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June 9, 2014

The Invisible iPad: Ready, Set, Goals! – Guest Post from Michael Cohen
We are honored to be able to run this guest post from EdTechTeacher Summit presenter, Michael Cohen (@TheTechRabbi).

Do you remember your first plane ride? As young children, we remember the excitement of preparing for our trip, the adrenaline as the plane sped down the runway, and the occasional turbulence that met us with surprise or perhaps fear. All in all, our first plane ride was an experience, and it might have been a big part of what we shared with others about our trip. What about the second trip? What about the tenth or the fifteenth? At some point, the flight to our destination has little - if anything - to do with our real purpose and reason for traveling. Our main focus becomes where we need to be, and what needs to be accomplished.

Our experience and interactions with technology are analogous to many first experiences. In the initial stages, it's all about the tool, the method, and the experience. Then, at some point, either through our own maturity or the routine exposure, the tool becomes invisible and the final outcome becomes the focus. There is a buzz in the EdTech world declaring that we must stop talking about technology. On the other end of the education spectrum, the digital native theory is being debunked as a myth, rendering our students as helpless "tech(no)vices" incapable of utilizing technology without us holding their hand. Bobbi Newman makes a very important point that an "educator needs to show students how to successfully use technology." The question is what are we showing them and why are we showing it? 

Students want to see relevant and practical applications of technology just as much as they want to see the same in the learning itself.

Educators can successfully model the use of technology, but if there is no destination or purpose, then very few students will appreciate the process or utilize its potential for meaningful learning. Our students are not helpless, nor are they incapable. Our students are clever, creative, and determined innovators. We must support them and guide them to make careful and well thought out choices. This doesn't mean that students do not need any technical training, it's just that they need much less of it if there is an exciting and engaging reason behind its use. I have witnessed 5th graders learn how to create complex objects in Google Sketch Up. Behind increased productivity and enthusiasm lay the challenge to build the Tabernacle from descriptive Bible verses or the Capitol Building from blueprints. How could that be achieved without an understanding of the program's fundamental tools and application?

You can program a robot to use technology, but you cannot program it to create a successful and meaningful learning experience based on individualized passion, and self-driven pursuits of knowledge. 

As I mentioned, there is a buzz around the EdTech community that we must stop talk about technology. However, I suggest that we continue to talk about it, and cease having it define us and our learning. This is a crucial piece of advice for any school that has any type of tools to help support learning. This includes pencils, paper, staples, and even crayons. While many learning tools have a slightly lower learning curve than iPad, it is extremely important for schools to begin the conversation focusing on the technology. The question becomes how and when it is appropriate to shift this mindset to a philosophy that embraces invisible technology.

Don't miss out on the opportunity to meet Michael Cohen in person! He will be presenting The Invisible iPad - Significant Learning Experiences Without Actually Losing Your iPad at the July 28-30 EdTechTeacher Summit.