Saturday, February 16, 2013

Learning To Be A Dinosaur

Last night Blowfish and I went to our favorite farm to table  restaurant for our "Valentine's" celebration. The darling chef/owner has figured  out a way to hand make a low sodium chicken florentine pizza for me. There is no tomato sauce and no cheese. There is a perfect combination of sweet cream sauce, spinach, pine nuts, chicken and a scattering of yellow pear tomatoes. Since all ingredients come from local sources, it could not be better or fresher.  Blowfish loves the roasted lamb lollipops and the diverse wine cellar.  A win-win on the where to go for dinner  issue. Because this is Valentine's weekend there was a wait.  Not bad.  Maybe 40 minutes or so  more than usual which gave me time to people watch.

Surprisingly what caught my attention was the young families. The ones waiting and the ones seated.  Waiting in line with us was a family of four; parents and two girls one about 5 the other about 8 or 9. The parents were deep in conversation with each other; not making any effort to keep their girls engaged or entertained during the wait. They did not need to. Once they joined the line, the Mom reached into her capacious  bag and handed the young one a Kindle. Her elder sister automatically assumed the role of tutor. Both girls were quiet, engaged and in no way a disturbance to their parents or any of the restaurant patrons.

Seated directly next to the wait area was another  family of four. Forty something parents with young boys. One about three the other not even a year. The youngest was  dressed in footed pajamas and seated in the typical restaurant wooden youth chair with a booster seat for babies.  When he first caught my attention it was because he was expressing his intense desire to be out of that chair. Parental efforts  to redirect his attention were not going well. Across the table from him, the three year old was oblivious to the commotion. He was busy with a smart phone. At this table the parents were seated across from each other, as were their boys. This gave each parent a hand for a child and a hand for their wine glass. Only all hands were needed to keep the little guy in the chair once he started  howling, bucking and rocking. A passing waiter said, " Here, let me fix this".  Never breaking stride he picked up the baby in the chair, walked around the table and placed him next to big brother who was still engrossed in the smart phone.  The transformation was instant. Baby was happy, big brother remained oblivious and both parents  could suddenly gaze into each others eyes in wonderment.

I knew, from a recent family trip, the impact of smart phones, tablets, e-readers and computers in the development of this  new generation. The youngest niece in the Fishy school is not yet two but has clearly mastered the differences of all the various smart phones of parents, aunts, uncles, grands and older cousins.  Not surprisingly they all seem to be  loaded with baby apps. This is big, big business and,
I believe,  a sweeping cultural shift. There is no need for Aunt Fishy to sing Old MacDonald's Farm, complete with sound effects and bouncy knee rides when there is a Peekaboo Barn app available from Appolicious for just $1.99.   Here an app, there an app, everywhere a smart app ... is the new tune.

Unlike many, I do not think this the downfall of mankind. If you think about  how people learn ;
visual, auditory, kinesthetic, sequentially or by repetition all are present in this format.   I get why this is effective, even addictive.  I also recognize every community is going to have to spend millions to upgrade classrooms. I understand 4'x8' SmartBoards  cost  about $7,000  more than a chalk board of the same dimensions but, if a learner has spent their first five years on smart apps how will they relate to words in chalk?

The waiting family of four were  eventually seated at a table adjacent to the booth Blowfish and I occupied.  The parents choose to sit together on one side of the table while the girls were opposite. The parents ordered dinner, the children did not.  Appetizers and beverages were delivered to the table for the parents. The girls played on.
The Dad of this family caught me observing and offered this explanation. They negotiate with their children. The deal was this: the  girls had fast food in the car on the way to the restaurant with the promise of game time with the  kindle and the smart phone while the parents enjoyed a  fine restaurant dinner . Apparently it gets expensive if  sticky fingers infuse the technology with foods and beverages.  The rule is this: the girls  can eat, and they can game, but they may not do these two activities simultaneously.  The Dad went on to say this  arrangement allowed them to really enjoy going out " as a family" more often. He went on to mention they were able to have far more "family nights"  because they had eliminated the costs of babysitters.

Clearly the concept of  "family night" has changed. I get it.  Here at the Pond we do not squat by our cave to enjoy our  just speared haunch  cooked over open flames.  I understand this newest generation will be very different. Young brains are being grooved as never before. I accept this generation will have skill sets I will never possess, will think in patterns heretofore unknown. Will, in fact, occupy a world unknown to me. It has ever been thus. The pioneers who built   log cabins  on their staked claims did not build  the steel and glass skyscrapers of  today. Progress is to be expected. Even eagerly  sought, anticipated and embraced.


