A capella – Wise Guys

For you who understand German and the backgrounds, this song will be funny.  For you who don’t, hang in there – by the end you’ll understand the text anyway.  😀



Smart phones and tablets in school:

According to brain neurologist Manfred Spitzer, the worst you can do to a toddler is give them a tablet to play with.  You limit their brain development by limiting the time in which they work with real-life objects.

  • Toddlers learn by manipulating objects with their fingers.  Statistical studies have connected that the most significant difference between Nobel prize winning scientists and ordinary scientists is how much more the Nobel prize winners played with building blocks as preschoolers.


  • The brain cannot be compared to a computer.  A computer has a main store (hard drive) that is at some point full.  The brain has no hard drive “store”, instead everything is recorded as pathways.  The more pathways there are, the more “storage capacity” the brain has.  In other words, not learning content because you want to “leave space” on your “brain store” achieves the exact opposite you think it will.  Counterintuitive, but not if you see the brain like a well-run city that develops more and more sophisticated roads, and the more a certain pathway gets used, the more the municipality upgrades it so it never jams.  Eventually there are so many highways riddling and criss-crossing the city that jumping from one end to another is no effort, and finding your way to anywhere is really easy.  (Analogy by gipsika – M.S. would have a better one.  He has the better brain 😀 )

If you really want your child to reach its full potential in adulthood, here’s what he recommends you to do in toddlerhood:

Let the kid have lots of the following:

  1. Toys and real-life objects to manipulate, click together (Lego, Mechano), puzzles, creative toys like beading, physical stuff that practices fine-motor control
  2. Interactive sports with other kids!
  3. Music!  He harps on learning a musical instrument quite a lot, in many different speeches and interviews.  The more difficult, the better.
  4. Fantasy & role play.  This increases the creativity of the child. (No:  Computer games are not the same as role play.)

And take away that iPad!

It’s interesting to note that Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids play with tablets, iPads or computers.  He was a bit of a “tiger dad” that way.

Can any of you remember being bored as a kid?  Even sometimes?  What did you do when you were bored?

Today kids don’t get bored; they are addicted to electronic games and “wipey-phones”.  They don’t have enough time to get bored; all their time is filled with reactivity.  Kids hate hearing this.  Well, cocaine addicts also hate hearing that their drug is damaging them. Addicts stick up for their drug.

Just so by the way:  Manfred Spitzer’s stance attracts a lot of ridicule.

The ridicule comes mainly from three sources:  People who have a vested interest in selling electronic media and addictive games to kids; parents and educators who would otherwise have to admit to having contributed to ADHD and lowering their children’s intellect (and that might be an unbearable burden of guilt); and games addicts themselves.  And not one crit I’ve come across of his work is written in a way that the crit can be taken seriously.

A serious crit is written in a way that it disproves the original piece with counter-evidence, facts and statistics.  All these crits on Spitzer’s work do is use ridicule and emotive writing to make the reader feel there’s something wrong with his work – they don’t have the ammo to disprove it.

Food for thought on a Wednesday morning, lovely cloudy weather here in PTA today, have a glorious day!


12 thoughts on “A capella – Wise Guys

  1. As someone who grew up with artist parents I played with all sorts of objects and created very personal original objects. But I also learned to read early and as a seven year old was reading about seven books a week, a habit that not only increased my vocabulary but gave me pathways that solid objects could not. Computers and like digital tools are a totally new approach to the world full of color and sound and fascinating people and ideas that interact in ways that books do not. To deny this massive wonderful world to kids seems to me a crime like forbidding films and TV. No doubt these innovations should not displace entirely the other important activities but properly tamed to keep their place they should not be denied nor should they dominate.

    • Yep – that’s the most intuitive response to Spitzer’s stance.

      Unfortunately reality shows that the intuitive approach, in this case, does not overlap with reality. Reading builds abstract thinking and imagining; watching movies does not. It is not an active process in the brain. Reading is actually a constructive activity as you reconstruct from nothing but language, the world inside the book.

