Unbabbled Episode 12: Navigating the Digital Age of Childhood
Navigating the Digital Age of Childhood with Jordan Shapiro
We can all pretty much agree that digital technologies such as tablets, smart phones, video games and social media, have changed the childhood of our youngest generation. But has the introduction of these technologies really differed all that much from the introduction of say…the sandbox?
In this episode, we chat with Jordan Shapiro, PhD, an educational pioneer, college professor and father of two about his unique perspective on navigating the new digital world of childhood. We spoke with Jordan about easing parent fears surrounding technological changes, ways that parents and educators can support learning through technology, and why he encourages embracing technology at an earlier age. We also discuss the importance of directly teaching the social rules of both face-to-face and digital communication.
Jordan Shapiro, PhD, is a senior fellow for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and Nonresident Fellow in the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. Jordan also teaches at Temple University in the Intellectual Heritage Program. Jordan draws on cutting-edge research in science, philosophy, economics and psychology to show we've let fear and nostalgia stand in the way of our children's best interests. He offers optimistic, inspiring and practical advice to help adults navigate the new, digital frontier of childhood. He reframes gaming, social media and smartphones in historical context, providing a fresh, evidence-based perspective that will change the way you think about today’s connected kids.
Jordan is the keynote speaker at The Parish School’s 11th Annual Giving Voice to Children Luncheon held Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at The Junior League of Houston. Jordan is also presenting a free adult education session, The Digital Sandbox: What Grownups Need to Know About the New Childhood, that evening on The Parish School’s campus.
Jordan Shapiro’s website: https://www.jordanshapiro.org/
NPR Article, "Author Of 'The New Childhood' Advises Parents: Don't Panic About Screen Time": https://www.npr.org/2018/12/29/680882610/author-of-the-new-childhood-advises-parents-dont-panic-about-screen-time
Jordan’s upcoming speaking engagements at The Parish School:
Stephanie: 00:05 Hello and welcome to Unbabbled a podcast that navigates the world of special education, communication delays and learning differences. We are your hosts, Stephanie Landis and Meredith Krimmel and we're certified speech language pathologist who spend our days at The Parish School in Houston helping children find their voices and connect with the world around them. In this episode we chat with Jordan Shapiro, educational pioneer college professor and father of two about his unique perspective on navigating childhood in the new digital world. Jordan Shapiro a PhD is a senior fellow for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at sesame workshop and non resident fellow in the center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. Jordan also teaches at temple university. In the intellectual heritage program, we spoke with Jordan about easing parents' fear surrounding technological changes. We as parents and educators can support learning through technology and why he encourages integrating technology at an earlier age. We also discussed the importance of directly teaching the social rules of both face to face and digital communication. A special note, Jordan will be the keynote speaker at The Parish School's, 11th annual fall luncheon on October 3rd he will also be participating in our adult education series with an evening presentation on the digital sandbox. Hello, welcome. Today we're here speaking with Jordan Shapiro. He has a new book out that is all about the new childhood in the age of technology and we're so excited to talk to you about that today. So welcome.
Jordan: 01:34 Thanks. It's great to be here. Great to be a part of this.
Stephanie: 01:37 Yeah. What is your background?
Jordan: 01:40 Oh My, my background is actually in psychology and philosophy. I never practiced psychology as in sort of the client practitioner relationship. I always did it from a much more cultural standpoint, interested in group psychology, interested in cultural psychology and how our thinking changes. And while I was studying psychology, I got very interested in philosophy because you sort of discover that philosophy is the foundation of all of it anyway. And so I was, I started to learn more and more about the foundation. I wish I could just call my self purely a philosophy, but I can't, you know, that would be a lie.
Stephanie: 02:16 Interesting. So what got you into the technology side of philosophy and psychology?
Jordan: 02:22 Well, I, you know, partially that you can't actually ever separate them, right? So part of what humans do is that we mediate our experience through tools. Often when we say technology, we only think of digital technology or have the newest technology, but kind of all tools or technology and almost all objects are kinds of technology. I'll often talk about how even a chair is a kind of technology. The first big educational technology was probably writing right, which is not something that exists like natural, uh, animal humans. It only exists once we start to invent things to make our lives easier. And it serves a purpose as a tool that we use to communicate and to record information. So I don't know that it was ever separate. I was always sort of interested in the way, you know, it goes with what I said about cultural psychology. I was always sort of interested in the way that humans relate to their world and therefore themselves and therefore each other.
