Today I’m asking a question. Well, more of a hypothetical really. Teachers and parents often ask me what the ‘right’ choice is for their kids technology use. There’s no one answer of course. But I usually ask them to think about the ‘what if….’ Usually this helps clarify what they want technology to do for their kids and what it might help in turns of learning… Here’s a ‘what if’ I’ve talked with a number of schools about lately…
What if you gave every student in your school an iPad…
What if someone (with lots of money!) decided to give every child in a school an iPad – what would that mean for the kids? And their learning? The teachers? And the school? Would it be all sunshine and happiness? If your kid’s school or Kindergarten is thinking about iPads, this might help with those decisions – feel free to share :0)
Our kids learn how to use these tools really quickly. It means they get passed the infatuation (!) stage early on. They won’t spend a week learning how to type ‘control + alt + delete’ (as the have to on a desktop computer). They won’t have to navigate between the keyboard, mouse and screen – not as easy as it sounds when you’re only in Prep (5 year old). Less learning the tool, means more time learning content and practicing skills. Win.
The iPads wouldn’t take up as much space. Honestly, this is a real consideration in classrooms. Numbers in classes aren’t reducing in many schools. They are going up. Giving over a third of the room to a bank of desktops or a large laptop charging station is a big ask. iPads can sit on the children’s’ tables and be charged at home. Easy. More room for group work, learning games, teacher focus groups…
Big kids and little kids can all learn on iPads. Not just for rote learning apps (not a big fan of those anyway – learn why here) but for projects online, sharing work with friends, family, teachers, peers – outsiders too. Its hard to complete a joint task on a desktop or laptop. There’s always one person sitting in front of it, constrained by chairs and tables. Mobile devices remove these challenges. Work anywhere, with different people, indoors, outdoors, in art class, in the sports hall. Learning leaves the desktop and moves in to the real world.
And – working with others is key to helping our kids be ready for the big, wide world. Not many jobs these days advertise for ‘loners, no sharing or joint decision making required‘ !
Our kids could also use the iPad to learn to be cyber-smart citizens. The best way to teach cyber-safety is NOT in the abstract. Telling kids not to give out their address online is one thing. Walking them through signing up for something online and having them NOT enter their address is another. An iPad for every child would mean that teachers and parents would have real, ongoing examples of how to behave (or not) online. Supervised use when kids are younger might mean that they have experiences to draw on when they are older and in the online world alone.
However, the best benefit I can foresee is that every child would be able to have their own, personalised, learning experience. They will work with teachers to set their own learning goals, maybe guided by the curriculum, maybe by their interests – hopefully by both. Our kids could be more involved with, and aware of their own learning
Our kids would be able to ask deeper questions that were personal and important to them. They could learn how to answer them too.They could learn the difference between Google-able and Non-Googleable questions – so important for deeper understanding. (If you can just Google the answer – it’s not a good question. So, why is the sky blue, we can Google. How do we see the blue in the sky is a more in-depth question that will require some investigation).
We could involve parents more in their kids school life and education. Not more work for parents (we all have enough of that). But maybe a better understanding of how to work with our kids, how much to support them, what it’s important to teach and what it might be important to learn by themselves. iPads let kids take work home, or email to mum or dad. iPads are a great link for parents and teachers too. Homework becomes a three-way activity (kids, parents, teacher), with the info, learning, assessment stored on, and shared via, the iPad.
Of course, that’s a lovely rosy picture I’ve just painted. There would be challenges of course.
- Infrastructure. Boring old cabling and wiring. Lots of cash needed for many schools to upgrade their set up to cater. More money on this means less on other things.
- Cyber-safety, at the beginning of a program like this is fairly intense. You have to teach and model skills all the time. Every use of an iPad is a potential cyber-safety concern. We’d need time to help teachers to learn these skills and to prioritise this over other things.
- More tech support would be needed. When an iPad breaks, it is either a quick reset to fix it or it’s a trip to the Apple store. There aren’t many in-between situations. In schools, particularly primary schools, we’d need more immediate technical support to keep iPads up and running. And the school wireless Internet network too. Good news is that iPads, in my experience, need very little maintenance. If you are sending the iPads home with kids and the families are managing the software and the apps then it’s even simpler…
- Money. Of course this is expensive. That’s why it’s a ‘what if…’ but for some families and schools, this big picture dreaming is what they need to get them on the path towards this… How to finance a whole school iPad program is always going to be a hurdle though.
What if we gave every kid in a school an iPad? Well, from my experience and reading we’d see more personalised, relevant, 21st century learning.
And maybe (ok probably) more excited kids in our classrooms learning more about their world in their own way. Guided by teachers, learning and sharing with their classmates. Focusing on what they need to know to be prepared for 21st century life.
Sounds good, huh? Now all we need is to find that elusive anonymous donor….. ;0)
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