Apps for Children: A Parent Guide

I am often asked to recommend apps for children, so here I am providing you with some resources to guide you in finding and selecting them.  There is a science / art to choosing the right apps for your child, and in this article I will give you some key pointers.

First, let’s talk about how to find the best apps.

My go-to source is Common Sense Media’s app list.  If you haven’t yet discovered Common Sense Media, I would urge you to investigate all of their resources and to donate if you find yourself feeling as grateful to them as I have felt as a parent over the years.  It is truly an invaluable tool for parents who want to support and protect their children in this hyper technological age.

I typically agree with Common Sense Media’s choices of apps.  I am not as much of a fan of the commercial apps (like the ones that are directly tied to popular kids’ programs) as they are, but those are harmless.  Common Sense does an excellent job of curating truly educational apps that stand the test of time.  And they have fantastic categories like “Best Kids’ Apps to Download Before a Flight.”  Ahh, I feel so understood as a parent.

Test Drive

You should absolutely test drive every single app you download BEFORE offering it to your child.  You will quickly discover whether it’s appropriate or not.  The moment you feel frustrated by something, or feel it’s too complex, or somehow inappropriate, delete it or store it in a “later” folder for when your child grows into it.

Variety

Choose a wide variety of apps, and make them available to your child at once. Perhaps start with just 3-5 apps that are each unique and invite your child to engage various subjects and types of interaction.  You can even vary the complexity of the apps so that you can see which ones frustrate your child and get a better sense for what they can handle.  Then you can start building on the app library as you get a better sense for his/her interests and abilities.

Variety is also important because it helps your child begin to learn how to use apps. The wider the variety of app styles, the more well-versed your child will be in their use, and this is early preparation for use of future technologies, which will require high levels of adaptability.

Participate

Be sure to watch carefully as your child opens and starts to use an app for the first time. You will learn quite a bit about them as you see them making choices, becoming frustrated (or not), and progressing.  Try to avoid showing your child how to use the app.  It will help you learn more about their problem-solving skills and instincts if they are allowed to figure it out on their own.  Plus you will learn which app makers know their stuff based on how easily your child can navigate their options.

But of course if you see that your child is missing something important in launching the app and you feel it’s an app issue and not a critical thinking issue, go ahead and make suggestions to help them explore the app further.

What to Look for in Apps

There are certain features to apps that make them ideal for children.  Here are the biggies:

Interaction

By this I mean that you want an app that invites your child to participate. Verbally or physically.  The app should inspire your child to actively engage the activity that the app is presenting, rather than just watch action happening.

Open Ended

This means that you want apps that present your child with questions or prompts that have more than one correct answer, or more than one path of exploration, or that offer your child extensive creative options in what they are building or designing.

The key exception here is math or puzzles, where often there is only one correct answer.  So how do you deal with that?  Look for “process”.

Process

With math apps, or any other apps that are teaching your child facts, you want the app to offer an opportunity for the child to learn process.  Figuring out the answer is much more important than the answer itself.  So look for math apps that celebrate solution building and avoid apps that just say “good job” or offer stickers for right answers. Trust me, figuring something out is rewarding enough. You don’t need stickers.

Context

You want apps that teach facts to provide contextual information.  If your child is using a math app, then it should present math in context of – say – a grocery store, a garden, an ocean, a story etc.  Avoid apps that rely strictly on numbers for math.  Context is what the brain uses as an anchor to remember facts. The richer the context (eg, a story in which math is needed to move the story along) is more likely to inspire long-term retention than an app that looks like a deck of flash cards.

The same goes for any app that is focused on facts.  Such as apps about history or science.

Multi-Disciplinary

The best apps are those which combine learning areas.  Such as an app that combines art and language, or science and music.  As you test drive the apps, ask yourself if the target content is related to other things.

Emerging Technologies

Our children are soon going to be actively using technologies that we may not yet fully understand. Get used to that feeling.  You will have it more and more frequently with every day. An app that familiarizes your child with emerging tech is a good thing.

The latest major innovation in apps is the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).  Don’t be afraid to introduce these to your child. They are going to be a staple of his/her learning and professional setting before you know it.   And whaddya know? Common Sense Media has recommended app lists specific to AR and VR.

These types of apps are going to come out faster than Common Sense can review them, so keep the criteria up above in mind as you see new ones hit the market.