Stephanie: 03:16 You're right because even just the wheel is the form of technology that changed society.
Jordan: 03:21 I'm often fond them saying, if you want to really look at technologies that change things, look at things like writing and the wheel like the iPhone did almost nothing to change the way we lived our lives where the were writing. Could you imagine how huge that was for the shift between the humans who couldn't, who didn't even know writing existed? And the first ones who found it that changed everything.
Stephanie: 03:41 And shifting from oral native narratives to like things on cake, right? On parchment paper.
Jordan: 03:49 Those are huge moment in history. I'll often point out, uh, one of the things that always bothers me is the way, well people talk about this moment as if we're moving so fast. And I, I think the same thing. Can you imagine that people who discovered the wheel, how fast they thought the world was changing, they were like, oh my God, it's just last week we all had to go in and have slaves carry logs for miles. Now they can wheel them. Think about how much buildings must have changed in a quick 50 year period after that, which is probably more significant if you ask that our change from newspapers to social media, right? Which, which seems kind of tiny to me.
Stephanie: 04:24 That is an interesting and different perspective.
Meredith: 04:26 Yeah. When you look at civilization as a whole, not quite the same.
Jordan: 04:32 No. And what people often do is they point out how many changes happened, uh, after the industrial era. So there's a curve people use where they kind of go, things are mostly flat and then the industrial or, and shoots up. And I think that's sort of not true. Um, I think that's sort of in retrospect, you see all those little changes. But in history, when they look back at us, they're probably not even going to notice most of the things we use. They're going to be like, oh look, they invented quantum computing. Right? Like they'll still get even skip most of the computing we did, uh, when they look back in a thousand years and all you have to do is think about when they invented houses, right? Like imagine how many different designs there were that each one probably felt like the newest, greatest thing of all time. But in the end we're like, yeah, they came up with walls.
Stephanie: 05:13 Right? Very true.
Jordan: 05:15 I was reading just recently about the HP pocket calculator, which was like a huge deal because you can put a calculator in your pocket. We barely even think of that as a giant change anymore. But at the time everyone thought it was the biggest, uh, they talked about it the way we talk about the iPhone, uh, which just goes to show that even the last 50 years we've already like forgotten a whole bunch of things that were invented.
Meredith: 05:37 And you talked a lot about the fear associated with change and technology, the fear in parents with social media and all the change with iPhones and things like that. Is that one of the reasons you decided to write your book?
Jordan: 05:49 Yeah, that's exactly right. Well, the fear I think is, is, is one. Um, well, on the one hand, I think it's overblown. On the other hand, I would say that if you look back historically, you find out it's pretty normal. So while I think it's, it's not a, you know, I'm not criticizing anyone for being that fearful because I think it's normal and natural to be that fearful of change. It's not necessary to be that fearful of change. I don't think. I think it's certainly necessary to be concerned. So much of what I write about in the new childhood is that I really do think there's a lot of reasons to be concerned about how technology is being integrated into the lives of all of us. But as parents, we're mostly concerned about our children. I think what's dangerous is that we often scapegoat the technology for that. What we really need to do is go, hey, how do we want to integrate this into our lives in positive, good, healthy ways? How do we maximize the benefits that come from any piece of technology and minimize the dangers. I mean, again, you can do this when they and when they invented the Hammer, right? Like yeah, let's make sure we use it to build things and not to hit people over the head, right? Like you had to maximize the benefits and minimize the liabilities. But no tool. I think there's no such thing as a tool that doesn't have both. Read about the garden of Eden and it's already pointing out this fact that humans build things that are both great gifts but also there are terrible downfalls at the same time. Right? We do get knowledge, which also hurts us. I think this is every, every philosophy, every mythology, every religion writes about this exact problem, which we're living in a really visceral way right now as we adapt to a technology that we seem to be especially afraid of.
Meredith: 07:29 And when, when there's fear, people tend to try to limit or avoid. And so when you read a lot about technology in parenting, it's about limiting to a number limiting to and how, and and what I thought was interesting about what you said was less about limiting the time and more about how you use it and how you teach it. You talk a lot about directly teaching our children how to use this technology for good.
