Another school year came to a close and our students had left for the summer. As we completed our final grade verifications, cleaned up our classrooms and packed for the summer, I heard the delightful squeal of a co-worker’s toddler. As she strolled in my room, she was curious what I was doing at my desk. Seeing my laptop she gestured for me to pick her up to sit on my lap and explore. It’s been a awhile since my own children were this small, but I knew one place I could go to find something for her to see. My YouTube search for “Elmo’s World” returned the familiar opening to my youngest child’s favorite program of many years ago. The toddler was seemingly delighted, but not even for the entire video. Her eyes raced up and down the suggested videos where she located “The Magic Schoolbus” series in nanoseconds. Wishing to change her selection, she started tapping on the screen expecting the new video to play. My Windows laptop was not up to her toddler-tech specification, but she somehow knew the keyboard was a possibility. In no time she had raised the volume, enabled the closed captions and somehow muted the video so all that was visible was a black screen with text. She had explored, and figured things out, but was soon stopped in her tracks. A simple page reload and click on her video of choice brought back her smile.
Allowing her to explore was not something I had planned, but proved to be a learning experience for me. Our learners and children are changing. This toddler’s behavior was evidence for me of how very different things are for her than they were for me as a tot. While she was able to get pretty far, she came to a point where she needed help. Observing and waiting is perhaps something we should try from time to time with our learners. While the tot had some familiarity with technology, she needed a little coaching to meet her goal. Affording her time to explore, seemed to build her confidence. Assisting her when she needed it helped her to understand better. As I close this post, I ponder how this may work in a classroom. How much time do we allow for exploration and, yes, failure, so students really understand and learn? It is sometimes difficult, but we should find ways to make this happen using the tools available to us. It won’t be too long before these toddlers are our students. Perhaps they can help us to make this happen.