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In closing, I will say that many of my son’s intellectual strengths were enhanced by his use of my carefully curated apps.  I started sharing apps with him around age 2, and he has continued to enjoy them 7 years later.  His reading, math, critical thinking and what is now an explosive passion for science were all nurtured in part by my careful selection of his apps and continued maintenance of his app library.

I know sometimes we parents feel judged by others (each other?) for encouraging our children to play with our phones or iPads, but really, that era has passed (or needs to).  This is not about offering our children mindless distraction.  On the contrary, today, certain apps offer children extraordinary opportunities for truly engaged learning. And these dynamic tools represent the types of experiences our children will increasingly have across learning and work going forward.

Enjoy, and please send me your feedback on apps that you discover and love!

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Your Kid Will Be Quantum

As I write this, there is an intense race among Google, IBM and a few other players to produce a quantum computer that can outperform the world’s fastest supercomputer and, more importantly, launch quantum computing toward commercial viability.

This means we are on the brink of one of the most important historic moments in civilization, and as parents I would encourage you to take a closer look.  Quantum computing will transform most technologies and the way many things are done, particularly in your child’s era.  This means that not only will our children have a very different life experience because of quantum technology, but they will also inherit a truly infinite field of opportunity.

Why is quantum computing so important? And what is a quantum computer?

Speed like you’ve never imagined. 

Speed is a big part of it.  Quantum computing is fast. Really, really fast.  There’s much more to it, but let’s start with speed.

I see you yawning.  Speed schmeed you’re saying.  Faster and more powerful technologies are released every day. But hold on.  This is a completely different kind of fast.  And a much bigger deal than just making a faster processor.

Quantum computers run on qubits (yours runs on bits). Qubits scale exponentially.  A 2-qubit machine does 4 calculations at once. A 3-qubit machine does 8.  10 quibits get you to 1,000 calculations and 30 qubits get you to 1 billion calculations.  By the time you get to 300 qubits, you’ve got a computer that can do more calculations than there are atoms in the universe. And remember, it’s doing those calculations all at once.

Everywhere at once.

Your computer does one calculation at a time. That is a key feature that separates classical computing from quantum computing. The “multitasking” nature of quantum is what really gives it tremendous power.

The founder of D-Wave, the first quantum computer company, Eric Ladizinsky, brings it home with this hypothetical scenario:

Imagine that you only have five minutes to find an X written on a page of a book among the 50 million books in the Library of Congress.

If you are a regular computer, searching one page at a time, you will never find the X in that amount of time.

But, if you are a quantum computer, you have 50 million parallel realities (yep, parallel realities) and you can look at a different book in each of those realities all at once.  So you are definitely going to find the X in under 5 minutes.

So in this scenario, a quantum computer splits you into 50 million versions of yourself to make the work quick and easy. 

Remember what 300 qubits can do?  More calculations than atoms in the universe?  The latest quantum computer chip, Google’s Bristlecone, has 72 qubits. IBM was at 50 qubits just last year.  So, we are seeing a pretty fast rate of evolution here.  If we are already at 72, how long until we get to 300?

The world’s fastest computer, Sunway TaihuLight, does 93 quadrillion calculations per second. In the not too distant future, experts believe a commercially viable quantum computer will outperform Sunway.  That is what Google’s marketing guys are calling “quantum supremacy”.  I know. Sounds intense. But don’t get too distracted by that. It’s mostly marketing speak.

Bottom line, quantum computers will be able to complete calculations within seconds that would take today’s fastest computers thousands of years to calculate.

Biggest leap in civilization ever.

Experts say that quantum computing is a bigger leap forward from classical computing than from the abacus to a modern day supercomputer. That means that quantum computing represents a technological evolution comparable to one that took us 5,000 years!

One of my favorite tech bloggers, Jason Roell, says that “the difference between a classical computer and a quantum computer is not like the difference between an old car and a new one. Rather, it’s like the difference between a horse and a hawk: while one can run, the other can fly.”

And Roell’s comment is important.  Because again, this isn’t just about speed. Quantum mechanics enables a computer to process and analyze quantities of data we have never been able to analyze with even our most powerful computers plus optimize solutions with an unprecedented level of accuracy and efficiency.  Quantum could help us tackle serious and escalating problems like those related to climate, disease, and security, and it has the power to reveal so much more about space.

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Ok. I believe we have established that quantum computers are game changers.

But what exactly makes quantum computing so powerful?  Well, what’s behind it is really weird science that even quantum physicists cannot fully explain. Everyone is a bit mystified by quantum right now. Even the folks making the computers can’t fully explain what makes them work (or not).