Jordan: 07:49 That's exactly right. You know, I'd give talks all over the world and I meet with parents and I meet with teachers. One of the questions I always get is what's the right amount of screen time? And I like to say, well, it's 76 minutes and 32 seconds. Any more than that and the kids get brain damage. It's proven and everyone looks at me like I'm crazy because no one some level that, it's totally crazy to think that there's a right amount of time for something. I mean, another way to just think about this is think about the difference in how we would react to what they're doing. You know, when they're on youtube or video games, we think that's a waste of time. But if you had a kid spending eight hours programming, electronic music or doing some kind of art project or editing film, they were so proud of those kids that they're like young kids who are so creative. It's not really about the tool. It's really about what you're doing with the tool and whether or not that's problematic. Now a lot of people like to say, Hey, but these tools are designed to make you use them as much as possible. And so therefore it's different. And I sort of said, well, you know, I can do the, the sarcastic response to that is always, um, I don't think that's a, the problem with the tools, that's a problem with capitalism, right? Like, well, that's a problem is a whole other question. But we certainly have a world in which we, companies, are supposed to try to sell as much of their product is possible. We can't complain about the fact that they do that unless you want to change that whole system. But we can discuss that in a whole other podcast. But I think more to me, to me the point is I don't think any company's actually capable of keeping us as hooked on their product as the people who write books and articles about this claim or even the companies like to claim, you know, the companies of course want to claim they can keep us hooked cause they sell advertising. But I bet I don't even really, you know, sure they can, but I think there's lots of temptations in the world. They use the language of dopamine as a motivated chemical and this idea that you get rewards while playing that triggers dopamine in your brain and that gets you excited. Right? And makes you want to do it more, which of course is true about everything. You know, ice cream Sundaes, kissing, we're getting a good grade. All these things triggered dopamine and what we have to do as grownups is teach our kids how to deal with those dopamine reactions and how to interpret the good ones from the bad ones because there's a lot of really dangerous behaviors outside of computers that are also very appealing. Believe me, I was a teenager once. I was definitely interested in things that were not in my own best interest. And sometimes I made those mistakes and I had to learn and the adults around me, their job was to help me think about how to interpret different things that feel good to make sure that you didn't accidentally do things that feel good, that weren't necessarily in your best interests. So mostly what I'm saying is that I'm not arguing with the fact that that there's marketers trying to sell kids, uh, dopamine hits through video games, right. To put it really, really, generally, I'm just saying our job as parents is to make sure our kids know how to interpret those differences. Marketers also try to do that through, you know, football and advertising and movies and sugary breakfast cereal, right? Uh, and ice cream and all those things. None of them are evil, but all of them are things that we need to teach our kids how to deal with as part of their lived experience.
Stephanie: 11:02 Yeah. A lot of dieticians, they start early teaching eating and that, no, not all sugar is bad, but you can have some. I think it's the same way with, no, not all tools of education is bad. You just have to teach your kids. Like you were saying moderation. And as parents watch the same thing, are they actively participating in it or are they just like blanketly downloading information off of getting sucked into mindless youtube video after youtube video or even as an adult? Sometimes I catch myself and I'm like, man, I just fell down a rabbit hole alone and random staring at pictures and wow, that sucks 20 minutes of my life that I didn't notice. And so I'm learning this as an adult and now I need to make sure that I actively teach my children how to watch what you're doing in a variety of ways. And you're saying it's the same thing with teaching your kids about yeah, alcohol and drugs and sugar and all those things that people say are really bad for you and can be, but you need to learn how to navigate that world in a way.
