I recognize the fact that the title of this post is bizarre. I'm begging you to stick with me on this one. Trust me.
I read this quote from an unknown author on Twitter that really stuck with me, especially considering all the articles I've been reading lately about technology used in the classroom.
"No one who ever bought a drill wanted a drill. They wanted a hole. It's the task that matters."
I've been planning to blog about how we use iPods and iPads in my classroom, and this quote seems to be a great starting point.
A lot of technology in schools articles that I've read have focused on the idea that while technology is good, simply "having" technology in the classrooms doesn't make a classroom, or a teacher for that matter, great.
Case in point: I have 4 iPads and 6 iPods* in my classroom. That does NOT make me a better teacher.
However, the way I use those devices might make me a better teacher.
If I had to take the drill quote and put my own educational spin on it, it might sound something like this:
"No teacher who ever bought an iPad just wanted an iPad. She wanted an engaged learner. It's the student that matters."
My fellow nerdy teacher-blogger wrote about how she uses her iPad and iPods in her classroom. Read about it here. I use my devices in exactly the same way. My favorite way is for students to use Edmodo to complete paperless assignments and to blog on our Kidblog site. Even on a smaller iPod, the students can do some amazing thinking and writing on their blogs! They continue to impress and amaze me.
Having 10 mobile devices, several desktop computers, and two laptops in my classroom means that I can have more students reading online articles, researching, and writing about their learning at one time. Students, through their blogs and Edmodo posts, can respond to each other and create a learning community together. Those tasks make their learning more meaningful. Those tasks lead to higher student engagement. Those tasks lead to students crying foul when you tell them it's time to put down their work and line up for P.E.
Interestingly, I just read a Tweet from one of the folks I follow on Twitter. He says, "The purpose of education is to learn to think for yourself. No piece of technology will or should ever change that." @sjunkins
I agree. The true purpose of education is not to just give out facts that anybody can Google. The true purpose of education is to learn how to find things, why to find them, and what to do with that knowledge once you have it. That's why creating a community of learners is so important. Students need to take the facts they learn, process them to find why they are meaningful, and share that knowledge and insight with others.
So yes, my students are blessed with lots of mobile technology in the classroom. That's not the be-all, end-all, however. The technology is not the destination, it's simply the vehicle for traveling on their educational journey. Those iPods and iPads help them reach their goals of learning and sharing with one another. Those devices are just that - devices. Plastic and metal. Little parts with a pretty, glossy cover.
But those devices lead to the greatest gift any teacher can ask for - a truly motivated and engaged learner.
So here's my advice to anyone who's recently gotten iPads or iPods for classroom use: don't worry about adding lots of apps and games at first. Use it to encourage authentic learning in your classroom. Set up a free Kidblog or Edmodo account. Let students write, research, and share. Let us know if you have any questions about setting these sites up - we love them, and we also love to share!
*Want to know how I got all those iPods and iPads?
1 iPad issued by school to my classroom
3 iPod Touches issued by school to my classroom
3 iPod Touches borrowed from teaching partner :)
1 personal iPad from home, a Christmas gift from the hubby
1 iPad bought with PTA funds (an accumulation over a year and a half plus fundraising $)
1 iPad donated by the hubby when he bought a new iPad for himself