      Studies have shown (he discusses this in the same link) that even the “focus training” computer games claim to be, is training in the wrong direction. It puts the gamer into a state of diffuse focus, waiting for the next attack from any side. In other words it de-focuses so that reaction time can be faster. Studies have correlated hours of gaming with a drop in concentration capacity and a severe drop in school achievements.

      Spitzer’s take on addictive media such as smart phones and iPads in nursery schools and schools, is this: People ask “how much” of this exposure is okay. Well, if you know that cocaine is an addictive drug, “how much” of cocaine would you allow your child at which age?

  2. As an only child I had loads of creative type toys, lego, building set, physics and chemistry set, jigsaw puzzles coming out of my ears, and then games. Plus books, books and more books. And two recorders (descant and tenor) although I’d like to have learned other instruments. But when adults are also glued tp phones and tablets, what hope for children? One does wonder (well I do) if there is a correlation between MS’s thinking and the apparent increasing stupidity in the world.

    • He proves that there actually is! People don’t like hearing it.

      Studies have actually shown that reading a book, you are putting your brain through the paces nearly identical to actual adventurers going through those actual actions in real life (I guess, depending how well it is written, LOL!).

      Here’s the link to the study:

      Quote: ““The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said Gregory Berns, the lead author of the study.

      Edit: (Ooh I’ve overused “actual”! Typical South African mistake, actually.)

  3. Admittedly my initial comment was personal and not scientific, but there is a great deal more to digital media than exposure to violent games. It permits child communities to form and discuss problems, it is a source of almost infinite specific information and explanation and definitions of words. It grants all kinds of music and non aggressive games and puzzles and exposure to all the graphic and poetic arts. One does not have to run down to the library to seek out arcane ideas and basic facts. Photoshop is well within the skills of a kid and creative graphics with exposure to colors and forms and even three dimensional structures is easily at hand. A computer can itself become a musical instrument for creative experimentation and wild ideas. Chasing and blasting monsters is something that never interested me but there is a whole huge dimension in many directions out of computing and it beats the hell out of a typewriter.

    I do not contest that actual objects have their charms and my cell phone is a simple telephone and I prefer observing my surroundings while traveling rather than thumbing a smartphone but to exclude entirely the multiple services of digital devices seems to me to be pushing tradition much too far. I paint and sculpt and sew and bake and cook and construct my own furniture and make jewelry out of metals and wood and plastics and am familiar with electronics and soldering and hard soldering and although at 90 no longer drive a car nor use my pilot’s license I still could if it was necessary but without the convenience of a computer I could never get the things done I can do easily and quickly. Kids are a hell of a lot faster on computers than old farts like myself and although they should spend lots of time fiddling with reality denying computing is like preventing literacy. It’s basic.

    • As I said, Manfred Spitzer’s stance is regarded as extreme by some. But he does have the research backing him up.

      Then again, while all these lovely programs are indeed at the fingertips of kids using a computer, usually the programs sit idle while some or other addictive game is played.

      Even the non-violent games have consequences. MS goes into all that in the interview. The interviewer gives TV as an example: In the 50’s traditionalists were moaning about people watching too much TV, saying that it would make people lazy, violent and fat. Today, if one looks at the trends, indeed the world has got lazier, more violent and fatter since the advent of TV. Actually statistics support the traditionalist predictions. To say that “everyone does it so it must be harmless” is nonsense. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s time, many, many people were on cocaine, it was even given to children. Today we find this a hair-raising thing and wouldn’t dream of it, but back then it was normal and “everyone did it so it had to be harmless”. Humankind is stupid that way.

      Specifically what Spitzer says is the following:

      It’s not so much the content on the media that causes the damage, but the deprivation of real, tactile experience during those same many hours. Remember we’re talking about toddlers and preschoolers, and then in lesser and lesser degrees school children as they advance in age. For adults, a computer is a fantastic tool and most adults use it as a tool, not a toy for games. But the point is, the real, 3D tactile experience-based brain structure is already in place with adults. With a child that does not play enough in real time, this experience never forms. And we get a “grasp” on the world by “handling” things physically, at first.