Jordan: 12:06 Yeah, I mean, the only one difference I would add is that with many of the things that you mentioned and that I mentioned like sugar cereal and things like that, those things actually have proven dangers that if you have too much of it, you will actually have biological problems. There is zero evidence that that's true of, of youtube videos. Uh, you know, lots of people have been trying to prove that like being exposed to screens as toxic since the beginning of television and they've failed. So I, you know, like I, my attitude is it's short. It's not conclusive that it's perfectly safe either, but, you know, I would figure after like a hundred years of people trying to prove it's bad, pretty good chance that they are, they're not going to at this point, that all that being said, um, to me the bigger question, at least with my own kids is not, I don't care if they fall down a rabbit hole for hours watching youtube as long as they're doing the other things that I do care about. Right. And I think that gets to what you were saying, which is, yeah, I lost 20 minutes. Well that's not really a big deal. I binge-watched things sometimes yesterday was Labor Day, I binge watched things all day, all day long. But it's okay, I was very productive today. Right? The question is as an adult, do we still do all the things that we need to do or does that behavior get in the way? And that's the same question I asked for my kids. Do they still go outside too? They still read books. Do they still do their homework? Are they capable of having good face to face interactions with their friends? If none of those things are true, then maybe it makes sense to intervene and take away some of the youtube. But if all those things are true, then let him watch youtube all day long. As long as they're still becoming the kinds of people you want them to become. And I think that's a really important thing that parents seem to be afraid of, that this is somehow going to like ruin their kids. My kids have no have no limits in terms of timing. They have all these rules about things they are expected to do every day and I sort of figure if they can fit eight hours of video games in and plus being outside and reading, then somehow they found extra hours in the day. So that's pretty, that's pretty amazing. So actually they're even doing better than most. They do their homework really well. My, my oldest one watches and spends a ton of time on his computer with video games and talking to friends and all of that. But he also reads, you know, at least one or two books a week. So it's sort of like, what, what, why? Why is that a problem?
Jordan: 14:19 It seems to me that the problem would be if they're not doing the things I cared about, not that they're overdoing something that I don't know really care about, which I think is something parents forget even before the screens. Like most of what kids do, we're not of interest to like seems boring and superficial and stupid to the adults too. Right. Most of what I did, I remember trying to describe it to my parents and they just sort of rolled their eyes like, we don't want to hear about your silliness, which is pretty much how we mostly feel about youtube videos as parents. That's fine. That doesn't make it evil. That makes it just kid stuff.
Meredith: 14:54 That's what I was going to say. I don't like the youtube videos because I don't understand it. I don't get why all five or six year old would want to watch another five or six year old open new toys. Like I just don't get it. And so it frustrates me that I don't get it and then I want to shut it down.
Jordan: 15:11 I would say to you, you know, as long as you know, if it's true, if it's true that it turns the kid into something, you know, some sort of weird consumer who's obsessed with open it. You know, I've often said I find those videos to be kind of like the worst parts of consumerism and materialism come to life. But, but I kind of softened because maybe they're doing it because it gives them that sort of pleasure of opening something without having to buy so much stuff. Right. It's sort of a release. I don't know why it happens. I think you need a whole lot more psychological study and I know that it certainly, there's no evidence that watching a lot of those things makes you want to buy more things. Uh, you know, so many of the things they try to pin on, um, on digital stuff, if you really read the studies, it says other things, right?
Jordan: 15:53 So we loot boxes, for example, you know, loot boxes are in video games. You can buy a box not knowing what it is. And kids apparently spend a fortune of like skins and weapons and in game currency, those kinds of things. And they're sort of like secret mystery prize kind of boxes. They're called loot boxes. Well, they did a study to see if the loot boxes, how they impacted gamers. And what they found was that if you were prone to or already had sort of a gambling problem, yes you spend a lot more, but if you weren't, you didn't spend any more than if there weren't loot boxes right there. This was just normal normal kid behavior with the exception of those who already had a pathological problem with these kinds of gambling mechanics. But it didn't turn anyone into a gambler, didn't turn anyone into an over spender.
Stephanie: 16:38 One of the things that I found really interesting about your perspective that we talk about a lot here on our campus is that we have kids who are still learning the rules of social interaction and then also trying to learn the rules of social interaction through, um, through the social media world. And you spoke about bringing it in instead of later and pushing it off, bringing it in a little bit earlier. Can you talk a bit about that?
Jordan: 17:03 That's true on your campus and everywhere in the world. Every kid needs to right now learn these sort of social skills in two different worlds. And this is something I don't think that a lot of grownups seem to get. I think a lot of grownups sort of think, oh, there's real social skills and then there's digital life. All you have to do as an adult is think about your own life and how many of your interactions happen on a screen these days. How many of your interactions are mediated through email or through text messages or through video chat or through anything and realize that, oh, this is not just this like weird other replacement. This is actually probably half of our lives now and it has different kinds of social rules, which is why we'll often say things like, it's really hard to communicate tone in text message, right?
