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20 April 2021

Curro Holdings | Accelerating learners’ path to digital literacy.
24 August 2020

While the perception might be that children have an intuitive grasp on technology, this is not always the case. According to Magdeleen de Kock, ICT Coordinator and CAT Teacher at Curro Krugersdorp, a school in the Curro Holdings stable, learners are reliant on their parents to not only guide them through the basics, but to put them on the right track towards full digital literacy.

“The first exposure learners receive to technology is through their parents. While children certainly do watch and absorb their parents’ digital behaviours, it is also the responsibility of parents to help their little ones become tech savvy through teaching. This is much like teaching your children basic skills such as dressing themselves or brushing their teeth,” De Kock states. 

Getting them started young

While the sooner parents can teach their children about technology the better, De Kock believes the process can be formally started from the age of four. She recommends parents begin with the following steps:

  • Show children the basics of the device they are using, be it a tablet or smartphone. Do they know, for example, how to switch the device on and off? What is the functionality of the buttons on the side? How to adjust the settings for the device? Or what is the meaning of the basic icons?
  • If you are going to use apps to help teach them, choose them carefully as some apps might serve advertising that is not child-friendly.
  • Use the technology alongside your child and guide them along. Do not just set up the device and leave them to it.
  • Remember that anything connected to the internet can become a scary or inappropriate place very quickly, so make sure you can maintain their digital safety by keeping a watchful eye.

Moving on to PC

As learners progress, it will become necessary to move towards the computer or laptop. In fact, the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions forced many learners to adapt to the computer much quicker due to the move to online learning. When it comes to the basics of the PC, De Kock suggests the following:

  • Ensure children know how to work with the screen, keyboard and mouse. For example, how do you adjust the screen’s brightness? What are the basics of a keyboard and how do you perform shortcuts such as copy, paste and undo? What is the difference between the left and right button on a mouse?
  • Make sure your child has a good pair of headphones as well as a comfortable, ergonomic chair to sit in. 
  • Create situational awareness around a computer. This entails emphasising the correct posture in front of the PC to ensure they are comfortable for an extended period. Parents need to ensure the area around the computer is clean and without distraction, and not allow children to work with dirty hands or bring food or drink around the computer.
  • Recently, with online classes comes new etiquette and learners need to be made aware of these unwritten rules. This includes, among others, muting the microphone when not speaking; learning where to click to ask a question; not spamming the text box; and proper behaviour in front of the camera to not be a distraction.

Online resources to kickstart the basics of coding

While parents can help kickstart their children’s computer literacy journey, not many are equipped to guide them further along a more serious path with regards to the introduction and experimentation of coding from a young age. De Kock recommends parents and learners investigate the many free online resources available.

“To start, CodeMonkey and ScratchJR are two great sites for younger learners embarking on a basic coding journey, working through game-based or storytelling play. Another game I highly recommended is, of course, Minecraft Education Edition, offering learners the freedom to build and learn in a safe environment,” she states. “When moving on to more serious lessons, and provide structured curriculum built around digital literacy and computer science, and can help learners even in the high school phase.”

Communication is key

Even though schools, such as Curro, will teach learners about computers from scratch starting in Grade 1, De Kock remains adamant parents must be involved in their child’s digital literacy journey throughout. And much like one must check up on children’s homework and ask them about their day at school, she believes parents also need to find the time to do so when it comes to tech.

“Go and sit next to them and simply ‘check in’ behind the computer or tablet. Ask them what they are doing, how did they manage to do what they did, and if they are struggling with anything. Doing so will often help your child to understand the process better, and give parents peace of mind that their children are becoming better equipped to ultimately operate in the fourth industrial revolution. It should also provide parents the opportunity to make sure their children are working within a safe environment. Accelerating your child on their path to digital literacy will reap invaluable rewards, especially given that online schooling can very well become the norm going forward - considering how the education sector has had to adapt to COVID-19. Lastly, don’t be afraid to learn from and with your child to explore new technology,” De Kock concludes.

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