I will not give you a tutorial on quantum mechanics here because there are zillions of articles and videos out there already.  So, if you have an appetite to understand more, I’ve curated some of my favorites sources for you. Article links are down below, and  videos are in my YouTube library.

I do encourage you to explore this further. Quantum mechanics is not only fascinating, but I believe it will form the basis of hundreds of innovations in our children’s lifetime, and it will require a completely different way of thinking about and seeing the world around us.

Of course, the more you know as a parent, the better you will be at making key educational decisions for your children and positioning them to capture life opportunities.

Look specifically to understand superposition, entanglement, and tunneling. But I’m warning you…diving into quantum science is like taking the red pill in The Matrix.  Once you start seeing the subatomic world, there’s no turning back.  See you on the other side!

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Why should parents care about quantum?

So as a parent, why should you care about quantum computing?  Because this field is still quite new. So much is not yet understood. That means the future is filled with opportunity for our children to jump in, explore and innovate.

Our children will grow up in a quantum world, but even the best educational institutions are going to struggle to keep up.  If we want our children to be prepared to capitalize on this wildly new frontier, it is going to be up to us to get them ready.

The quantum field desperately needs more people.  One of the major obstacles to the success of quantum computing is that we simply don’t have enough people who understand how to leverage it.

Quantum computing will need programmers and developers, plus people who can bridge classic computing to quantum, and people who can represent all the disciplines in quantum computing.

This need for quantum expertise is so critical that those leading quantum computing are giving away the training. IBM has an open source tool, Google launched Google Quantum Computing Playground. MIT offers a free online course (remember my post on MOOCs?).

And in addition to the opportunities quantum holds for our children, there is the fact that quantum computing (and quantum mechanics in general) will redefine life experiences for our children just as blockchain will redefine all of life’s big systems (see that post).

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All future-relevant disciplines will be transformed by quantum computing.

Let’s look more closely at how quantum computing will define and redefine opportunities.  Here are just a few things it will either improve or enable.

Climate change. Quantum will improve how we forecast and prepare for weather (especially devastating weather, which will become more and more common). It will also help us model and build environmental solutions to reverse global warming.

Space exploration.  With quantum we can model space weather, simulate planetary atmospheres, mimic galactic collisions, simulate and invent hypersonic vehicles, and analyze large amounts of mission data.

Healthcare. The possibilities for quantum computing in this realm are truly awe inspiring. The speed and optimizing power of quantum means significant advances in chemistry (hint: quantum chemistry is going to be HUGE). Think not only having the ability to simulate all molecules (you might be surprised by how hard this really is and how rarely it’s been done), but we can actually create new molecules. This means we can create new drugs and cures. Plus it would enable us to sequence DNA and personalize medicine based on a person’s unique genetic makeup.

Traffic control. This may seem basic to you, but as the population continues to explode in growth, the traffic of all things and people will become increasingly important. Remember that we are not just talking about cars..we are talking about autonomous vehicles on the ground and in the sky (and beyond), some carrying people, some carrying things, some just gathering data. Quantum can not only handle that level of processing but bring better optimization, which is essential to traffic control.

Digital security.  Quantum’s power and speed will help security analysts not just identify incidents but decide which ones represent real threat. But there’s more. Thanks to quantum encryption methods like key distribution, security walls could become impenetrable by even the most sophisticated hacker.

Web search. I know you’re probably thinking “Google is fast enough already.” But this is way bigger and deeper than speeding up your search for winter vacation spots.  We will simply outpace our current search capability with the amount of data we are pumping into the internet.

We currently produce internet data equivalent to 250,000 Libraries of Congress…or the content of 5 million laptops..every day. And every single minute 3.2 billion global internet users are feeding it with more. In our children’s lifetime, the web will contain all human knowledge since the beginning of mankind (in all media formats), plus everything added every second of every day, including the expanding Internet of Things. That’s a lot of data. Plus, because quantum means better optimization, we could expect more accuracy faster. Quantum will explode the possibilities of Web 2.0 (the web our kids are growing up with versus what we grew up with).

Quantum computing and AI are a natural mashup and this combo will boost the impact of all the areas above. Everything AI does will be enhanced by speed, optimization and accuracy. This not only broadens the scope of what AI can do for us in every discipline but makes AI more reliable. Think about the importance of reliability when AI is applied to things like financial systems, autonomous vehicles and healthcare.