Jordan: 17:45 This is something people say all the time and I always say, well, I actually think the problem is we don't have the social skills to interpret and communicate tone in text messages. Our kids probably will be much better at it when they're adults than we are because they've had the practice. And so to me, I think all of these things need to be practiced and we need to understand that they need to be practiced simultaneously because life is going to be lived simultaneously with these tools. And one is not an obstacle to achieving the other. It is certainly possible to have a poor balance, I think where you have a kid who's only learned how to use social media or only learned how to use text messaging or only learned how to use in app discussions because they don't get enough opportunities to have face to face practice.
Jordan: 18:30 I've seen lots of kids where that's clearly become something that's happened, but that's not because one is replacing the other as much as because they're not getting opportunities to try both. And then I think the earlier the kids get to try both, just we know this is, we know this in real life, right? Or in, I don't know what it's, they're both real. So I guess what I mean is we know this in a tangible material life, right? In physical life, the earlier that kids start to play with other kids, the better their social skills get. Right? We have plenty of evidence showing when kids play together, they learn all these things about communication and manners and etiquette and empathy and conflict resolution, and they just, you don't even have to do much to teach them other than to make sure they have opportunities to play.
Jordan: 19:10 Certainly you should do things to teach them, but they learn a lot of it just by themselves and there's at least a hundred years of research showing this back that's nobody's ever argued with. I say the same thing has to happen, and in a digital world, right, they need to start as early as possible. Having those kinds of interactions again, not instead. Sometimes I say, like I talked about the digital playground and people go, wait, you want to get rid of sliding boards? No, I don't want to get rid of sliding boards. I just want to say that they should have both digital sliding boards and physical sliding boards and I don't see why they can't do both. My kids do lots of things, right? They, they also learn the rules for what it's like to be around all of their relatives and their grandparents and what it's like to be with their friends. Kids are excellent at code switching. That's the official term for this, right? This is code switching is like they curse when there's no adults around because there are certain rules for how friends talk to each other, but as soon as there's grownups they can instantly go not allowed to use those words, not allowed to use that, but they can also make that distinction between what's appropriate in a digital world and what's appropriate in a non digital world and I think we need to give them the opportunity to practice that kind of hybrid code switching.
Meredith: 20:18 You mentioned that children learn to play by being with other students and learn from other students. A lot of our students here, they struggle with that. They actually need more explicit direct teaching to play and develop communication and to code switch. And so is there a lot of research or do you have a lot of knowledge out there on how this translates to a special education population? Or children with speech language or learning differences?
Jordan: 20:43 You're bringing up a great question here because the question is whether or not it is, to me the question is whether or not there's really a difference. Right? There's certainly a difference, I mean I'm not gonna, I'm not pretending it's exactly the same, but just like w like the, those of you who are experts at teaching people to practice code switching skills knows there's a difference between how you would do that in a school setting versus, well I guess the code switching of code switching, right? Medic code switching and so I'm not sure whether or not we need much research to see this as a totally separate realm. I would argue that we don't really, what we really need is more people who are experts in doing this in non digital spaces to bring their expertise to a digital space and we don't need to consider it something totally separate.
Jordan: 21:27 It's the same movement. So my guess is you're probably the experts on that. That research isn't going to tell us much more. You know, research when it comes to screens tends to look for differences, tends to go, you don't know, how can we prove that screen doesn't work the same way as other things? And so much of my argument is that play is play. On the one hand play is play in the end. The other hand it's play has never been just play is that there's no such thing as neutral play that it's always been connected with tools, right? I talk about this in the book in detail sandboxes, playgrounds. They only existed during the industrial era and yet plenty of people learned how to have social communication before that, right? They played another ways before that. And what we need to recognize is that almost all forms of play exist in context and exist in ways that are connected to the economic or technological paradigm in which we're living, right?
