Do you ever stop and take the time to think about school? I am sure that you reflect on your school experiences, and also discuss the best options for your child, but do you ever REALLY think about school?
Do you think about how silly the concept is? You know the concept, the one that tells you, that as your child’s teacher, I have all the information that your child should know. That I can magically sit your child in a desk all day, roll in on my rolling chair, heroically fill them with knowledge, and send them home to you each afternoon, a little brighter than when you delivered them to me.
The good news is that you do not have to think about how silly this model of school is, because we already have.
I recently had the privilege of attending the iPad Summit in Atlanta. This is a two-day conference put on by EdTechTeacher. The term iPad Summit is a little misleading because, thankfully, it is so much more than just a talk about iPads and the newest apps. Educators from across the country come to hear, present, and celebrate an educational transformation.
The conference center was filled with educators discussing why school needs to change.
So often we focus on how. How do I make my students do well on tests? How will my interactive board help my students learn? How do we get iPads in the hands of every student?
What most impressed me about his conference was that we were finally talking about the why. Why has the classroom been centered around the teacher, rather than the students? Why do schools need to change in order to prepare students for the future? Why do we need technology to enhance our students’ educational experience?
One of the most thought-provoking statements that I heard at this particular conference came from Justin Reich, co-founder of EdTechTeacher. He stood before a room of educators and proclaimed, “If iPads are the answer, what was the question?”
As teachers, we do not want our students to have iPads because we think they are going to somehow magically transform what is going on in the classroom. We are already transforming the classroom. Teachers are no longer “teachers” in the way that we have viewed them for so long. We are facilitators, moderators, individuals, who challenge your child to think and grow beyond themselves.
iPads are not going to change the way we teach. They are not going to transform education forever. Years from now, the newest invention will swoop in and claim to do that. We are not going to have your child stare mindlessly at an iPad screen for eight hours. We are not going to put your child on an app and hope that he or she learns something.
We really have the potential here to use these tools in the service of learning. We want iPads to be tools for enhancing the teaching practices that are already going on at Randolph.
Instead of viewing the iPad as a gaming system or a solution to paper and textbook costs, let’s start thinking about it differently. Let’s think about it in conjunction with this 21st century classroom we are working so hard to build.
In this classroom, asking the right question is just as important as finding the right answer. Walking down the halls of Randolph, it is clear that students are collaborating, not just memorizing facts, but learning to be team-players, leaders, and problem-solvers. We are embracing your child’s natural curiosity, in the hope that he or she will be prepared for jobs of the future and make an impact on our community, nation, and world.
So why do iPads fit into this 21st century classroom?
I believe iPads belong in the classroom only if you are using them in a way that makes the previously unattainable possible. Substituting an iPad for a textbook would not be an example of this. I will let you in on a secret: putting a textbook on an iPad does not make students any more eager to read them. Shocking, right?
But, what if our students used the iPads to connect with other students across the globe? What if they worked collaboratively on a common writing project? They could research and share their findings through blogs and Skype. Then they could publish their project into iBook and share it with the world. Doesn’t working globally to publish your own textbook sound a bit more inspiring?
It is thinking about projects like this that make me realize there has never been a more exciting time to be an educator. We are on the forefront of an educational frontier, and we have the ability to use digital resources to enrich our already phenomenal program.
Will your child be qualified to advance in our competitive world? Years from now, will their reflection of school differ from yours? Will they learn the importance of answering why in addition to how? Will they become creative, problem-solvers who make a global impact? These are the questions that lead me to ask: Why not iPads?