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Resources

So, as you can see, quantum computing is pretty explosive.

I would strongly recommend that you follow some of the folks below to stay on top of quantum computing developments.  They happen daily.

Quantum specific Twitter feeds:

@MSFTQuantum

@rigetti

@dwavesys

General science/tech, but great sources for latest quantum news:

Jason Roell’s blog

@singularityhub

@futurism

@techreview

@googleresearch

@IBMResearch

@singularityu

Singularity University’s YouTube channel featuring “Tech-X-Planations”

(recommend you search that term in YouTube to save time)

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And as promised, below are some articles for you to browse on quantum mechanics, and below that, a few on quantum computing.

Videos are in my YouTube library. I think you’ll find the videos more helpful than the articles.

Quantum Mechanics

Understanding the Physics of Our Universe. What Is Quantum Mechanics?

Six Things Everyone Should Know About Quantum Physics

Quantum Physics Made Simple By a Pinay Physicist

Quantum Mechanics (by PBS)

Quantum Computing

Why Quantum Computers Will Be Exponentially Faster Than Digital Computers

Massive Disruption is Coming With Quantum Computing

Quantum Computing Demands a Whole New Kind of Programmer

This is Your Brain on Quantum Computers

6 Practical Examples of How Quantum Computing Will Change Our World

6 Things Quantum Computers Will Be Incredibly Useful For

Biomimicry Could Be Your Child’s Career

Biomimicry what? Yes, I know that’s not a word you often hear floating around. But you will. It isn’t a new concept per se, but it is now officially a discipline and a rapidly growing one because the technology that supports it is becoming more sophisticated, and it has the potential to yield solutions for sustainable design and climate change.

The reason I’m bringing you into the conversation is because biomimicry will be a major discipline by the time our children are launching careers, and because learning the sciences around biomimicry could equate with huge life advantages for our children, and because it is likely that related technologies will become accessible to our children sooner than we think, likely in high school and possibly even as early as middle school.

Biomimicry is when we copy nature’s design in our own human designs.  The way airplanes are modeled on birds or the burr (that thing that sticks to your pants when you walk through tall grass) inspired the invention of Velcro.

Those are dated examples.  Here are some more modern examples.

Most of these modern examples are made possible by new technologies, mainly nanotechnologies.  Nanotech is making biomimicry a game changer by allowing us to study nature’s designs at the atomic level. Being able to study the atomic structure of nature means that we can understand how it works on the deepest level and then apply that learning directly to our own design and engineering.  Basically, nanotech is taking the guesswork out of our solutions. If you would like to learn more about nanotech, see the videos in my YouTube library.

Before we go on, I would encourage you to watch this inspiring video below by the “Queen Mother” of biomimicry, Janine Benyus. She explains it beautifully and makes it very clear why this growing discipline is going to be a critical vehicle for solution building in our children’s era.

…. Ahhhh.  Don’t you wish you could take a college course by this woman? If you’re as into her as I am, consider following her Biomimicry Institute on Twitter.

So if you stuck it out for the entire video, you now not only understand biomimicry, but you understand how our evolving understanding of nature’s design can be directly applied to that big topic none of us like to talk about: climate change.

Yes, I know you are still fooling yourself into believing that climate change will not be the single most significant challenge our children face, but let me be that annoying voice in your head repeating “yes it will” over and over.

But here’s what’s important for you as a parent.  Never before has a generation had as many fantastic opportunities to create and innovate as our children will have.  They will face some of humankind’s biggest challenges, but they will have humankind’s most powerful tools.  And you have the ability now to position them for those opportunities.

At the rate nanotech is evolving, our children might have access to electron microscope technology as early as high school, perhaps earlier if the education field wakes up to the future.  You can safely expect to see coursework on nanoscience in your child’s list of options before they graduate high school, unless the school they attend is located inside of a cave in a remote region of the world.

I would encourage you to get educated on nanoscience and biomimicry.  You will be positioned to support your child at a key strategic moment in the growth of those areas, and your educational institutions may not manage to keep pace with the opportunities.

How can you get the ball rolling now?

The beauty of this is that children are instinctively drawn to nature and genuinely interested in understanding how it works. So really we are all born to learn biomimicry.  Use and encourage your child’s innate fascination with nature to invite them to guess and problem solve around “how things work” in the natural observable world.