Jordan: 22:17 So we've got a new kind of monkey bar. There's going to be new ways to interact with kids and teach them how to deal with that. It's not this idea that we need to study the difference between the Monkey Bar and the digital monkey bar. It's just a play space. It's a play space without a body, which is to me one of the few places where there is something problematic, which is which cause it's very important to develop an embodied sensibility, which is something that in general, the industrial era didn't do well anyway. So the idea that we have a space that's even less of it is a little concerning to me, but it's not like we were so great at being aware of your body, acknowledge your body with kids all the time before that. So yeah,
Meredith: 22:57 if you're gonna teach the digital world to children who struggle with play and communication in a tangible role, they're just going to need another level of deep teaching and probably more direct teaching than maybe a more a neurotypical child.
Stephanie: 23:12 We have therapists who are now recognizing this and bringing in and part of their therapy is, okay, we're all going to start a group Facebook page that we can learn how to interact on Facebook because you're going to be expected to do this with peers and so we can teach you the rules of that while we're co-teaching you the rules of face to face interaction.
Jordan: 23:34 Yeah. Yeah. And I know there is some evidence showing that it's easier for some kids, especially how do we say it? Non neuro-typical is that atypical? Atypical. That's how we say it, right?
Stephanie: 23:46 Yeah. Or nerodiverse..
Jordan: 23:49 Neurodiverse. Yeah. I know there's some, there's some evidence that it's easier with digital with digital tools, but I am not going to pretend to know why because this is, this is not a group that I have studied and that would take someone who spent a lot of time doing research and thought about that. But there is some, I know I've seen some that, that it makes a difference. Again, it's just what it is. It's a whole, it's a whole other thing. Uh, and it's, and whether that's good or bad is not really the question.
Meredith: 24:15 Right. And we know technology does great things for all populations. I mean you think about children who are nonverbal and they use communication boards and augmentative communication devices. So we know that there are lots of places that it can be used for, you know, really great things happening in therapy.
Jordan: 24:31 Oh yeah. My mother was an occupational therapist before she retired and when she read the book I, I think like every page she called me and was like, we've been doing that since the 1970s that we started that we started that.
Stephanie: 24:48 Awesome. In your book you talked about being able to immerse technology into the classroom and bringit in. I believe you had a story about using like PowerPoint, other tools to help kids develop narratives without having to physically write it out. And we found that that works really well for a lot of our kids to have digital ways of storytelling. And then we can still address the underlying narrative structure and how to tell a story without having that blockade of having to physically write it out. And their brains grasp onto that and they're still learning about stories and they're still learning about perspective taking and how to win an argument or present an argument. But they're doing it in new ways and it's actually becomes much more natural to them and easier for them to grasp on as if they were having to do it without the technology, with the old technology of just paper, pencils and paper and pencil is technology.
Jordan: 25:45 Yeah. And what happens is, I mean I, I've argued for that for everyone because I think it's really, really, really important. Again, so much of our intellectual and our spiritual and our romantic and our, you know, our entire lives are mediated through these tools that I think it's super important that all kids learn how to do that, how to use all these diverse ways of organizing media. I think there's a lot of things good that come of it. For one thing. I, I've often argued that if you want to look at, you know, if you could go onto Twitter and you see some of the terrible things that happen on Twitter, I often think it's, cause we didn't have teachers who taught those people when they were young, how to use these ways in not only appropriate ways, but also to sort of set the bar right?
Jordan: 26:31 Like, like I'm a writer, it was English teachers and professors who set the bar. They showed me what great writing could look like. They explained to me why it was great writing. And so I'm constantly trying to achieve something that's at a really high level of sophistication. We never did that for anyone with Twitter. We never did that for anyone, social media or Instagram. And we really need to, as we can see, because we have a really, really low bar for what we think of as good use of, of social media. I would much rather us say, hey, the best social media rises to the level of art. Um, and I think we could do that as, as, as teachers for our students. I argue for that. But I also think what happens is it prepares you to be able to think with those tools.
Jordan: 27:14 Almost everything that we teach in school to all kids has to do with teaching them how to use tools or languages or ideas. I mean, they're all tools, right? Languages are kind of tool kind of technology, right? We teach them how to use math as a language, right? You don't need math by yourself. You don't even know if you were like living alone in a tree and what good with math, you don't need math. You'd just be like, I'm going to build myself a chair. Right? But if I want to tell you how to build a chair, it's really useful that I can actually draw an engineering sketch. I mean, I can't, but that somebody can build an engineering sketch and say, hey, here's the mass of it. It allows you to do things together. What we have all these tools like, like excel and, and we're still teaching math pre excel.
