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Relics From the Past



When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I remember my middle school librarian standing in front of our class with a shiny compact disc pinched between her fingers. "This is the future," she announced. The slim silver circle in her hand held as much information as a whole volume of encyclopedias, she told us. Our minds were all blown. Someone might even have gasped.

If only we had known what was coming.

The way we access information and consume entertainment has changed drastically since today's parents were kids. Thanks to Google, my kids will never stumble upon an interesting factoid unrelated to their search for something else in the World Book Encyclopedia. They'll never know the pleasure of roaming the aisles of Blockbuster Video on a Saturday night. And they'll never spend hours making mixtapes for their BFFs, furiously rewinding and fast-forwarding to get the timing just right.

But all this new technology has also created exciting opportunities. Today's kids can study circuitry in a "maker lab" or fashion a windchime by connecting carrots to a computer. We profile five of these local maker kids in "Tinker Time" (page 20).

Vermont's teens also now have a chance to train for 21st-century careers at some of the state's tech centers. I visited one in Rutland for "Rethinking Tech Ed" (page 24).

But has technology made parenting any easier? Contributing editor Megan James tackles that question in "Parent Trap" (page 26). She talked to tech proponents and detractors, and surveyed Kids VT readers on the subject. The takeaway? Parenting is a challenge no matter how many apps you download.

Sometimes parents just want to turn it all off. Rebecca Zelis of Brandon describes how her family did just that in "Nix the Pixels" (page 51). Her family's "screen-free summer" policy prompted her son to give up his beloved Minecraft.

Our Tech Issue coincides with Vermont Tech Jam, an annual job fair and expo on Friday and Saturday, October 23 and 24, at the Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center in South Burlington. Our sister publication, Seven Days, organizes the event. The job fair part is aimed at adults, but tech-savvy teens are welcome, too. It's a rare chance for them to learn about some of the state's most innovative companies and colleges, to check out local maker resources, and to play Vermont-made video games on mobile devices.

I definitely couldn't have imagined that in middle school.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.