25 August 2013

iPADS: More Dangerous Than You Think

That's the joke I have been telling this past week as I limped around campus with my cane. I broke a bone in my foot during a 1-1 iPad planning meeting in July. But having completed our faculty training sessions this week in preparation for the arrival of the students on Monday, I am starting to believe it. I facilitated three workshop sessions on Evernote for my colleagues. I am not sure who learned more--my "students" or me.
The iPad IS dangerous, dangerous for anyone who thinks it is only a small laptop, or just for games, or a luxury toy. Those who belittle or it or dismiss TOUCH as a gimmick find themselves looking around, left out in less than 5 minutes in the classroom, boardroom or family room. We have forgotten that a powerful tool can be fun. And fun it was last week. Here are the lessons this facilitator took home after 4 hours with her colleagues:

1. Always have Plan B, Plan C and maybe even Plan D ready when technology is on the agenda. I only had Plan B for the first session. Lesson learned for the next two. I even used Plan D for one of the sessions. Anticipating what will go wrong is your best strategy. Did you read that right? Yes, I failed at my first workshop. The school wifi did not help, but I could have done better. It is OK. That "learning is messy" meme? All true.

2. Touch Screens are the great equalizer. Every special ed teacher in the workshops had a smile on her face within 10 minutes. An auditory learner, someone who cannot wield a pencil, or a kid with severe ADHD is just as entranced as anyone with the iPad, and has convenient tools easily available to limit the gap between how they work and how everyone else does. Suddenly they are not so different anymore. This one gives me happy chills for the future of all our kids.

3. Interacting with the screen changes the way you interact with the text, problem or graph that you are studying. At the simplest level, you can touch a word and see the definition. At a more analytical level, creating a web clip in Evernote involves critical thinking and decision making that I struggle to teach when we are just googling in class. Students don't have to think about the process: no more formatting index cards to create a standardized pack of pieces of info for research. Instead, students can concentrate on making judgments about the info they find, right as they find it.

4. The teacher no longer has to be the purveyor of all knowledge. Collaborative learning is de rigueur with an iPad. Every question "how do I..." was answered with what I already knew, and then with a second option too. In the case of Evernote, the ancillary apps are so well designed that I never  introduced them--someone asked and there it was (Skitch, Penultimate, Peek to start). And when I did not know, I opened it up to the group, and someone figured it out within minutes.

There is more, much more, but these few items confirmed my instincts when I first opened my iPad two years ago. EVERYTHING we do can change to fit what our children will need in their personal toolboxes when they "go west, young people." And technology is no longer the tool we use. Technology, in the form of the iPad, makes teachers model learning to fit the needs and dreams of your kids.

I cannot wait for school to begin.

No comments: