In the video above, a dad asks his son to draw something on a new iPad, the ubiquitous Apple tablet. The 2-year-old clearly has some facility with the device as he casually switches between apps and between tools within the drawing app. Interestingly, (though not surprisingly for anyone with a 2-year-old,) the boy also wants to use his favorite apps including playing some pre-reading games and watching videos. He very naturally fast-forwards through the video to his favorite part. He also knows to change the orientation of the device to properly orient the app to a wider landscape format.
Although I like gadgets, I’m not a true early adopter. I do carry a PDA — an iPod touch — which my 2- and 4-year-olds enjoy playing with. It’s amazing how quickly they understand gestural interfaces, pinching, pulling and tapping their way from app to app.
While I don’t think that I need to rush right out and get my kids iPads so they don’t get left behind, (the whole point is that they’re easy to use anyway,) I do wonder about some of the interesting opportunities for learning on these devices: drawing, reading, and linking information. Of course, they also do a lot of these things on paper which places far fewer limits on their creativity — instead of choosing from 16 colors in a paint program, they can choose from 128 crayon colors or create their own by mixing their paints.
In the end, this new technology is flashy and fun, but I’m not convinced that iPads and other tablets are essential tools that will give our kids and our students a clear learning advantage. I sure would like one, though.
Students installing and testing Ubuntu Linux.
Last week I set up a service learning trip to Free Geek Columbus. Service learning falls roughly in the middle of a continuum between an internship, which largely benefits the student, and volunteering, which largely benefits a community organization or charity.
Free Geek is an organization that takes donated computers, refurbishes them, and gives them to people and organizations in the surrounding community that cannot otherwise afford new computers. They also offer training so people can learn to use the computers.
Students disassemble donated computers and sort reusable parts.
After a quick tour, students were trained to do two tasks: pull and sort parts from donated machines, and install Ubuntu Linux, an opensource operating system, on computers which had already been assembled. The tasks were simple and straightforward, but interesting and productive. Students also got to work alongside other volunteers, who were native speakers of English, which gave them more opportunities to communicate.
In addition to being a great organization, Free Geek was a great place to volunteer because students can go back on their own, if they wish. At least three of the students expressed an interest in volunteering again. By participating in this project, these students have made an authentic connection within the community, which can be very difficult to do.
Thanks to Scott Merrill and the other great volunteers at Free Geek, we plan to continue this relationship by offering this activity to students each quarter. I also plan to seek out other organizations that can offer this kind of opportunity to our students.