Helping your child start school in a digital age

Kinderling News & Features

If you have a child about to start school, chances are it has all changed a bit since you first donned a uniform, wrote your lunch order on a brown paper bag, and trotted off to class.

It wasn’t until I was in second grade that our family got a Commodore 64, installed a land line phone and the internet was almost a decade off changing the world forever.

So what will our children’s classrooms look like when they start school?

Dr Kristy Goodwin, children’s technology and development expert, walks us through what technology to expect in the first year of school.

It will be different to what you’re used to

When I started school my classroom consisted of a row of desks facing towards a blackboard. We learnt how to read and count (from what I remember!).

Kristy says that most schools now have more ‘open plan’ classrooms. There are likely to be examples of touch-screen technology, from interactive whiteboards to iPads. Since 2018, all children in their first year of school now learn coding.

While this technology might be new to the classroom for us adults, Kristy says there is still a place for ‘older’ mediums, like traditional white boards and actual books (phew!).

School kids still learn how to write

There’s a big fear circulating that we’re all using computers so much that handwriting will fade into obscurity … but that’s not so, says Kristy. While technology is becoming a bigger part of the curriculum, there is evidence that handwriting activates different and important parts of the brain - affecting muscle memory and lighting up different neural pathways.

Some schools even still have the highly prized pen license!

Play is the best form of learning

Many schools are trying to implement learning through play because, Kristy says, the science is irrefutable.

“We’ve got consistent longitudinal evidence that tells us that children that have come from play based preschools have better academic outcomes by the time they reach year 3 and beyond,” she says.

Your child doesn’t need to be a tech wiz

Executive function skills are a suite of skills that include having impulse control, a working memory (your child can follow two or three step instructions) and mental flexibility (they can adjust when plans change).

Kristy says it’s these skills that are the most important predictor of how a child will go at school.

“As a researcher and as a former kindergarten teacher I have worked with lots of children who could write their name beautifully, could count their numbers and recite the alphabet but they weren’t ready for school. We know that these Executive Function skills, being able to manage your impulse, also having really good social and emotional skills and self-help skills are the best predictor [of academic success].”

At home, you can help your kids with these skills through fun interactive games like Simon Says and Red Light Green Light. Playing card games can help with memory function, and letting them lose also helps with impulse control.

Kristy says that many schools now acknowledge how important these skills are to overall success and will build them into the first year of learning. Once children are on top of these skills they can focus on things like learning how to read, write and do maths.

Being involved is the best way to help with technology

Sometimes new technology can be overwhelming for parents, but Kristy says you don’t have to know exactly what you’re doing; the important thing is to assume an active role.

Show an interest, jump on the device with your child and learn with them. Being involved in the process helps them as well as you.

Finally, develop a ‘media management plan’. Make sure you’re clear on when they can use technology, what they can use and the duration of time that they are allowed to use it.