Question 96 of 365: What's touch got to do with it?

My son wouldn’t stop screaming in the Apple store today. I tried to give him crackers and even Vanilla Wafers to try and get him to entertain himself. But still he wailed. He threw his food on the ground and then screamed until I picked it up for him to throw again.

This was at the second Apple store we went to today.

The first store we went to, I let him out of the stroller and let him run around. The store wasn’t really supposed to be open yet, so there wasn’t anyone there except for the “trainers.” I was all alone with the iPads, except my son wouldn’t let me get a good look. It was like he was trying to make sure that I didn’t become too attached to the “magical” device.

He nearly knocked one off of the table and almost knocked over a couple of signs before we decided that the training time before the store was open was not an appropriate time for a screaming one and a half year old. And yet, all I wanted to do was to let him see it and touch it. And that is what he wanted too. It was a shame that there wasn’t a kid’s iPad section, with foam rubber on the ground and huge numbers of kids apps ready to play with.

So, what was I able to do with an iPad while parenting my child who is not quite ready for the intricacies of new technology? I have written an e-mail, opened up a number of apps, checked out openspokes.com (everything but the flash video works great), and checked out Pages. While those 7 minutes (total) are not enough to write an in-depth review, they are enough to make a single pronouncement: my son will likely use a touch screen of some kind almost every day of his life.

While I do not believe that the iPad itself (at least not in its current iteration) will be what my son uses in the future, the power of telling a device what you want it to do with your fingers is exactly what my son expects to do, all of the time.

He didn’t want to watch me touch the giant screens. He wanted to do it. He wanted to run his hands over them and make them do stuff. Whenever I bring out my laptop to show him something, he immediately thinks that I am going to check e-mail or look at something that will distract me from time with him. When we pull out the iPod touch, he immediately thinks that it is something for him to touch and for us to interact with, together.

That is the difference of touch. Touch is for working together and for sharing, a computer with inputs that must be learned (keyboards, mice, etc) is for being alone. Touch is for changing what is in front of you, traditional computers are for making incremental shifts (in text, in presentations, etc.).  Touch is for show and tell, the desktop is for sit and stare.

While many people are arguing that the iPad is turning us back into consumers rather than producers or creators, I would like to argue that touch devices like the iPad are what will teach my children to never be satisfied with sitting back and only being entertained. Because they will literally be making changes to what they see with their touch, they will always question the content that is in front of them. They will want to manipulate every type of media. They will want to watch movies with on screen chat. They will want to read newspaper with commenting always turned on. They will want to draw on everything and manipulate where the buttons go and what they should do. I’m not sure they will even know how to simply be consumers.

My children want to touch everything, so why should I usher it out of them by introducing computers that do not require this creative part of them. If I believe that touching other people and giving my kids toys that can be manipulated (blocks, legos, crayons and the like), why should I not extend that to the devices that I ask them to use.

If we are really talking about making our schools, our businesses, and our personal life more intuitive and filled with authenticity, touch is what we need.

Not the iPad, but touch.

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0 Comments

  1. jacquelinecahill

    This post was humorous. I love how you interwove real life, passion for tech, and your ideas of how to improve it. It made me laugh (son throwing food on floor as you are trying to get him to cooperate), remember how human we all are as we pursue our passions (2nd apple store—first one son almost knocked down products) , and made me think (ipad little people section). You might want to move that idea ahead with Apple…even if they created something specifically for them…great thoughts.

  2. I didn't think about actually going forward with that idea, but I just
    might. I feel like they are really making a case for the future of computing
    and the best way to show off their progress is to show that people of all
    ages are capable of taking part. While I don't think that many parents are
    buying their kids $500 toys right now, I do think that showing how viable
    touch is for getting kids excited about learning and doing is going to be a
    huge impact on their bottom line.

    I am trying to tell more stories in my blog, and I am glad you noticed. I
    hope to keep it up.

  3. jacquelinecahill

    If you were to move forward with the idea, it needs to be transformed for financial reasons. You are right there are very few parents buying a $500 toy for their young child. However, could you turn it into a learning toy like Leap Frog and turn it into touch like the Ipad, and then combine the looks of the two to make it look like Mom or Dads yet have the dropping capability of a child's toy and the affordability of buying an educational, technical toy for a child. Just a thought…I don't know all what is out there for little people…if nothing is like it I think it could be big.

  4. Possibly, but I don't know that it is an idea that I would be willing to
    pursue. I am much more interested in kids using “the real thing” and not
    some “other” version of the thing. While it is $499 now, it won't be in a
    couple of years. In fact, I believe that the price point will probably hover
    right around $200 in about a year or two. At that point, it would simply be
    another “gaming system” that parents could purchase. Except, this one has
    thousands of educational titles and can read books too (not that other
    gaming systems won't be able to do those things in the future, though).

    Anyway, it was an offhanded idea. I do think that they will need to come up
    with some better cases for kids, but I anticipate getting a couple in our
    house within the next 3 years.

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