A couple of things that have been in the news recently – including a classic example of “don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers”. But the first “article” is something a bit different from what I usually write. It’s not really to do with how you use computers or tablets, it’s about some research about computers and kids that has kicked up a fuss. Feel free to skip down to “Microsoft’s latest – a tablet/laptop combination?” if you’re not interested!
Is Cambridge University really saying kids shouldn’t use computers? Well…
This was first in the news a month or so ago. But there’s been some more fuss about it recently. And I know some readers of this newsletter are parents or grandparents, so it could be concerning.
Different newspapers have reported it differently, but the general story seems to be that there’s been a study done at Cambridge that shows that kids who spend as much as one hour a day “screen time” (whether it’s watching TV, on the internet or playing games) tend to do significantly worse than those who don’t.
Now, you won’t get me saying kids should spend ages in front of a screen – there are other important things too. Alastair and Edward do get to watch TV and play on the iPad – but not whenever they want (and not after dinner – makes it harder for them to sleep if they do).
But they gain a lot from it too. One of Alastair’s favourite games is teaching him computer programming. Another one that they both like is helping them learn maths – and helping them to like maths, which is going to make the next few years of it a lot easier!
And even TV can be good if it’s the right programme. The other day Alastair was telling me all about camels and the desert, which he’d picked up from a cartoon.
But what about the study – will this really make his grades worse when he gets to GCSEs? After all, there are some pretty bright people at Cambridge – surely they haven’t got it completely wrong?
Well, the problem is what the study didn’t show. First of all, it doesn’t show that these particular students do worse because of the screen time (and the people who did the study didn’t claim it did, just that it’s interesting that the two seem linked in some way or other). It could be that some unfortunate kids don’t get much attention from their family, so they watch more TV – I could imagine that less attention from Mum and Dad might lead to lower grades.
And some of the data is 10 years old. What you’d learn from games or browsing the internet 10 years ago isn’t as varied as what you can find now.
There are one or two other issues about interpreting it as “the screen time caused lower grades” – several of which the researchers pointed out themselves (but most newspapers ignored – I suppose they don’t make as good a story).
So although the study is interesting and it’ll be interesting to see research to understand it a bit more, it really isn’t saying that screen time will automatically means when your child gets to GCSEs, they’ll do significantly worse. It’s probably more important to make sure that some of the screen time has some kind of benefit.
After all, when I was little I spent quite a bit of time messing around with computers, figuring out how they worked and getting them to do different things. It hasn’t turned out too badly!
Microsoft’s latest – a tablet/laptop combination?
Microsoft have just brought out their latest tablet – the Surface 4. It’s a touchscreen tablet, like the iPad, but it runs Windows 10, so it works much like a PC or laptop.
The idea is that it means you don’t need to learn two systems. It’s a sensible idea and I think they’ve done a pretty good job of it.
Would I recommend it then? Well, probably not.
At least, not to most people.
It works best as a sort of “very small laptop”, complete with a clip on keyboard. If you’re always travelling and need something very portable that you can use to type up documents and so on, it might be great. So I can see it being very useful for some people in business.
But for casual browsing the web, emails, looking at photos and so on, the sort of thing most people use a tablet for, I think that either the iPad or Android tablets tend to work better. They’re designed specifically for that sort of thing, rather than being a compromise between a that sort of thing and a PC designed to be used with a mouse and keyboard.
I think Microsoft have done a pretty good job, but for most people I’d recommend a tablet that’s designed specifically as a tablet.
Help us tidy the warehouse
Don’t worry, I don’t mean I’m asking you to roll up your sleeves and lift boxes of books.
But I mentioned last time that now we’ve got our new office built, we’ve had to move everything about as some of the books were stored where the office now is.
And while we were sorting everything out, we came across some things that we want to clear out.
The first is some videos we did a couple of years ago about digital photography. There’s a set about using a digital camera, all the settings and getting the most from it and so on. And there’s a set about once you’ve got the photos on your PC – editing them (and the program I personally use for doing that), looking at them, printing them and so on.
We haven’t been publicising them for a while as they’re a few years old now, but to be honest the information is still useful – they’re done in Windows 7, but it’s not mainly about Windows itself, so it doesn’t matter so much which version it is.
Anyway, we don’t have that many copies – around 200 – and we’d like to clear them out. Rather than throw them away, I’m offering them at half price – or buy one set and get the other free, whichever way you like to look at it.
If it sounds interesting, you can see the original information I wrote about them here, if you want to see what they cover and so on.
But don’t leave it too long – once they’re gone, that’s it, they’re gone. So if it sounds interesting, best read the information now.