What makes a spider’s web so strong but so fragile? What makes water sit on some surfaces but absorb into others? What strategies do animals and plants use to protect themselves?  Don’t try to answer any of those questions. That takes all the fun out of it! Encourage your child to guess, and challenge their guesses with more questions that push them to think further and further. Speaking as a mother who has done this, you won’t be sorry.

A final fun tidbit. One of my favorite video series to watch with my 9yo is Monster Bug Wars on YouTube.  It’s a wonderful exploration of nature’s genius design, with two powerful creatures pitted against one another and the suspense of seeing which one’s design wins the battle.  WARNING: it’s very graphic. NOT for young children. But it will absolutely thrill your elementary age child.  And I suspect it will ignite a curiosity about design that you can leverage forward for bigger things.  P.S. Bug scientists are probably going to be the Dot Com inventors of our children’s era.

Enjoy this fun journey with your children and look for more on nanoscience in future posts.

 

 

Your Child’s City Will Be Circular

That’s right. Circular. Not the actual city of course. But how it works. It’s called a circular economy, and it’s so much smarter than anything our generation came up with. Plus it’s jam-packed with opportunities for your child to contribute and develop areas of relevant interest and expertise.

I can’t do a better job of explaining it than the folks at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation who are backing the movement. Here’s a great introductory video that you can even watch with your kids:

There are two bits in there to pay attention to.

The end of owning stuff.  My idol Kevin Kelly explains this beautifully in his book The Inevitable.  Here are a few articles that explain the future of “sharing”: one, two, three.

The other piece that I think is important for parents of digital natives is sustainability innovation. Creative solutions for building new things out of old things or, better yet….more sustainable materials.

There are literally thousands of examples of such ideas already on the market today, but here are a few I particularly like:

Furniture made from fungus.

Straw that turns dirty water into drinkable water.

Toilets that make mulch.

A drone that pollinates.

Biodegradable plastic.

In the case of moving away from owning things, this is a grand opportunity for you to begin coaching your child in this way of thinking.  They will wind up thinking that way anyway, as that is very much where their generation’s culture is going with the sharing economy.   But you can claim the credit if you start modeling it now. 🙂

And in the case of sustainable innovations, just marvel at the creativity behind the few examples I provided above, and the others I’m sure you can add to my list.  Yes, our children are inheriting one serious load of work to reverse global warming, but wow the opportunities they also have to apply creative solution-building.  It is such an exciting time to be young, to care about the world, and to have crazy inventive ideas.

So I encourage you to watch this circular economy movement carefully, as it will become the model for our children’s world, and it is abundant with avenues for development of their interests and applications of their learning.

Will College Exist for Your Children?

Yes and no.  Mostly no.

“College” will become something completely different than you and I experienced.  It is already headed in that direction.

First, the whole idea of going to a campus and taking a package of courses from just one university will not exist when your children are 18+.  Why?  Because your children will be able to “take courses” from multiple institutions at one time and essentially build their own “degrees” or certification programs.  In fact, this is being done worldwide as I write.

You’ll notice I use quotation marks for things that are dead, dying, or undergoing complete transformation, such as “courses” and “degrees”.  “Lectures” will be dead because our children will learn in a highly interactive way, where peers contribute as much as any one “teacher.”  Virtual and augmented reality will have advanced so much by then that a majority of their learning experiences will be driven by these technologies, and it’s likely that much of that will take the form of gaming.

But wait. It gets even freakier.  They will probably be able to upload knowledge into their brains. Yes. Kind of like in The Matrix.  You can thank the military for advancing this technology.

And don’t forget that all of the other existing AI tools will be significantly more advanced and will provide extensive support for knowledge all along the way.

Most of these trends are already in motion, so none of this is a guessing game.  This is where it’s going.  Yet, most of us still parent and project scenarios for our children based on the model of college we experienced.  Despite the fact that the entire world of work and learning is changing daily, we continue to believe that college will somehow remain the same.

You may have already given thought to where your child will attend college.  Perhaps you have made preschool or elementary school choices thinking those would improve his or her chances of getting into “the best college”.

It just won’t work like that for our children.  If there is any “admissions” process at all, it will be based on a very different system than you and I had to learn.  So all of your decisions about school now are unlikely to impact your child’s chances of “getting in” because the idea of attending one place and being accepted there will be completely obsolete.

Just because the private and public schools you are shopping now refuse to acknowledge how college is changing doesn’t mean it isn’t.  Right now, most K-12 schools are mindlessly headed into a future they are not actually prepping students for.  I’ll tackle the misalignment between K-12 and college in later posts.

