As many parents and educators of young children know, they love to ask questions! Sometimes we have the answers, time and patience to answer them all and sometimes we don’t. My kids hear me “talking” to Siri and recently asked if they could ask her a question when I didn’t know the answer to something- I think it was about outer space. Since my 5 and 6 year old’s speaking and listening skills are more advanced than their reading and writing skills, asking Siri provides them to access worlds of information that they crave.
image credit: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/03359/Siri_3359038b.jpg
At first, my daughter got a bunch of text and websites that were too advanced for her to read in 1st grade. I taught her how to ask for images to see if it would help her answer questions and access information at an more appropriate level. It did and she quickly taught her younger brother to “ask Siri”. It is currently one of their favorite things to do.
What started out as a fun game and a way to divert the rapid fire of questions, has actually provided them with some valuable life lessons. Here are a few they have learned through their interactions with Siri aka the Internet (they think Siri and the Internet are one in the same- we’ll work on that one later:).
- You have to plan for what you want to ask and articulate you words if you want Siri (or anyone) to understand you-As they have been playing this game they have become more deliberate about what they ask and how. They receive instant feedback- if the question wasn’t clear or they stumbled over words, Siri doesn’t produce information. They have to think about what they want and try some different ways of phrasing the question to find answers. Sometimes they try 3 or 4 times and finally get the response they wanted but in the meantime they were practicing their speaking skills and refining their ability to ask clear questions- win-win!
- The more interesting questions you ask, the more interesting information you get- They are really into records like- who’s the strongest man in the world, the tallest building, the smallest animal… you get the picture. We talked about what other types of questions they could ask and the began brainstorming some new questions. They asked to see pictures of Florida to do some research on our vacation destination. I just heard from the backseat, “It’s so beautiful- I can’t wait!” They also found out about different types of turtles and penguins- their current favorite animals.
- Learning in fun– They love having autonomy over what they can ask and are reinforced as they learn new information with access to the world. They are learning so much about many things I am not aware of and thankfully, don’t have to be limited by what I know or have experienced. They also love learning how to do something on YouTube- who doesn’t?! So I think next I’ll teach them how to search for videos.
- Not everything on the Internet is real- When they ask to see picture of monsters or aliens and get cartoons or images that may look real, it is a perfect opportunity for us to talk about information on the Internet (and everywhere) and that it is not all real. We talk about making sure we think about what we know and ask questions, not just assume everything we see or read is real. It’s a work in progress and probably always will be.
- There are inappropriate things on the Internet sometimes- We have had many conversations about the great things that we can find on the Internet but that sometimes there are things that are not appropriate for kids (or adults). The rule is: if you see something that you think is inappropriate just tell us. If they tell us right away we can talk about it and get back to where they wanted to be. We agree that it is better to teach responsibility, not limit access to the devices and information in fear that they come across something inappropriate.
It has been eye opening to see how my own kids have had their world opened up through access to so much information and continue to craft new questions to learn more. I’m wondering how teachers in primary grades could use the talk to text feature on devices to improve literacy skills and help students to research questions they have about the world. I’d love to hear some thoughts or see examples of these types of learning experiences.