January 13, 2011

History repeating itself?

Once in the fourth grade, the librarian stopped my mother and I in the hall at dismissal. Apparently, my comments in class about my use of the computer had her quite upset. She told my mother that the electromagnetic waves were killing my brain cells and that I was going to get sick or die. She proceeded to tell her that the computer is just a phase and that I should not be wasting my time on such frivolous nonsense.

My mother listened to her and chose her words carefully. She said, if the computer was hurting my brain, then maybe she should also get rid of my microwave. She then proceeded to tell the librarian, that she would be back in 10 years to have this conversation again, and that she was positive, the librarian would then owe her an apology.

Of course, two years, the librarian had a computer lab in her room and while she never apologized to my mother, she never had the courage to speak to her again.

That said, my comments in this post, stem from the blog comment regarding pencils and paper over technology. It is easy for someone who has spent her life in and around technology to say, “ipads.” But I don’t necessarily think the answer is just that simple, nor did my mother. It was not that my mother did not take away our paper and pencils. On the contrary, we had to fight for the right to use the computer. What my parents did do however was expose us to what they correctly figured out was the way of the future. Thanks to this push, I was able to set myself apart from others and had the skills necessary to easily step into the open market when it was time for me to find a job.

So why shouldn’t we expose our own students to the technology that, I do believe is going to be the wave of the future. It’s hard for me to not believe that in five years it will be the norm in college to have a tablet where professors are reading off a textbook on the smart board while students are either following along in their own digital version or taking notes with their stylus. As a publishing company it must be cheaper to offer the copy of a text book digitally rather than in paper form. The profit margin is increased because the overhead is almost completely gone. If I consider how long it takes for something to really become mainstream, then in my opinion, our middle schoolers will be going to college when tablets are a regular aspect of everyday life. Shouldn’t we be exposing them and helping them develop the skills now so they are ready for the technology that they will be expected to use.

Now, some would say that we were fortunate enough to have the money to afford such valuable resources at a time when very few people could afford a bigger television, let alone a computer. I know what my parents gave up for that computer and it was more than most would consider. But at the time, that was what our family needed for my father to make advances in his career and my parents to ensure that my sister and I had the opportunity to become fluent with the technology that was slowly beginning to be part of the everyday norm. Which in many respects is why, my two children at the ages of 5 and 2 have their own ipads. Now I am sure many people will think that the decision to give children so young an ipad is crazy, overkill, careless, etc. However, I can say that I have a 2 year old that is able to trace most of the alphabet with her finger much like kindergartens learn how to do when they are beginning to write and a five year old that spelling better than she ever has, emerging as a reader and is able to show me through various app’s like brain pop what she did in school with her teacher so we can spend time talking about it in engaging conversations. So how can I as an educator, who is exposing her own children to the technology, not want to do the same for the students I teach?

That said, I go back to the ultimate question – are ipads better then paper or pencil? I don’t believe they are better. I do believe that all students need to learn how to write. My own children included, who do spend as much of their work time with paper and pencil as they do with technology. I do however believe that the ability to use an ipad in the classroom and the working world is a skill that is going to be expected of them as much like being able to write with paper and pencil.

1 comment:

  1. Ms. Crowley, I recently interviewed Michael Little for a book I'm writing on "Best Practices" for use of iPads and other mobile devices in middle schools. I've enjoyed reading your posts and, with your permission, would love to paraphrase the story you shared about your mother's interaction with a school librarian when you are in the fourth grade. The book is for the International Society for Technology in Education which as of 20,000 members worldwide. http://www.iste.org/ -- You can read more about my background here: http://edmadison.com -- and e-mail me at madison2@uoregon.edu