Somehow while I was at dinner I kept having visions of my visit to  the Celsus Library of Ephesus. Now an architectural relic , once among the largest libraries  in all of  civilization.  The  proud home to over 12,000 scrolls. Maybe even those LOST scrolls some believe were rescued from the Library at Alexandria and others believe included the lost books of the bible. Because being there  was significant for me, I bought a painting, a water color, from an artist at the site. I remember her telling me  she painted the Library every day. That while the subject did not change,  each painting was different and her hope was to preserve in the minds of many, the lessons implied by the remains she paints. I thought it a worthy purpose.
 I still do.

Trying to sort my thoughts on the way home I asked Blowfish if he knew where all the boxes of slides were from his parents travels? He does not.  Nor does he know where the projector might be or if it works. I asked him  when was the last time he printed out photographs instead of storing them in a cloud. He could not remember in which year he last printed a photograph. I asked him if he still had the first letter I ever wrote to him? His answer, " Fishy, that is my greatest treasure! It is where it will always be, in the second drawer of the night stand next to my bed.".  This made me think of other treasures.  Will we be able to enjoy and review them in our twilight years?  We have video cassettes of important events in our family but will there still be a  way  to play them?  I have stored Mermaid's anamatronic BigBird  and all the story tapes as this is how she learned to read by age three.  No doubt the dinosaur to today's smart phone apps. My  fear is the day will come when there will be no way to play these as batteries will no longer be.

Today, I am listless.
I did not sleep well having spun like a top wondering if we are as smart as our phones.
If, as a culture in transition , we are making wise choices to preserve what came before. This is not a foolish question as teams of greats today cannot build a pyramid, or explain what did happen to dinosaurs or for that matter, scrolls. Are we multiplying our losses? Are we in the process of not just moving  into the future but also losing our past? How smart is that?


Aunty Belle said...

hmmmn, first, can ya lend me yore two year ole chile? I needs a lesson or two on these smart thangs.

What a profound set of questions ya raise, Fishy. I'se anxious to see what others think. Already I resent Face Book an' Instagram, but worry that it ain't no different than real ole folks resenting the phone. Uncle took a few years to adapt to faxes, long ago.

fishy said...

Hi Aunty,
The thing is while the two year old can show you how she manipulates a device, she does not yet have the vocabulary or understanding to tell you what she is doing. This generation is the first to be raised equally in the real and virtual worlds. It is going to be fascinating to watch.

One thing I am curious about is if the acceptance of the virtual world will make acceptance of the spiritual world easier for this generation.

I understand Uncle,
I like to sweep more than I like to vacuum.

Island Rider said...

While I know our world is changing and that technology is putting information at the touch of a button and in some ways making life so much more convenient, I worry about the loss of interpersonal relationships. I know several young people who are getting all their college classes on line. There is much more to college than classes that they are missing. And I hope that those parents you saw are spending time with their children in other ways. While it might be nice for them to have dinner out without paying for a sitter, what about teahcing our children manners at the table and the art of conservation? Not to mention having mom and dad focus on you and be interested in how your day was! We had to ask our 27 year old not to text at the table. He bursts out laughing at jokes we are not privy to much less the aggrevation of having him at the table, but not really at the table. I am not keen on it. It bothers me though the idea of having a quiet dinner without a child fussing at the next table is appealing.

pamokc said...

There's gotta be a time and a place. That family may have been together, but were they, really? With the kids nose down into the gadget? Of course, would you feel different about it the kids had their nose down into a real book? I also worry about the new generation's ability to communicate -- plust here are so many subtle signs of non-verbal communication. Will they learn that? But their world will be much different than ours, and it is theirs to do with it what they will. I say this after spending the afternoon boxing up old music CD's to send up to the mancave -- a couple of good size boxes. Technology has put them into my computer and back out into an Ipod the size of my palm. It can't all be bad.

fishy said...

Island Rider,
I agree there are several issues beyond the standard family, etiquette, appropriateness issues.

There will be big challenges to raising children who are actually physically different. Scientists can map the differences in their brain development. The same part of the brain is not used for all types of learning and so forth. This does lead one to believe it will be crucial to unplug these children so other development, like the interpersonal skills you mention, can be developed simultaneously with the "Gig-Brain".

A plus to all the new knowledge about brain types and development is they have learned many children with learning disabilities can be CURED by the programs developed to retrain the brain after a stroke.

Conversely, there is evidence some stroke patients are best helped by computer learning because it DOES use a different part of the brain.

I do agree with you families will need to have rules about what and where ... we certainly were not allowed to bring books to the dinner table!