Meanwhile, if you need more evidence of the changes in postsecondary ed, you can read this article published two years ago by FastCompany.  There are numerous articles like it everywhere (a few at the bottom of this post), but this one sums it up nicely.

To bring the point home, let’s look at an example of a change that has already played out in post-secondary ed: the MOOC (massive open online course).   MOOCs are a case of The Future That is Already Here (#FUTAH). For a deep dive on MOOCs, check out my YouTube Library.

As of today, according to Class Central, there are over 700 universities worldwide offering MOOCs — free or fee-based interactive courses that anyone can take — and as of the date of this post, over 58 million students worldwide have taken at least one course. This is not a “University of Phoenix” thing.  This is something completely different.

And currently, all of the world’s most prestigious universities offer MOOCs.  In fact, three of them (Stanford, Harvard and MIT) launched the MOOC movement.  Most major countries have set up MOOCs.  And of course leading tech firms like Google, AT&T, Apple, Amazon and many others offer MOOCs.

Plus, as I will cover in a later post about the future of work, it’s very likely our children will freelance all or most of their careers. So “knowledge on demand” will be appealing to them and MOOC will give them just that.

MOOCs are very much here, now.  And they are growing in popularity, as they should. Here’s why MOOCs are a huge improvement over the college experience you and I had:

You can choose courses from over 700 highly respected universities worldwide.

You can take courses from anywhere (eg, your sofa) at anytime of day.

You can see which courses are most popular and which courses have highest reviews.

Some courses are FREE.  Yes, free.  Most courses with fees cost a fraction of what they would on campus.

You can choose courses based on your specific interests and build a “degree” (no longer a thing) that is custom designed to suit your needs.  Or you can just handpick courses that satisfy knowledge areas you need or want for very specific purposes or interests.  

You can interact with your peers in the course in a way that is dynamic and social.

Your contribution to the course BECOMES part of the course content.

Now, take all of those perks, assume that there will be about 100 disruptive technologies we can’t even imagine between now and then, apply the rapidly increasing use of augmented and virtual reality + gaming in learning, highly sophisticated AI and brain knowledge implants.

See what I mean? There is no reason college will look anything like it does today.  It’s illogical to assume that it will.

And we can’t know what it will look like, but we can see trends pretty clearly.  And that is why I launched this blog.  I want to encourage us as parents to notice and understand the trends that will shape our children’s lives.  Understanding the trends will make us more savvy and will guide the choices we make for them and the choices we support them in making.

If you read my post about Blockchain, you see what I mean. As with the currency system our children will use, their learning system will also be decentralized (or as MOOC’s call it “distributed”).  The patterns of learning will follow, echo, mirror, align with the patterns of their social behaviors and the capabilities that technology will support.

Of course learning will no longer be linear or isolated. It will be a network of experiences. Credentialing will come in many forms, some with broad acceptance, some with niche recognition. All of your child’s credentials will be accessible to anyone who wants to see what they know and how well they know it.  Credentials will be dynamic and ever-changing, with our children upgrading their skills regularly just like we now have to upgrade our software and apps regularly.

There will still be “brands” of learning. I’m sure Harvard and MIT have clear plans to protect their brands of education. In the future as today, places like Harvard and MIT will have to be responsive to the demands of companies.  But rather than sticking with a linear “feeder” model (Harvard/MIT grads get hired by XYZ firm)….Harvard/MIT will partner with select companies that represent the elite in their industries, like Google, in creation of the MOOC content.  Oh wait, they already did.

I’ll come back to the future of learning in later posts, tackling some of the issues related to the misalignment between how our children are learning now relative to what they need when they become adults in their world.  Stay tuned.

Articles you may find interesting:

This is the Future of College

The Rise of MOOCs

Robot Doctors, Online Lawyers and Automated Architects: the Future of the Professions?

Demystifying the MOOC

An Online Education Breakthrough? A Master’s Degree for a Mere $7,000

The Future of College?

DARPA is Planning to Hack the Human Brain to Let Us “Upload” Skills

Your Child Will Not Need Money

Ok, that isn’t entirely true. Of course your child will need “money.”  Just not the kind of money you’re used to.

And the system of money your child will use is emerging rapidly (like, hourly), and it will be important that you, as their guardian and partner in life, ramp up your knowledge of that system so that you can support their choices and opportunities within it.

