17 December 2013

Time to Teach Your Parents

Who Teaches Parents Tech?

They do, their children do, but now with the help of the guys and gals at Google, Google does too.

For decades society has been dominated by media such as books, comics, cinema, radio, and television — all are technologies, whether or not the users recognise it, all of which now have a digital equivalent, so that even if parents weren’t familiar with the particular content their children engaged with, at least they could access and understand the medium, so that, if they wished to understand what their children were doing or share the activity with them, they could.

However, with the advent of digital media, things have changed. The demands of the computer interface are significant, rendering many parents to believe that they are 'dinosaurs' in an information age inhabited by their children.

Only in rare instances in history have children gained greater expertise than parents in skills highly valued by society. More usually, youthful expertise—in music, games, or imaginative play—is accorded little, serious value by adults, even if it is envied rather nostalgically. Thus, although young people’s newfound online skills are justifiably trumpeted by both generations, this doesn't help their parents much. For everyone of these mouse wielding, track pad savant,  'tech-savvy' students there is quite likely at least two not quite so tech-savvy parents - parents who often find themselves on the less competent end of the conversation - a conversation often sprinkled with a fair amount of eye ball rolling, groaning and huffing and puffing. Thankfully, the people at Google thought there had to be a better way...

The result of their brainstorm is TeachParentsTech.org, a site that allows you to select any number of simple tech support videos to help ameliorate this situation, you might even want to send them to your own mum, dad or uncle Vinnie. The site is not perfect and hardly covers all the tech support questions you may be asked, but hopefully it’s a start. 

Better than a click in the teeth, anyway.

With the considerable influx of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in sch0ools, inevitably parents will find themselves increasingly faced with the challenge of providing adequate access to digital technologies at home, ie, a computer. To complicate matters further some of the resources that our students will be attempting to use can be quite demanding about the extent to which the home Windows PC or Mac is kept in efficient operating condition.

Following these (hopefully) simple pointers will mitigate a great many headaches for parents.
  • Keep your computer up to date, the Internet is constantly evolving, and your computer needs to be constantly updated to keep up with it, so if you get a message prompting you to update your computer - do it! This not only keeps your machine working well, it also makes it less vulnerable to malicious attacks. An out of date computer is a computer that is vulnerable to exploitation, and one that will be frustrating to use as it struggles to 'keep up' with the pace of change of the Internet.
  • Direct your child to use the Google Chrome browser for their homework, this is the recommended browser at UWCSEA as well. Once your child as signed in and synced' all of the bookmarks, passwords, browsing history will magically follow them home as well as at school. The Chrome browser can be downloaded from here.
  • Keep your browser up to date! The above links above include a tutorial on this. This is very important, many of the Web 2.0 technologies your child will be directed to use are very demanding of the latest browser technologies. An out of date browser will struggle to cope with even the most basic tasks. The Google Chrome browser has a useful option of automating these updates, I highly recommend you use it.
  • Make sure your Adobe Flash Player is up to date. if in doubt click here to check to see if you have the latest version. This software is essential to run may of the awesome animations that are commonly used in these websites, such as Mathletics et al.

And always remember the '3 Rs' of troubleshooting"

Refresh (the browser)

Retry (Quit the browser and try again, or try a different browser)

Restart (the computer)

That's it. 

Finally... you might want to consider creating a separate user account for your child/children, guidance on how to do this on a Mac can be found here. This in effect feels to your child like that computer is as good as their very own, until you log them out. Activating Fast user switching makes switching between their account and yours a very simple process.

Finally, maybe the best tip of them all?

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