Learning From My Techsavvy Grandkids

My six year old granddaughter, blonde, blue eyed and full of feminine charms has turned into a ferocious pig hunter. She smiles one of her irresistible smiles and invites me to join her.

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My six year old granddaughter, blonde, blue eyed and full of feminine charms has turned into a ferocious pig hunter. Armed with a Samsung galaxy tab (like an ipad but from a different company) she uses a virtual catapult to send Angry Birds on missions to destroy all the pigs who have stolen the eggs.

She smiles one of her irresistible smiles and invites me to join her. This presents me with an ethical dilemma. I’m a peace loving person who loves animals. I don’t want to kill pigs, but I do want to learn how to master this new piece of technology.

I say I feel sorry for the pigs and isn’t this a cruel way to make them die.

No, she says, they are yucky and evil.

I cave in and soon we are taking turns. She wins at first. There are peals of laughter as Angry Bird smashes the pigs to smithereens. But I’m a faster learner than she expected. Soon I win the odd game or two.

My granddaughters were given a Samsung Galaxy pad at Christmas. Not by the grandparents. We thought: too extravagant a toy and how long would it last?

The main reason for this present was that it would allow them to keep in closer touch with their father who now lives overseas. And it works really well. They take pics, make little videos and Skype him several times a week.

Although it’s lightweight it’s reasonably sturdy and they are careful with it. They like it because it keeps them entertained. They can email their friends, play games, and do some of their homework on it. My 11 year old granddaughter has been given a password from school so she can log into a language learning website to practice Mandarin language games. And just like a kindle, books can be downloaded on it. For the littlest there are audio Dr Seuss books to which she can listen, while she follows the words.

The Samsung galaxy tab is not the only new piece of technology which has recently arrived at our house. With our three grandkids and one daughter who have come to live with us for a while has also come an Xbox Kinect  for which you can buy games, join in Kinect adventures and move around to dance central. You can also download movies.

My granddaughters play virtual games on it such as tennis (you have to move around as you watch). It looks like a sort of slow motion and slightly goofy aerobics but it’s more competitive.

These new tech toys could entice them to stay inside all day, immersed in a virtual world. But luckily they are creative girls who love to play outside, invent their own games and dance routines and draw and paint.

While the grandkids are busy with their tech toys my daughter has a smartphone as her constant companion. It’s her handheld office.

It’s synced with her desktop computer so all her documents are accessible and she can edit them. And it’s constantly in use as her social networking tool. She is a dedicated tweeter. Her smart phone is linked to the web so she can also receive and send emails. In her spare moments she plays games, makes videos and take pics with it. I’m fascinated by the fact that such a small instrument is so multimedia. I’d love one to play with although I suspect it could become rather addictive.

I thought I was reasonable tech-savvy. I’m of a generation in which computers have become indispensable work tools. At home I have a desktop and laptop. I word process, surf the Internet and email frequently, use a digital SLR camera, love Photoshop.

My Facebook Page keeps me in touch with family and friends. I do own a cell phone (but not a smart one) and my family tease me about being woefully slow at texting. Actually I still prefer my landline for a long chat (and it’s cheaper)

But, suddenly confronted with a whole raft of new tech toys: smart phones, an Xbox, and Samsung androids I’ve realised there’s a whole new world to explore.  I have been asking myself:  am I falling behind?

Last Sunday my grandkids went to Motat and had a lot of fun learning how to dial the numbers on what to them was an unusual contraption: an old fashioned telephone. I suspect that in less than a decade landlines will have been totally replaced by cell phones. Writing a letter and licking a stamp on an envelope may well be past history. And as they grow up email may not be their preferred way of keeping in touch. Will Facebook and Tweeting still be around?

Connecting with my kids and grandkids will always be high on my list of priorities. So I really do want to embrace any new kinds of technologies which would allow me to keep bridging the generation gap.

Yet how much do I need? What can I afford and how much would I use them. Will they make my life easier or more complicated?  Will it mean less time to spend with friends, take away the pleasure of turning the pages of a real book, reading a newspaper, or picking up my land line phone to have an actual conversation? Will all this clicking on, switching and pointing takes up too much of my day?

My mother was a great role model. In her 90’s she was very attached to her computer. She never did master how to surf the internet, but she learnt how to email. It kept her in touch with all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Responding to her frequent messages and sending off a few emails each week was much easier than sitting down and writing a letter. I’m rather proud of the fact that she called me her best email buddy! If she could keep on being a lifelong learner I should be up to the challenge as well.