TOP > About Child Science > Kodomogaku Kotohazime (1998-2000) > The Infant as an "Information Seeker": Implications for Media Use in Education


The Infant as an "Information Seeker": Implications for Media Use in Education

The baby's first action after being born is to cry out. The parents, especially the mother, hears this tiny voice and is assured of the safe birth of their child and is filled with emotion. The doctors and nurses who delivered the baby are probably also relieved that it was a safe delivery.

The baby's first cries are presumably due to the stress of the birth itself as well as the overwhelming anxiety of being separated from the mother. However, the beauty of this natural occurrence is that this is the spark that ignites the respiratory "program" and allows the child to regulate his/her breathing. If the child continues to cry for a while, the nurse will comfort the baby or will let the mother hold him/her until the baby is soothed and stops crying.

What will the newborn do next? The baby will gaze at the mother's face or look around his/her surroundings. The newborn is already gathering and taking in as much information as s/he possibly can and thus is born as an "information seeker". Furthermore, the infant is able to recognize various patterns twenty or thirty centimeters (8-12 inches) away.

If you show a newborn a red circle, white circle, yellow circle, a newspaper cut in a circle, concentric circles, and a human face in a circle (all the same size), the newborn will look longer at the newspaper and the concentric circles. This is data from more than thirty years ago. Thus, it can be said that the more information offered the newborn, the longer the attention given looking at the object will be. Again, this is proof that the baby is an "information seeker".

As aforementioned in another of my messages, our ancestors who roamed middle Africa spent millions of years spreading out our existence from east to west, north to south. Although, they were probably searching for a "paradise" of some sort as they traveled, I believe this expansion of the human population could be a consequence of these ancestors constantly searching for new information.

In the long history of mankind, in order to communicate, it was necessary for our ancestors to first make voice and develop their skills so they could converse with and understand each other. It has been proven that the Neanderthals had vocal cords which probably developed as a result of their need for expression beyond body language and facial expressions.

Then the Cro-Magnon developed a method for communicating through drawing. Thus, the cave paintings became another way of telling stories and communicating one's thoughts or events of the day. These paintings remain even today in many parts of France and Spain, which proves the power of this form of communication. The Cro-Magnon, with their hunting and burial rituals, increased their standard of living enormously compared to the Neanderthals. Hence, not only did their standard of living jump to new heights, the amount of information one needed to pass on to another increased as well.

Eventually, a few thousand years ago, the power of the written word became a great source of information to be spread. Thus, the clay tableaus, papyrus, and then paper became the tools for which this written word could be distributed to many people. The new "technologies" were developed one after another and then in the fifteenth century, Guttenberg invented the printing press with which the bible was first printed. Subsequently, new printing skills were developed with rapid admiration and thus, the newspaper, magazines and even developing of photos became a way of communication. This allowed enormous amounts of information to be spread to a great many people.

The previous century marks the beginning of the telecommunications era. New inventions of this era hardly need mentioning, but include the telegraph, telephone, television and then in the middle of this century, the computers became a part of the telecommunications progression. In no time at all, after computers were invented, the rapid growth of the use of tools using the computer came into existence, such as interactive communications and the internet. We have now entered the age of the multimedia revolution.

This is proof in itself that the human race is a race we can nickname, " information seekers" . I will go even as far as saying that over these millions of years, the human being has come to be born with a genetic tendency toward seeking information.

I believe this becomes apparent when watching small children use multimedia equipment on their own to entertain themselves. Toddlers are already able to immerse themselves in video games, turn on the television and choose a channel which attracts them.

Therefore, it is an urgent necessity for educators to be aware of and treat children as information seekers and to be able to creatively use this special genetic gift to engage these children in a well-adaptive, energetic and imaginative educational atmosphere. It pleases me that there is already some discussions going on regarding this issue, and the Ministry of Education has already begun a small research project where they are beginning to incorporate multimedia education into parts of the curriculum, called the, "One-hundred Schools Project".

The time has come when we, as educators and caregivers, must realize that there are new possibilities for education and that children's liveliness and joy in learning can be achieved using these various hardwares and softwares. Even in an environment where school-phobia and bullying are becoming a daily issue, the many possibilities offered by multimedia in education may be a powerful source of changing the way we think about education.
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