Explorations in Storytelling

On Writing

Writing about writing

iPad you

The new Underwood Keyboard App

I love my iPad. Though I am not sure why.

Typing is a pain for my fat fingers and because there is no tactile response, I can't quite get the hang of it. I type much more slowly. And the $45 keyboard accessories are a pain, particularly on the bus.

There is no file system. Everything I create is buried in some app and is a struggle to get out to edit or post somewhere. I don't even have a way to get it into a flash drive. So I send it to my email address. How 20th century.

And Flash doesn't work. What's up with that? I know Steve Jobs didn't like Adobe, and, true, the program is a bear, but note to Apple: You are rendering 25 percent of the functionality of the web useless.

So iPads are cool, but they make things that used to be simple much more difficult.

So that must be why schools are buying them so enthusiastically. Oh, no, it is because they are great for the classroom. Really? Since when? Since three years ago when they first came out? Newsflash: No one really knows how iPads enhance the education process. And when they do figure it out, will iPads be the technology of the day?

I see a lot of schools lining up to buy these things. Many of these schools haven't even mastered using laptops. Or desktops. Or the Internet. Or, even, digital classrooms, and, no, Google Apps is not what I mean when I say digital classrooms.

Most schools that we see don't have and haven't had and won't have any time soon enough computers for students to use regularly. Nor do they provide adequate support and professional development for teachers to use technology in effective ways. And most schools lack enough support people to help the teachers and students use the few computers they have. For education.

My opinion: iPads may be the worst education investment since the smart board. Really.

My suggestions?

  • Buy some older MacBooks. They work great, hold up, don't collect viruses and are relatively cheap. Get two years out of them and recycle.
  • Analyze what you actually want your students to learn from and do with digital technology in your school.
  • Create real digital classrooms (again, Google apps don't cut it for easy student interaction) for each teacher to use to extend the classroom and foster easy peer-to-peer learning. This works. We know.
  • Get some good ongoing professional development on how to use technology effectively for teachers and get the kids involved in these sessions.
  • Focus on ideas not outcomes and forms and assessments. Get kids engaged in their own ideas and help them develop those ideas. Magic will happen. And, surprise, performance will improve. I will bet my first-born on that one.
  • When you master all that, get an iPad, or the latest, greatest, newest tool. Because they are fun. And by then you'll know how to use them.