April 11, 2013

Greg Kulowiec’s Keynote: What is the Answer with iPads? – From Jen Carey
Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

What is the Answer with iPads? from Greg Kulowiec

400px-Djhero_playedHow does iPad support teaching and learning? How do they give students a voice? How do they get children to focus on things that matter? Greg starts out his talk by telling us about his days as a DJ. The “menial task of carrying turn tables and vinyl records in milk crates” occupied his pre-teaching years. Just as the 21st century has redesigned the life and tools of a DJ, the internet, and specifically mobile technology, has revolutionized education and the life of a teacher making skills of only a few years ago are now useless (albeit they can be nostalgic). We live in a world where we do the same thing (listen to and mix music), but we use different skills to get there. Using iPad is still creation but through a different medium. Creativity does not need to look the way it did twenty years ago. Greg argues that just because technology makes some things easier, that does not make the process less creative. In fact, the technology works to remove hurdles so that individuals can exercise creativity. Still, we need to look at how we are using iPads. Are we using them in new and innovative ways, or are we simply plugging them into the same old same old? Greg takes a quick poll of the audience, asking to what extent iPad is being used to its potential in education. The general consensus was that iPads were being severely under utilized in our educational institutions. He seems genuinely surprised by our pessimism.
“The idea of school in many of its features is so deeply ingrained in people’s thinking that when they look at technology to discuss it in relation to computers, they see it in a particular and very narrow way dominated by the nature of school as they’ve known it.” – Seymour Papert
We have a concept as educators, parents, and former students about “school” that is very narrow. We think we understand “school,” and so we view technology through that lens. So the question becomes, is iPad helping us to do new things or are we simply strapping a jet engine to a stagecoach? Right now the trend in education is control. iPad is designed to allow sharing online, collaboration, and expansion. However, we are currently stripping it of its features and abilities to fit into the mold of the classroom. Does this make it a solution or a problem in education? By strapping new technology onto antiquated systems, do we create more problems or are we finding new solutions? If we are going to view iPad as a solution, then we are using it the wrong way. We are placing it on top of an existing structure, but largely ignoring the forest for the trees.  If we view it as a problem due to the conflict that it produces with what is going on in our schools, then we need to examine what it is that we are actually doing in our schools. One of the key issues that we have in academia with technology is one of academic integrity. The ability to readily access information has teachers and administrators scrambling on how to address its use. Leaving out “copy and paste,” when do we view collaboration as cheating? When do we see “looking something up” as a problem? Students can now find the answer instantly, so should we hide this content from our students? Is that the solution? Perhaps we should instead show them appropriate ways to use the tools and to demonstrate their understanding.
“Technology doesn’t magically change teacher’s practice. You can have students use iPads in much the same way that they once used slate boards. But what new technologies like tablets or laptops can do is open new avenues for conversation. In schools where every child has a portable, multimedia creation device, what can we do differently? What is possible now that wasn’t possible before?” – Justin Reich
We should be examining: “What are we asking? Who is asking? Who is the audience?” We need to get the content off of our devices and to a broader audience. Let students know that there are eyes on their work that aren’t just our own. It’s time to come back and think about this issue: is iPad just a fancy device that we’re throwing into the existing structure or is it creating a new environment?
“Maybe the force for change that will really be effective in the end is the kids who have had something better at home won’t stand school as it is anymore. Kid power will force school to change or go out of existence.” – Seymour Papert

Students can access content and material now on the web easily and quickly. How do we make the time that they spend with us, as educators, into valuable and meaningful experiences? For example, take a look at The Independent Project.

Students are certainly capable of developing and driving their own education. What we need to do as educators is to use these devices to make our classes more meaningful and to allow students to access and explore their passions. We need to condense what we’re doing on iPads and focus on them as creative devices. We don’t need to be on App overload. It’s about what we can create with our devices, not the device itself. You can view Greg’s presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site. Greg will also be leading sessions at the 1:1 & Mobile Learning Summit in June as well as during our Summer Workshops.