At the recent EdTechTeacher iPad Summit held in Atlanta, Greg Kulowiec asked a simple question:
Is the iPad a solution or problem?
It’s a great question. There are tons of people jumping on the iPad bandwagon and I’ve suggested before that many of them are hopping on with their eyes closed. It’s a shiny tool that attracts a lot of attention. But is all of the attention a good thing? Greg says maybe not:
If the iPad is a solution, then the problems that it can solve in the existing structure, time and space provided by schools are easily solved and will not lead to any substantial change that allows students to demonstrate their understanding through the process of creating content.
If we view the iPad as a problem, it will force us to consider the changes that may need to be made in order to unleash the full potential of this device when placed in the hands of students. This is a good problem, one that will have us rethink learning spaces and the environments in which our students grow and learn.
Think this through a bit. Are we using the iPad as a jet engine on a stagecoach? We often see “school” in a certain way. It looks like this. Teachers do this. Kids do this. It happens at these place and times. And we try and fit new technology like iPads into that world view.
We see the iPad as a solution to traditional sorts of education problems. We try to use them like little portable computers. We worry about printing. We lock down access to certain apps and information. We don’t provide emails to kids. We block server ports that allow the iPad to talk with iPads and devices. We limit who can install apps and when they can install them.
And we end up using the tool in a way that’s not good for kids. We need to see the iPad as a problem that forces us to re-think how we view school.
If you agree with this sort of thinking, and it does make sense to me, then it’s not just iPads that are the problem. It’s all kinds of disruptive ideas. It’s the new Kansas social studies standards that focus on process rather than just content. It’s the new national social studies framework. It’s research-based practices that we know are good for kids but we don’t use because the system limits their effectiveness.
Technology doesn’t magically change teacher’s practice. You can have students use iPads in much the same way that they once used slate boards. But what new technologies like tablets or laptops can do is open new avenues for conversation. In schools where every child has a portable, multimedia creation device, what can we do differently? What is possible now that wasn’t possible before?
This should lead to some interesting conversations about how iPads can best be used in our social studies classrooms.
as a way to organize social studies instruction. We provide an authentic problem for kids to solve. Kids collect information that addresses the problem. They work together to create a solution to the problem and communicate the solution to others outside the classroom.
More and more mobile tools are being created that can support this sort of instruction. And Greg’s right. It’s a problem. A problem that can push us to change how we do school.