      He explains this by comparing to a phenomenon in the eye. If a baby has one eye that is a bit weak, often the brain starts blending out the image from that eye as compared to the other eye. As time goes by, if this is not diagnosed, the brain fades out more and more the signals from that eye in favour of the other one. If nothing has been done about this, by age 5 that eye is permanently blind and no intervention can change it. The nerves are all still physically there but their signals have been permanently silenced by the brain. Similarly, if a person doesn’t learn to talk before age 13, they cannot learn it any longer because the pathways for it have been silenced.

      My kids watched (and still watch) their fair share of movies, they play their fair share of games etc; but I do have a moratorium on games and movies during the week. (To get the full effect, substitute “cocaine” every time I say movies, games or electronics.) For my homeschooler, at this point there is a total ban on electronics until next holidays as she has some sort of concentration difficulty which we are now working on remedying, with which the media do interfere. (Media didn’t cause it though. I blame the school system with its dead boring ways for teaching her to switch off in class – it was always too easy for her to catch up). But, I have to add, mostly my kids had to amuse themselves by being inventive without electronic media. They played with actual toys, they romped and climbed and broke things and interacted with each other and plenty of other kids, they role-played and sang and jostled – and they did it all by themselves. Because kids left to their own devices have imagination. The movies and games were just barely enough to stimulate some creative play.

      At some point a well-meaning and loving relative gave my kids handheld little game machines, nintendos, and it was as though their creativity had suddenly been switched off. Until those nintendos disappeared mysteriously…

  4. I wonder if there are differences (effects/affect) between reading an actual paper book and reading from an ipad/kindle?

    As the electronic versions have apparently tried to mimic their paper bound counterparts( I do not have a kindle so can’t offer first hand crit. ) I suspect there is.

    As you probably know I read pretty much every day as do my kids. But they are also on their swipe phones a lot.

    These arguments for and against have been ”raging” for a long time it seems.
    I wonder what the outcome will be in a generation or three?

    • Ark, yes there is. More studies reveal that a 3D, paper book held in your hands and possibly highlighted and scribbled in, is more valuable. We retain that information better because our fingertips touched the paper it was on, so for our brain it has better “reality value”. We learn through our tactile experience of the world, to a large extent.

      Your kids are in their 20’s and past the danger. I take it they played sports and interacted with friends face-to-face as school children, and did some music and some role play and some tactile playing?

      The outcome is already visible. In Korea, there are now laws that switch off children’s smartphones at 12 midnight. This prevents kids from getting a call in the middle of the night, “we’re in World of Warcraft and we’re losing, come reinforce”, and they log in and play from 3am to 5am and wake up knackered the next morning. If parents think they can prevent this:

      What does a sensible parent do between 3am and 5am? And, a generation back, that was my best writing time. They didn’t catch me once. But it wasn’t a whole jolly midnight community of kids keeping each other awake.

  5. Perhaps I go on a bit too long about this, but the creativity in reading is dependent upon the experience of the reader. No writer who describes a scene or a character spends a huge amount of space in detailing what goes on. If it is written that a “tall muscular character riding a pony looks at a village with a dour expression” every element of that is supplied out of each reader’s personal memory to create the picture and it is different for each reader. A child with small experience probably has a small store of visual memories to fill out that vision. Every poetic metaphor presents the same problem. Any computer with Google images can supply what memory cannot. It can build a huge memory base for reading reference and is a valuable storehouse for reading reference.

    • Oh, and MS’s stance re looking things up on Google:

      You need prior knowledge of a topic to know what on Google is rubbish and what is good information. Only someone with prior knowledge can discern this. If Google is your school curriculum, you’ll end up with a random jumble of facts and fantasies. Truth is not a matter of perspective.

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