By now, you certainly have heard of Bitcoin.  Chances are you don’t understand it one “bit” and that would put you in the company of most other people.  Bitcoin’s complexity is evidenced by the volumes of YouTube videos attempting to explain it. I have curated my favorites here.

Bitcoin is not only an early example of the type of currency your child will use (cryptocurrency), but it is an early example of the type of system that your child will experience in almost every aspect of life.  Bitcoin is like an app. There are numerous apps like it (more than 700 at the time of this post), and there are exponentially more with every day that passes.  Blockchain is the system or architecture in which apps like Bitcoin run.  Blockchain is more than a system.  It’s a new way of thinking about value and the exchange of value that will define a key difference between your world and that of your child’s.

“A recent World Economic Forum report predicts that by 2025 10% of GDP will be stored on blockchains or blockchain-related technology.” according to this Forbes article.

Many feel that this prediction is timid. If I were you, I would brace myself for a much more rapid transition for yourself personally and (if you are reading this as I publish it) as the parent of a child who will be racing toward early adulthood by 2025.

In an earlier blog post, I addressed the way in which we, as parents of digital natives, must adapt to a faster pace of innovation than our parents had to face.  This is an example where we really must adapt quickly, but at the same time, we must also allow ourselves to think differently.

In attempting to close the gap between your world and your child’s, I would encourage you not to reference familiar models, because today’s innovations are largely based on entirely new models of living, communicating, and organizing.  There just aren’t many reference points from our world. It’s a complete paradigm shift.

Most of the systems you and I experienced up until now were highly centralized. Our schooling, workplace, social network and yes, our money…centralized.  But your child’s experience will be defined by decentralized systems, webs, networks that spread control and orientation around.  If you were raised in centralized systems, you are likely to feel a tad queazy in those that are decentralized.  So don’t be surprised if your instinct is to resist.  But with or without you, decentralization is going to rule the day.

In a separate post, I will address how decentralization will effect your child’s school and work experiences.  Here we are focused on money or what is being called “the value revolution”.

Cryptocurrencies will do for money what the Internet did for communication.  Before the Internet, we had to pay someone or get permission to broadcast a message.  The Internet has allowed us to do that freely.  Cryptocurrency will remove the “broker” from the financial process.  This, of course, will rock the foundations of the centralized system and everyone who believes in it.

In addition, cryptocurrencies will allow numerous currencies to exist across borders, overlapping, perhaps interfacing, tied to massive as well as niche markets.  This means that your child will experience hundreds of currencies throughout his or her lifetime.  The idea of a currency tied to a geopolitical border will fade. Value will increasingly be tied to your child’s own networks and activities.

A pioneer and vocal proponent of cryptocurrency is Galia Ben-Artzi, co-founder of Bancor, an absolutely brilliant “ahead of its time” innovation that will make your child’s world of multiple currencies more fluid.  Galia’s recent TedxTalk is in this blog’s video archive and in my YouTube library.  Her inspiring vision of the future will give you goosebumps.
A few years ago, Ben-Artzi collaborated in the creation of a new blockchain currency that serves as a good example of what your child will experience.  It’s called Lev Market, and it allows mothers to purchase goods from one another in a trusted market place through “heart” currency. Within a year, there was more than $10 million in this community, as moms traded services such as baking cakes, taking lessons, buying goods and volunteering in schools – “all in hearts.”  (from this article).
Here is a video of a mom who participates in Lev Market explaining her value exchange.
Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?  That’s because it is.  And at the same time, blockchain is a massive and pervasive concept that will touch every element of your child’s life.  So we will pause for now and come back to blockchain in a few other contexts later on to better illustrate its impact.

Wake Up Call: Kids React to A Computer from the Early 80s

First, watch this.

Yes, the kids are adorable and their comments absolutely hysterical.  (And you can see more on my YouTube library of kids’ reactions to old technology.)

But as you watch, I want you to think about the deeper implications behind their reactions.

The pace of technological innovation has increased exponentially over the past few decades.  Change happens faster under our watch than it did under that of our parents.

Because the pace of change we experienced with our parents was slower, we actually shared appreciation for and adoption of certain technologies with them, such as (depending on your age) records and record players, remote controls, VCRs, Nintendo, CDs, DVDs, digital video and HD.

You may have even shared some element of early mobile phone experiences with your parents via flip phones and Blackberries. Perhaps you overlapped a bit with your parents in the use of the early computers.