Jordan: 27:58 And so to so many young kids, I, I would much rather us be going, hey, I, you know, I've often said, you know how in the youngest years, like kindergarten, like a pre-kindergarten even, we're already starting to teach kids sorting, right? We use, we use cuisenaire rods and we go sort them into colors, sort them into shapes. I don't understand why every kindergarten teacher isn't then putting that into a spreadsheet on the, uh, on the projector there. Cause kids will get what's happening, you know, well they don't have to be able to do the spreadsheet, but just the fact that they saw you take that sorting and put it into a spreadsheet means they start to build this longterm consciousness that can think about sorting in terms of spreadsheets. Think about how much more prepared you would have been to learn excel if they had already showed you a spreadsheet when you were four. Right? And I'm not saying you have to change anything except for, instead of writing three red rods, now you put a spreadsheet column for three red rods and then you can graph it to for them if they want. I guarantee you if we started doing that, we'd be amazed with the four year olds would figure out that they could do with this spreadsheet.
Stephanie: 29:00 Yeah, and I think some of that will come just with the difference between the people who are educators and studying educational policy shifting to kids who grew up with technology. And even the difference between me being an older millennial and my younger brother being a few years younger is different than how he does technology with his kids is different between how I do. Since he grew up even more immersed in using computers and video games and having more access to that, than even I did a few years later, he's more comfortable with automatically going and showing that. Then I think, I think that as the teaching force shifts, I think that that will shift a little bit too, but that's my own personal theory based on no research.
Jordan: 29:51 I mean, look, I'm super optimistic and I agree with you. I mean, I think a lot of it will shift and part of the reason that I wrote the new childhood was mostly because I wanted to say, hey, let's get rid of the fear or so that we have room for it to shift. Right. But more it's, it's because I think especially teachers are always sort of on the front lines of, of the creative solutions that make it possible for people to learn how to think and to think in accordance with the tools that they live with. I think what we need to get out of the way a little bit to allow that creativity. We're spending so much time going is digital technology good versus is digital technology bad instead of what we really need, which is a bunch of brilliant teachers to run around and go, let's figure out how to teach with it. Right. I mean there's plenty of people who are doing that. I don't want to pretend there aren't plenty doing it. It's just easy to make it sound like all everybody's failing. That's certainly not true. I mean, when I travel around in the world, it's usually in schools where I find teachers who are, who, who are way ahead of everybody else in terms of integrating technology. And, or as my mom said, the occupational therapist, we're doing all this in the 1970s they knew immediately how to do it.
Jordan: 30:57 You talked about social media. How often do we see these young celebrities post something on Twitter and then immediately deleted it? Not really having the foresight to look into the future of how that will impact their career and how they're viewed. And I think about our students specifically who do have perspective taking challenges and have executive functioning challenges where it's difficult for them to see the future and imagine what it will be like in the future. So having this direct teaching of the implications of this technology, good or negative.
Jordan: 31:23 That's another reason why I say let's start really young. You know, on average people tend to start with social media and smartphones. A, at least the last time I checked, uh, that research it was around age 12 or 13 and I've always sort of gone, wait a second. That's like the time where they all start to do bad things, right? Like that's it. That's their risk taking behaviors are normal. That's when hormones are, are going nuts. Like that is not the best time. To me, I would much rather see kids start when they're four or five. Having interactions where actually saying something that hurts someone's feelings doesn't have high stakes. Right. Saying something that's problematic has very low stakes. That's why we, the playground is such a great place to start to teach kids social, cause it doesn't really matter if you call someone a jerk when you're a little kid because you can get over that.
