Wired and wonderful
Why technology-based activities are beneficial
By Don Reist
Technology plays such a major and important role in today’s world that I refer to children born in the past 20 years as “digital babies.” Technology has been a part of these children’s lives from birth. As a result, they are comfortable and competent with its use. They see technology as their “friend.” It entertains them, assists in their learning, fascinates them and, most importantly, never scolds them. This “friend” allows them to develop many important skills, including executive functioning, application of logic, development of
artistic abilities, performing investigative procedures and research, and much more.
Although most of us, as parents, are alarmed by the amount of time our children spend using and playing games on their various devices—in some cases, rightfully so—the fact is that many of those games and tasks involve making sound, logical decisions in order to progress. Without realizing it, kids who play these games are actually exercising decision-making skills.
In addition, many applications are now available to help our children to express their artistic side. Photoshop allows them to process pictures and add their own captions and effects. There are a slew of applications that enable kids to process and edit videos in hundreds of ways. Programs such as Microsoft Paint have been available since
the earliest days of Windows, and today there are a multitude of graphic design programs to challenge children’s creative ideas. Although some of these applications may be beyond our own comprehension, our children can—and will—embrace them.
With the development of the latest camcorders and webcams, children can write, produce and create their own videos. And they are also able to open YouTube accounts (subject to age restrictions and parental consent), which allow them to proudly share their productions.
As wonderful as many of these things are for children in general, they are often even more fabulous for children with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities. Technology fascinates children. It results in them setting and maintaining their focus for hours. If we can encourage our children to be creative with technology in “the right way,” the results might just amaze us.
I have worked with students for 15 years and been very successful in encouraging them to strive to reach their potential. One of the things I credit for my success is that I have a passive form of ADHD and a learning disability. I know firsthand how technology, when used properly, can stimulate self-confidence and self-esteem.
It’s wonderful to teach children how to program a computer game, and then watch them strut around the room proclaiming their accomplishments and wanting to proudly show their creations to everyone. Or to have them build and operate a remote-controlled robot and observe the excitement. Or to help them storyboard, direct, film, act in and edit their own video, and observe the excitement as they share it with others. In the case of producing a video, kids must also learn to work well and willingly with others. I know this sounds somewhat incredible, but in order to accomplish their desired goal, they will be able to work as part of a team. I also teach these children how to produce exciting PowerPoint presentations with animations, transitions, video and music, and they will wow their teachers and friends.
I have worked one-on-one with children and, during March break and the summer, I run science, technology, entertainment and music camps. Over the past eight years, I have watched hundreds of children regain their self-confidence and come to the most important of all realizations: “I can succeed, I am intelligent, I can accomplish many things on my own and I know it’s alright to ask for help if I need to. My ADHD and/or LD will not prevent me from succeeding.”
People ask why I love to work with these children. The answer is simple: Our children are our future and they deserve every possible opportunity. And, when I see their heads rise, their chests go out and they start walking with confidence, I have gained the greatest reward any educator can ever imagine.
Don Reist, OCT, is the director of the Tutorwiz Education Centre in Ajax, Ontario.