A Computer for an 11 Year Old?
You know what I’m going to say….. DON’T DO IT!!! It will completely change the dynamics in your house in terms of learning. He’ll want to type things and not handwrite them…. he’ll pester for Internet use…and pester and pester if he’s anything at all like 99% of children on earth….all computers come with Encarta or similar so he’ll want to use it to look up info for projects instead of books….and if it’s a so-called educational thing it will come with so-called educational software which he will want to use….
And the Encarta/Wikipedia thing is a real problem, I can tell you – I (and my colleagues) have a lot of trouble in high school with my students limiting themselves solely to Wikipedia when doing reports. I think Wiki is great and I certainly use it all the time – but only as a key and a guide to deeper knowledge. It often helps me get started on my research and gives me ideas of what to do next – but it is a huge problem to get high school students to stretch and take things further. And I would say that it could be far worse if at 11 or 12 (how long will you hold out?!) a child starts to see Wiki etc as a source – THE source – of information.
There is PLENTY of time to learn all the skills he will need in high school. At the high school where I teach most of the kids enter 9th grade with no knowledge of computers either because their folks are back-to-the-land low tech types or Waldorf people (or both). Within days the kids have learned to set up MySpace things, use Facebook, watch YouTube videos and can type and print out and e-mail….and use the internet. It takes no time at all to learn these things at that age. And in 3 or 4 years technology will have changed tremendously – the argument that “they need to learn when they’re young” holds no water AT ALL in terms of computer technology. Never ever worry that you are holding your son back in terms of computer technology – he will learn easily when he needs to. He is of the computer age – and that is a wonderful thing. But not for children.
What he needs to learn is HOW to learn. How to be a thoughtful, creative, flexible person who has a large context of knowledge and experience so that when he hones things down and starts to specialize when he’s older this will have a context. The broad knowledge from the Waldorf curriculum is one of THE best ways a child can learn to be a part of the world, with a historical context, with broad scientific and artistic knowledge, with an acquaintance with the myths, stories, history, literature, art and science of the world…. so that when he needs to find information on a computer and in his life when he’s much older, he will know what to do with it and where it fits.