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.
I was talking to one of the teachers in our program recently about her use of children’s literature in her classroom. Every time I read Dr. Suess to my kids, I can’t help thinking how much fun these books are to read and how much ESL students could benefit from them. But, many of our students are adults who would understandably feel demeaned by being asked to read kids’ books.
The solution? Literary analysis. Get students to analyze children’s books as a genre of literature. In this way, students are exposed to texts that are simple and fun but are also required to do some higher order thinking. Not only does this save face (“I’m not reading kids books, I’m analyzing children’s literature!”), but it also requires a deeper level of thinking and encourages more complex language use.
Unfortunately, the technological supplements to these books are usually lame flash games with very little learning value, particularly for adult learners. However, the rare exceptions (useful online grammar and vocabulary games, for example) could be beneficial supplements.
Is this a gimmick to get adults to read kids books? Perhaps. But without a little encouragement, adult students might never be exposed to some very good (and very accessible) writing. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, if they’ve never read them, they should. These books are fun and fun is good.