One of the things which still shocks me is the need in a CHURCH for the clergy or a staff member to have to ask the congregation to please silence and put away all cell phones and other media devices during services. More shocking is to both hear and see the request is mostly ignored!

So nice of you to visit the Pond! You have been missed. So will the Man Cave in your house become the depository/museum for out of date technology? (I actually have for the past decade encouraged clients to add a storeroom to their floor plans)

I think every generation has resorted to entertaining the kids to the degree necessary ... with keys,or watches or sweets. What, for me, was noteworthy about the family with daughters is both girls were old enough to be expected to behave correctly and engage in family conversation. Instead this was two different date nights in one, Mom and dad were on their dinner date while their girls were on a play date.

I guess the question is if this really is any different from our parents having dinner in the clubhouse while we kids swam and had hamburgers at the poolside grill?

I do agree with you , parents will need to focus on developing social skills in these plugged in kids. Mostly I think the GRAND parents are going to be the heroes on this point.

On the cultural issue .... what happens in schools when a child which has been using technology since birth occupies a classroom with a child who has not? Even one who does not know basic things like colors, shapes, numbers or letters?

Another HUGE socio-economic shift is coming.

Buzz Kill said...

I'm right there with you on cell phones/ipads being the downfall of civilization. When I drive past a school, it's like the zombie apocolypse already happened the way all (not just some) of the kids wander aimlessly with their faces looking down into their hand.

I will however side with the parents at the restaurant. If we had that kind of technology when the boys were that age, we'd of used it too. I can't tell you how many family restraunt meals ended up being "to go".

And we have video tapes that I don't know what we'll do with. I guess we'll eventually have them digitized. The Mrs still will have pictures from family vacations printed and put into a vacation scrap book though. I think in anticipation of our senior years when when we'll be too blind to see a monitor.

The Mrs. and I went out to a local Mexican restaurant for Valentines and it was very nice. I had a chorizo enchilada that was way better than it sounds.

fishy said...

Hey Buzz!
I liked your Klondike post. It's nice to see you posting again, and visiting.

So do the Scouts embrace virtual scouting now or is it required for the activities to be real? Do you find it harder to get the current scouts to engage with each other on projects or even in conversations?

You are in engineering, a field heavily dependent on computers right? So, do you view the coming generation of Gig Brains as a positive for business but a negative for playground interactions?

chickory said...

pretty soon, people, if we make it another generation or so (doubtful) will be like those giant brains in a glass jar like on star trek. you wont need to lug your fat GMO ass around anymore: you can be a freaking elite athlete in your virtual world! YAY!

we are breeding a generation of dolts. you might be able to manage in a techno matrix, but the unpredictable stuff of life cannot be anticipated or programed.

My friends ex-husband decided he was bored enough to start having sex in a virtual world called "second life". My friend discover his activity because she saw on his AMEX bill, real "first life" money being spent in a virtual sex-club. sure enough, the avatar he was shagging ended up busting through to his real life and now we have a full blown affair, the destruction of a marriage and so forth.

I go out to have drinks with girls. everybody looking at their phones - including me.

Island Rider said...

Well, I must confess to a IPad in church moment that did not turn out well for this dinosaur. While travelling to see adopted daughter, I thought I would lighten my baggage load and not take my big Bible, but only the electronic version on my IPad. I felt quite young and hip pulling it out to read scripture in the service until, the IPad starting reading it for me - out loud. It took a real young hip person to reach over the pew and turn it off. Never again!

fishy said...

Island Rider,
Ahhh! Life's memorable moments!

Sandcastle Momma said...

We always took our children out to eat with us and were blessed that the first 2 would color and chat quietly with us. The third one wasn't so good at that and dinner out was not a real pleasant experience until he got a little older. I see it as a 50/50 thing - half good that children are learning and half bad that most of them always have their face stuck in something. My kids are older now and we don't allow electronics when we are having family time. But I can also see the appeal of having dinner out with your husband and not having to pay for a babysitter. I do think a line should be drawn about amount time spent on stuff like that.

Aunty Belle said...

Howling in laughter at Island Rider!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Fishy,

You always have an interesting post! Hopefully you will have a Haiku this week. Becca can't host so I am filling in for her. Come play.

fishy said...

Sandcastle Mama,
Have I ever mentioned how much I like your blog name? The first time I read it I thought,
"I need to meet her!"

I agree, there are limits and by setting these, hopefully this youngest generation will stay anchored in the big, beautiful, real world.

Yep, that was a stitch.

I always have a good time playing at your place. See you Monday.