Of all of the developments throughout history, the Internet-enabled mobile device has had the greatest opportunity for impact on the educational system. At one time information was in libraries or in schools in the form of books or in the minds of teachers. Students went to libraries or schools to learn new information.
Now the world’s information is everywhere in everyone’s pocket. I remember in high school math class the teacher would not let us use a calculator. For some mysterious reason we were allowed to use a slide rule. (Shows you how old I am). “You’re not going to carry a calculator with you wherever you go”, was the comment we got from our math teacher.
Not only do I have a calculator with me at all times, it can convert units of currency and measurement, point me to North, level a table, organize me, replace my camera, help me when I am lost, tell me the time, record my voice, let me practice a musical instrument, paint or draw a picture, play my entire library of music, create a video, show video, give me my news, store my reading library, and teach me anything I want to know.
If a student had access to all the information the Internet contains in their pocket, and a tool that could do all of the above and more, how would teaching be different? In some cases we have brush-fires of innovative teachers exploring different approaches to teaching. We need to fan the flames of these brush-fires and help them to grow into full blown wildfires.
There are parents and teachers that believe we are over emphasizing technology with our students. They fear that students will lose cursive writing, spelling, and grammar. I think we need to hold on to some things from our past, but we need to let go of others. Do I see a future where our students will need to know how to spell and use grammar correctly? YES! Do I see a future where cursive writing will be important? I am not so sure.
The creative, high-level thinking jobs of the future will all require computer skills. In the near future, everything will be digital. We need to prepare our students for the world of today and tomorrow, not yesterday. Check out this blog posting by Scott McLeod to see more details on this topic. His last point is interesting. See below:
[School board member], you say that putting technology into the hands of all students is ‘not the way to go.’ Which students get to use technology, then? Which students get to be prepared for the world as it is and will be (and which ones don’t)? Which students are you going to intentionally disadvantage by hobbling their college and career readiness by removing technology from their hands? -Scott McLeod
I am often asked what apps are best for education. I promote creation apps over consumption apps. Consumption apps are generally drill and practice. There is a place for drill and practice on the iPad or any tablet, but I don’t believe it should be the only use. These devices should be used for creating material much more than they should be used for drill and practice, even at early years. Check out this blog for ideas from Ms Lirenman, a Grade 1 teacher and how she uses creation tools in her classroom.