I read a blog today on Mindshift about what students think about using ipads in school. I skipped through the positive comments pretty quickly. After all, I am a big fan on using digital technologies for learning and I pretty much have all the positive things in my heart.
But then the last comment (voice and text) on the page was from a student, Anthony Mainiero, who says there are disadvantages, like when there are glitches. And there are times when the pen and paper would work just as well than the $US600 device that the school gave him. This is so true! For those of you who are familiar with the SAMR model, you will no doubt immediately realise that the learning in this instance is at the S or substitution level. As one of my colleagues would say - "ipads are very expensive pen and papers".
But Anthony had more to say. He talked about the fact that they did less field trips at school now. This is another very valid point. Are schools relying on the technology to connect them to experiences that would take hours of paperwork to prepare for? There are all the things that can go wrong on a field trip. And you are responsible for getting all the little (or big) darlings back to their mamas and papas. Far too easy just to do a virtual field trip and there are many good ones around. Learnz in New Zealand provide a fabulous range of virtual field trips for students, backed up with awesome resources, prior learning and next steps and so on. You can visit Art Galleries, World Wonders and Online Exhibitions using the Google Cultural Institute site or even explore space and our planets using Google Sky.
Still, I don't blame Anthony for wanting the school to make learning more fun by having more field trips. I will always remember that class trip to W(h)anganui (the spelling changed to the correct Maori version from when I went to school), where we climbed the Durie Hill Tower, the Water Tower, visited the underwear factory, and I rode on a town bus to school for the first time from my billet host home. All the sights and sounds of the city were pretty exciting to me and they became etched in my memory from first hand experience.
I also know that my own students will remember forever the 8 day trip a colleague and I took them on a trip to Fiji. It was an awesome experience for them sit in open motorised canoes, travelling inland up the river to a remote school and to suddenly feel utterly privileged to be from Ohakune, Waiouru and Raetihi, where they had books, pens and beautiful classrooms. But I digress. These field trips were once in a school lifetime experience. They were not the normal classroom activities and will continue to be the special events that teachers selflessly craft for their students. School camps will not fade into oblivion, nor will trips to the swimming pool, or on a bus to the marae, or local farm.
The technology, on the other hand should be seamlessly integrated tool for learning that students use as second nature, just as they once used the pen and paper. The learning will need to be a bit more relevant for the students though. If Anthony's teacher knows her/his stuff, she/he will be using it to enable the students to cross barriers that have never been crossed before. Teaching and learning will be collaborative, connected and students will be confident learners.
I recently heard a teacher bemoaning the fact that kids just dont remember stuff any more. Well guess what? They don't need to any more. They can google almost any bit of knowledge they want to if they have the skills. That is what they need to learn - skills and attitudes and dispositions that allow them to LEARN.
The students will know themselves well, their strengths and weaknesses and what they have to work on. They will be creating their own personalised learning journeys, and learning to learn as they go. They will have choice, decisions to make about which way to go and what goals to reach. They will be making stuff and communicating with others about what they have made. They will be taking photos and making slide shows and videos and voice recordings of the events in their lives and have permanent records of the awesome times they spent in their school years.
I hope Anthony does not give up hope. I hope he can teach his teacher about what matters to him, what is going to hook him into his own learning journey and develop into the best human being he possibly can be. And most of all, what digital technologies will help him on that journey.