broadcast video and learn to code while you do it: https://app.vidcode.io/project/hourofcode-gs-2
- Design your perfect cubby house using a 3D modelling software like SketchUp (https://www.sketchup.com/products/sketchup-free) - if you want to take it further you can export projects from sketch up ready to 3D print if your local library has a 3D printer.
- Go on a world tour with a VR headset: VR headsets are widely available for phones - from cheap Google Cardboard headsets to top of the line ones. Explore youtube’s VR channel (details here: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6239930?hl=en) and you can explore reefs, mountains and rollercoasters.
Create a project in scratch...
...and turn it into a board game
Do you have anything to add to the list? Let me know! I’d love to keep creating ideas to encourage healthy tech habits, and nurture the creativity and curiosity in our children.