Throughout this past semester, I tried, (often in vain), to create bridges for myself. Being accustomed to working with a computer and having students likewise work on their laptops, I had the urgent need to hold on to what I knew – digital tools which would enable learners to express themselves more creatively, digital tools which would add value to their learning of digital literacies. Above all, the use of online tools and activities which would engage learners in their learning process.
With the iPad, I was often left in despair – any site or task which demanded flash, would not work on the iPad. Activities done with Glogster, for example, had to be left to the time slot in the computer lab as students complained how the iPad screen was too small for them to comfortably create digital posters. The world of iPadology had become a jungle with too many apps and too little effective outcomes.
1 – With so much focus on technology, where was the focus on teaching? Where was the focus on learning – other than with games which didn’t really develop deep learning? Was higher education going to be finally turned into one enormous nursery room in the name of Apps?
2 – Wasn’t the role of the teacher to actually teach? With the increase of administrative loadings, assessment, teachers today are also expected to create iBooks and design other pedagogical materials with new digital devices – yet the discourse most commonly encountered is how it is important to let students themselves develop materials. I find this clash of discourse and expectations an added burden to teachers, who are already juggling so many extra tasks. Where exactly lies the balance?
In between digital devices, digital tools, digital beliefs, I found myself questioning. Digital technology is not a replacement of teaching. Teaching involves much more than the use of digital tools.
In regard to my first question, having students accept that their iPad was more than a trendy device to edit images, took time. They had to learn how to use a particular set of Apps, such as Edmodo, Popplet and others. Their learning had to include coming to class with their iPad charged, updating Apps and other necessities which working with iPads demands. As in many other learning processes, the first step was one of new habits and new attitudes to responsibility.
Personally, I had to adapt as well. I had to now consider learning tasks which the iPad would allow. There are many Apps which I could recommend, but this is not the place. However, one example springs to mind: Haiku. Besides Keynotes, Haiku has become a favourite among my students; without their direct awareness, Haiku requires that the presenter speaks to the audience while showing images; for me, this was note-worthy progress from deadening presentations filled with bullet points which were merely read. I mention this example as a very positive outcome from using Apps for presentations in class. There are other Apps, such as Word Mover, which engaged my students with language and which, after having created their poems, we sat on the floor and listened to each poem with smiles of understanding.
Would my students have achieved the same outcomes without the Apps mentioned above?
In fact, digital technology requires good pedagogy, for without sound pedagogy coming first and foremost, a lot of digital practices found online will fall into rote learning which was done on paper not so long ago. For me, using digital technology in the classroom is exciting and a pleasure – as long as it can inspire learners to create, organize their thinking, enable them to learn and practice skills which will be useful in the workplace.
Philey, (2012) points out that:
“We like to say that teaching has changed, but I’d like to argue that it hasn’t. Teachers still have the same major tasks today as they did before the Internet. Two hundred years ago, teachers still:
Collaborated with students and other staff
Communicated with students and parents
Found and shared resources
Managed student behavior
Delivered direct content
Built rich, performance-based assessments”
This happened before digital technology played such a major role in classrooms and it still does today. However, with the digital tools available today, many of the processes have changed. DropBox and LiveBinders, for instance, become resources which can be shared and accessed anytime, anywhere. Yet the fundamentals of good teaching are still ingrained in these practices. Even in classrooms where iPads are being used, there needs to be consistency in pedagogic practices for every context.
In every new paradigm shift, there is bound to be elements of chaos. Kathy Shcrock’s (2012) visual of how Bloom’s taxonomy is put into practice today, reflects how Apps may be used, and possibly what an iPad classroom may look like:
It is in the inter-action of the above wheels, in the how and why that chaos may seem to be integral to iPadology. Apps offer much more than games; as one can see above, the creativity wheel is practically central to iPadology – and creativity also implies problem solving and critical thinking.
As for my second question regarding the role of teachers: as in other contexts without iPads, a teacher plays out a number of roles in the classroom. Within an iPadology, it appears to me, that one of the central tasks is to have learners create learning materials. This implies that tasks are appropriate for the level and goals students need to achieve. There are marked differences between learning at primary, secondary and higher education, each having its own set of goals and outcomes. Is the educator now going to teach tech or the subject matter at hand?
Can balance be achieved within chaos?
Schrock, K., 2012, Bloomin’ Apps, Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything
Piley, A., 2012, Let’s Stop Talking About Teaching with Tech