Jordan: 32:09 It doesn't ruin your reputation. Right. They forget it and an hour they forget it and they're best friends again. Right. That's, that's a great time to start to teach people propriety. That's a great time to do it. Not to, as you said, as a a celebrity who's like 19 who has to learn for the first time what you do and don't say publicly. It's what we should have taught them that when they were five. Right? And the only way they learn that is by making mistakes, right? This is not, oh, it's crazy that nobody taught them what's right or wrong. People taught them what's right or wrong. They didn't get a to make the mistakes, to learn the nuance of how those behaviors impact them and they need opportunities for that. So, so the earlier we get kids screwing up, right? That's sort of what I'm saying that earlier we give them opportunities to screw up and then tell them the story and you know, as adults step in and go, this wasn't good because of this. Here's how I can coach you to handle this differently. Which, which we do all the time. Teachers who are listening to this, right? Like that's pretty much, you know, what percentage of classroom time is spent doing that in the early years? Most of it, right? I've read once that like you could teach all of all of like a lower school math and in like an hour if you didn't have to do all the social stuff at the same time. Right. I don't know if that's true, but I've read basically that implication, which is fine because you do have to do all this social stuff at the same time, but we also have to do it. We also have to do it in, in digital social stuff. It's great to do that. Tell you a great story. My oldest son, a few years ago, he started at a school and they were using Google classroom for the first time and he immediately went on Google classroom and started making silly jokes to all his classmates and he got in trouble of course, and they called me in and they were like, this is not an appropriate way to use it.
Jordan: 33:48 I didn't say this to the teacher, but when I thought at the time was actually this would've been a great opportunity to allow them to use a classroom platform as a social platform. The teachers could intervene in the middle of the conversation. Instead they said, this is only for talking about homework, right? Like, no, no comments. No, no silliness, no. You know, none of the things that happen all day when you're sitting at a table in a class, if three kids are sitting at a table working on a math problem, they're joking around at the same time and you make sure that joking around is the right balance. Right? We don't go, Hey, silence. Right. I mean, sometimes we do, but most of the time we would go, yeah, you should be having a nice conversation while also doing the work. I wish they had figured out how to do that in the Google classroom at that time. I wish the teacher could have stepped in and said, no, it's fine to be silly, but you'reinitiative at least reflect the work you're working on.
Meredith: 34:40 Low stakes way of learning how to interact in those situations before you end up on a meeting with your boss.
Jordan: 34:48 And that's what we do in the classroom. Right? That's, I mean, we sometimes forget that that's partly, we don't, we don't tell kids to raise their hand and be quiet because, because we're trying to teach them a skill for no reason. I mean, some teachers might do it just because they want to. They want it to be quieter and calmer, but I think the real reason we do it is because we recognize that it's the first step to building the appropriate behaviors for a professional workplace. Right. The professional workplace these days includes slack and includes a Microsoft teams and includes text messages and includes email and includes a video chat. Right? I would think it would be great if they did more video chat in my kids' schools. Don't pick your nose while you're on a video chat. Right? Like where are you supposed to learn that? Do you learn that the first time you get embarrassed by a friend? We teach first graders, don't pick your nose while they don't care, while nobody's teasing them. While it doesn't impact their social life? What we should be doing that in terms of so many other digital behaviors too,
Stephanie: 35:45 We have a question that we ask every single guest. If you have one last piece of advice and it can do with this particular technology in your field or just general advice at all that you would like to give to our listeners and what would it be?
Jordan: 35:59 My biggest piece of advice would be related to both technology and parenting and everything, which is like have fun, right? They're like, if you're not having fun, then you're doing something wrong, like your number one priority should be to have fun. Certainly we have to do things that aren't fun sometimes in order to make sure we get more of the fun stuff, but that's the only reason we do it, so make sure you're having fun. That's my advice.
Stephanie: 36:24 That is good advice for the classroom for parents, for kids. Well, thank you so much. Thanks for chatting with us today. I really enjoyed it.
Jordan: 36:32 Yeah, my pleasure. It's great to be a part of this.
Meredith: 36:36 Thank you for listening to the Unbabbled podcast. For more information on today's episode, including links to Jordan's website. Please see our episode description. If you're interested in hearing Jordan Shapiro live, he'll be our keynote speaker at The Parish School's Giving Voice to Children Luncheon in Houston, Texas on October 3rd, 2019. He'll also present a free adult education session that evening on The Parish School campus. For more information, please visit www.parishschool.org/luncheon. If you're not already, don't forget to subscribe to the Unbabbled podcast on your app of choice, and if you like what you're hearing, be sure to leave a rating and review. As always, a special thank you to Stig Daniels, Amy Tanner and Amanda Arnold for their hard work behind the scenes. Thanks again for listening.