For a significant part of our young lives, we shared experiences and common language with our parents about tech innovation.  This is because th

e pace of that innovation allowed us enough time to connect with our parents around it.

But even for us, there was a moment of departure where we zoomed ahead in tech adoption.  For a

gut-busting parody of this, see see Amy Schumer’s bit in which she tries to help her mom perform what we consider basic tasks on a computer.

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 11.01.45 AM

So take Schumer’s example, and consider that the pace of change is now exponentially faster and so dynamic that you will have little opportunity to appreciate a new technology in the same way that your child will. You will struggle daily

to keep up with the pace of innovation and their interactions with it.  You will not have the luxury of time that our parents had.

To understand this better, imagine you are walking down the street with your child, and suddenly they race forward into the distance, disappearing completely from sight.  Technologically speaking, it will feel a lot like that.

Many of you already sense this and for some, the reaction to this trend is to try to limit or control your child’s access to technology.  In essence, you are putting a “leash” on your child, holding on for dear life as they struggle forward, dragging you down the street.

But is leashing the answer?  I would argue that as parents faced with an unprecedented pace of tech innovation, the answer is not to be gatekeepers, but to become informed partners

and advocates. I would argue that because the tech we are talking about will actually shape your child’s life opportunities, it is our responsibility to react differently.

I am moved by a quote from an organization I follow closely, The Institute for the Future, which rigorously studies future trends and suggests positive and groundbreaking applications.  On kids and tech, they say this:

New technologies are going to help many kids play the part of the magician. They will enchant us with their creations and sleight of hand. They will also amaze us with their ability to escape from the technological chains we’re tying them up with as well. We live in a world of fast and accelerating change. Kids are in some ways ideally prepared to deal with change, and may have more to say and more power to influence the world than at any other time in history. That new empowerment will be the real magic kids bring to the world, and it may be the magic that saves the world from us adults. We are very pleased to publically release this important forecast report, and we welcome your comments and critiques.

If you are curious, see the full text of this page to see what IFF believes the coming trends are for children and technology.

 

 

I leave you with these thoughts and invite you to explore future posts and our upcoming speaker series where we will build bold and future-oriented templates for parenting the digital native.

 

Why Every Parent Should Read The Inevitable

First, check your tickets.  In case you’re not sure if you should be here, a digital native is “a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age.”

If that describes your child, then this is the place for you.

Or is it?

Because this will not be a place where you hear fear-mongering advice about screen time or read research suggesting that you are a bad parent if your child did not spend the entire weekend outside.

Instead, this will be a place where we all boldly face and embrace the “future that’s already here” (or what I fondly call the FUTAH – apply New Yorker accent), and parent our children with eyes and minds open to the unimaginable opportunities that technology will make possible for them.

The first step, in my opinion, is to grab a primer like The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, an excellent and thorough guide to the world your children will occupy.  It approaches the FUTAH both conceptually and quite literally and is not the least bit laden with the conventional fears that rule today’s playground conversations.  It is a vivid picture of your child’s day-to-day life when he or she is you and me.  Written by one of the world’s most intelligent and eclectic human beings who has also successfully parented a child.

That author, Kevin Kelly, is worth looking into.  He’s not your typical “tech type,” which is why I find his observations about tech so compelling.  In just the past 10 years, he has written The Inevitable (NYTimes bestseller 2016), now finishing a voluminous photographic documentary of the disappearing traditions of Asia, and just 3 years ago published his first fiction (science fiction of course) after laboring for 11 years and completing a successful Kickstarter campaign, and oh, the book is a graphic novel beautifully PRINTED as a 6-page fold-out.  He also spent a meaningful part of his life as a nomadic photojournalist once riding a bicycle 5,000 miles across America.  There is more, but you can explore him yourself here.

So take my word for it.  Kevin Kelly is no Silicon Valley guy blind to the importance of craft, creativity and culture.

But technically (ahem), he is the co-founder of Wired magazine and served as its Executive Editor for 7 years.  He was very much a part of the evolution of the Internet, and has the benefit of an intimate perspective on it and all the societal elements it impacted.

So pick up a copy (or show off and read it on a screen), and come back for a fun journey into the 2030’s through the 2050’s….approximately the time our kids will be getting (or making) jobs, and navigating the thing(s) we all once called college…not necessarily in that order.

If you’d like to cheat and see my notes from The Inevitable, I have included them down below.

See you soon!

Jennifer Jones

Continue reading “Why Every Parent Should Read The Inevitable”