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Dumbing Us Down

“Just when we thought it was safe to go….”

Funny isn’t it, but in 2010, AALF and the State of Maine hosted a Summit at Point Lookout in that state, which in many ways was a celebration for how far we had all come. No longer did we have to spend endless workshop days or keynotes building the compelling case for ubiquitous access; no longer did we need to be wary of the detractors and naysayers who were pushing back to the legacy of past education practices..and no longer was it necessary to argue that what we stood for was not ubiquitous access to technology, but rather what it now made possible...or so we thought.

...then along came the iPad...and we hit a wall.

Funnily enough, it’s not the ‘device’ that is the problem…or what it makes possible…but rather what it does NOT make possible that is the real worry; and of more concern, the manner in which it has seemed to fill a void for those people who have always wanted to believe that incrementalism is the real platform that technology should enable.

Incrementalism in taking us back to some of the saddest examples of ‘educational applications’ from the computer-managed learning (CML) days of the ‘80’s; incrementalism which simply allows kids to continue to do the things they have always done, but a little better, through their \'judicious\' use of their iPads...and incrementalism which means rather than being disruptive, they can be accommodated within a traditional school environment.

Is this really the best we can do? Is this really what we have been working for these past few decades?

Not for mine.

You see what really fired me up for these few words were conversations I heard on several occasions at two recent US conferences.
They usually started with something like...

\"We now a policy where every child has an iPad\"

Why?...What for?... I thought that 20 or 30 years ago we all agreed that we first needed to be clear on what we wanted our students to DO with a computer, and what software that would require, BEFORE we selected the hardware...or has that now changed, just because iPads are so cool, cheap (sic) and start-up quickly?

This was sadly reinforced when I was recently at a forum of some of America\\\'s top Math teachers, many of who had iPads, and at the start, the forum leader said:

\"Name the Math software that your students have previously been using that they can no longer use on their iPads\"

\"Fathom, MathType, GeoGebra,\" the list just went on.

So my question is obvious...

WHY, then oh why, did they have their students buy them? The one standout Math application, FluidMath they came up with that could be used on an iPad, required the use of a pen, which of course is ironical, because Steve Jobs swore they should NEVER be used with iPads (but of course are now made by 3rd party manufacturers).

To quote Gary Stager, who together with Sylvia Martinez is taking the opposite tack and reigniting teachers and kids’ enthusiasm for serious learning around powerful ideas with their ‘Maker Bible’, Invent to Learn (www.inventtolearn.com)...

\"Apps do simple things reliably. Learning requires more complexity, flexibility and room to grow. iPads are a tool of compliance, not a tool of empowerment\"

Don’t misunderstand me, iPads are great technology, when used fit for purpose. But I really do wonder…is our long lamented, but continuing fascination with shiny new objects still getting in the way of commonsense?

We should expect more. Not just from our kids, but also from ourselves.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.
July 30th, 2013 @ 1:27PM

Brilliant thoughts Bruce
Your statement about \"Incrementalism\" got me re-evaluating my thoughts. Doing the easy thing rarely equates to doing the right or best thing. It still frightens me how many times we allow ourselves do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.
The investment it takes in radically improving our Instructional practices is so small as it relates to the spend on Curriculum, Apps and Technology, but requires Vision, Planning, Commitment, Hard Roll-up your sleeves work at times, as well as strong buy-in from the entire School community. This most important work is not always just a cool app, shiny device or exciting video and re-inventing our Instructional practice is why the \"Doing the Right Thing\" is so critical.
Posted By: Mike Belcher on August 21st, 2013 @ 11:40AM