Monday, September 20, 2010

children's future requests for computers and the internet

Latitude | Innovation-Thinking: Many brilliant innovations come about by transposing one solution onto a new category of problem, the result of which may strike us as a kind of curious juxtaposition. (Blogging by e-mail, anyone? How about systems thinking and children’s toys?)

Kids Solve Problems
Children are naturally more fluent with ideas than adults, unfettered by the “necessity” and experience of applying their underlying thinking ability to knowledge areas in conditioned ways, within the boundaries of what is practical and possible. (Rote learning is an extreme example of the thinking “refinement” we undergo on the way to adulthood.)

A child’s knowledge and experience are limited and so the problem solutions are often impractical. But what matters is the way the child’s mind uses the limited material at its disposal.
When children were given the “political” problem of stopping a cat and a dog from fighting, their ideas went far beyond the approaches used by politicians.
Edward de Bono, Children Solve Problems

In a 2006 Developmental Psychology study by Zheng Yan, children between the ages of 9 and 13 were asked to represent pictorially what the Internet looks like. Some of the drawings (c & d below), convey a complex understanding of a system that even most adults struggle to comprehend.

The Merlin Factor: Putting Kids’ Solutions to Practical Use
It takes some insight and patience (the more you look, the more you find) for an adult to appreciate the creativity in children’s responses because they are often unconventional or “impossible.” Thus, questions posed to children should be targeted and thoughtful–a structured problem-solving objective should exist–to elicit solutions that manifest the power of children’s undamped creativity.

For example, asking children: “If you wanted to build a house more quickly, how would you do it?” ultimately requires children to generate solutions for how to make an existing process faster and more efficient. (Example from Edward de Bono’s, Children Solve Problems).

Latitude 42: Children’s “Future Requests” for Computers & the Internet
As part of its 42s: An Innovation Series, Latitude is launching a generative thought study around Web technology–with the help of children ages 12 and under.

What would be really interesting or fun to do on your computer/the Internet that your computer can’t do right now? Please draw a picture of what this activity looks like.

Additionally, the study will explore: how children use and understand Web technology, which environmental factors contribute to these understandings, and the extent to which children can think “innovatively” (beyond the bounds of their known environment).

We expect to be impressed. We also expect to learn a few things from our participants. Fist tap Dale.