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Archive for the ‘Technology & Children’ Category

When I was a child, stars, flying and space fascinated me.  I don’t remember the exact year, but one night I dreamt I was on the field at my grammar school, and Jupiter covered the horizon while Mars glistened in the sky.  They were so close to our planet; it was the coolest dream.  I awoke the next morning and excitedly told my mom about it.  It was amazing.  The planets were so close I could almost touch them.  Then, I read in the Sunday pink section of the San Francisco Chronicle that Jupiter, Saturn and a partial lunar eclipse could be seen from a telescope at the Corte Madera Town Center that night.  I begged my mom to take us kids.  Was it a psychic dream or coincidence?  It doesn’t really matter.  That night I got to stay up late and gaze at the wonder of the heavens.  It was a dream come true.

Jupiter

I also remember in 1995, when the Hubble telescope took these amazing pictures of the birth of a star.  There were 3 Evaporating Gaseous Globules (EGGs) and it looked as if the stars were coming out of the illuminated, gassy columns.  These infant stars were located in the Eagle Nebula and supposedly the EGGs were several hundred trillion miles long.  Those photos blew me away.  I kept the newspaper showing the Hubble photos for many years thereafter.  To this day, it’s difficult to fully comprehend how vast several hundred trillion miles is, not to mention the stars were 6,500 light years away.

I could dedicate an entire blog to my love of space, writing about some of my favorite space movies: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, and the recently released Gravity.  But I dedicate my blog to writing about parenting and adoption.  This is where the parenting part comes in.  As parents, we get to share our love of things with our children, whether it’s sports, books, arts and crafts, cooking, movies, any hobbies and the list goes on.  When a girlfriend of mine recently sent an email that some local astronomers were setting up their telescopes on the Chandler Bikeway so that children could look through them, I jumped at the chance to let The Littlest E stay up a little late and view the magnificence of the Moon and other planets visible.

moon

I did not know of the existence of an organization called The Sidewalk Astronomers.  The night we looked at the Moon, one astronomer informed me that they are a global organization in 200 countries, including Canada, Ireland, Russia and Brazil.  Our local group is the Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers and they are out on the Chandler Bikeway once a month with their telescopes providing free viewing.

The Littlest E was excited to have a late night (by his standards) and an evening playdate.   We talked a bit about what we were going to do, how to look through a telescope and what the Moon was going to look like.  While we were driving he said, “Mom, we’ve never done this before.”  I replied, “I know!  It’s going to be so much fun to be able to look at the Moon close up.”  We met up with our friends and walked to the location.  Sure enough there were several sidewalk astronomers with their telescopes pointed toward the Moon and Venus.

We were the first people to show up and the kids got to take a look through each telescope.  They had a blast playing with each other and running around, but The Littlest E kept going back to one telescope in particular and kept looking at the Moon.  The astronomer gave him bits of information about our Moon.  I think he went back to that telescope four times, couldn’t get enough of it.  I mentioned to this astronomer my childhood dream and viewing the planets the next day.  He said, “It was probably the Sidewalk Astronomers who set that up.”  Hmmm, could be, I thought.  We got to talk a bit more and he told me he’s a teacher and teaches astronomy for his elementary or middle school children.  He acknowledged that in the U.S. we don’t emphasize science and math enough.  I agreed.  It’s his hope that continuing to offer this service to kids might get them interested in studying astronomy and sciences, laying the foundation for a possible future in science.

Distant Objects Telescope

He just might be right.  The Littlest E loved his galactic experience.  If we can swing it, we’re going to make this a monthly thing.  My husband couldn’t go this past time, and I know he’d like to go.  It’s informative, community oriented and good plain fun.  I highly recommend seeing if there’s a Sidewalk Astronomer group in your neighborhood.

Images: Steve Hill, Bruce Fingerhood, tonynetone

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Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, technology was pretty cool (or so we thought).  In the ’70s cassettes and VHS became popular, along with arcade and video games.  Remember when the video game Pong was a big deal? Yes, I’m dating myself.  HBO was born in the ’70s.  Wow, a premium cable channel.  MTV came along in the ’80s, and they actually played music!  Walkman, boom boxes and computers became more commonplace.  I went to college in the ’80s and must confess I used a typewriter to type my 30-page thesis, not once but twice, because I didn’t trust computers.  And ATMs were everywhere by the end of the ’80s!  Don’t we all avoid going into a bank if we can help it?

Now, in 2011, we are in the midst of a massive technological growth spurt with new inventions coming out all the time.  We have 24/7 news cycles, Internet access to the universe and beyond, iPhones, Androids, PDAs, Xboxes, PCs, CDs, DVDs, 3D television, wireless phones, robot vacuum cleaners, and vehicles that can park themselves.  I joke that at some point humans will evolve to where we have reception devices growing out of our ears like The Borg from Star Trek.

Our household is well equipped.  We have pay cable, DVR player, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple computer (yes, we are an Apple family), Bose stereo, and a car that comes with hands-free capability for my iPhone.  We don’t own a hybrid just yet, but we’re working on that.  It should come as no surprise to my husband or me that our 2 year old son, The Littlest E, has the following words in his vernacular: “Momma’s iPhone,” “iPat,” “YouTube,” and “kype.”  We live in an age of heightened technology and, therefore, have a son who I’m sure will know more about computers and gizmos by age 10, than I will ever know.  He’s already figured out how to do certain things on my iPhone.  Thank God he doesn’t know my password.  So, is this a scary thing or a good thing?

My husband and I spend time talking about this.  We live in a major city and The Littlest E will probably have friends who own the latest gadgets. We may encounter pressure to buy a Wii, Xbox 360, PS3 or Game Boy.  Come to think of it, if our son shows any interest in gaming at all, I’m quite certain when he’s older there will be requests.  In my day we had board games like Dungeons and Dragons, Risk, and Masterpiece.  Today, there’s World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Battlefield 3.

Right now, our son is only 2, and we don’t encourage a lot of TV watching.  Down the road it will be a different story.  How much TV is too much?  How much time in front of the computer or console game is too much?  Even now, The Littlest E sits in front of our computer (when it’s off) and types on the keyboard saying he’s “working.”  Obviously, those questions can be answered individually.  Each family can create their own rules.  It’s important to get the conversation going.

One of my fears with all this technology at my fingertips is that I lose the idea of creative or spontaneous play.  Many wonderful things can happen in those moments.  One day recently The Littlest E and I were playing with his blocks (growing up my family had Lincoln Logs) and it was great seeing what he created.  No TV, no “Momma’s iPhone,” just him and his imagination and the two of us playing.  It was awesome.  Nothing planned or scheduled.  It was all organic play.

Another confession – I find it hard to turn off my technology.  I’m on Facebook and Twitter daily and we Skype with The Littlest E’s grandparents often.  I love my IMDB app where I can watch the most recent trailers, and I play Bejeweled Blitz whenever I get the chance.  Technology is wonderful; it makes the world a smaller place and there’s more connectedness, but I’m concerned that I’ll spend too much time in front of my computer or iPhone and forget how to be a full participant in my life.  That’s not the example I want to set for my son.

Balance.  As our son grows up, we’ll establish a time for homework and a time for games, a time for play and a time for TV.  Maybe he’ll be into sports and/or the outdoors.  We already spend a certain amount of time each day out in nature, whether in our backyard or hiking.  It’s all about balance.

Having a 21st Century child isn’t a bad thing.  Who knows, perhaps our son will think of a new invention, and he could have a lot worse words in his vocabulary.  It’ll be interesting to see how the next decade or two unfold, where technology goes and where our children go along with that.

Image: Soctech

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