The Digital Native Myth: Why we still need to teach kids HOW to use the iPad
Every now and then an article will come out or someone will tweet about students being ‘digital natives’. The assumption is, of course, that students have been brought up with technology and know how to use it, and use it well. Ignoring the socio-economic fallacies of the argument, it is still false to assume students know how to use technology well.
When I first start a year in a 1:1 classroom I like to set students a task that they can complete in any way they wish. It is a good way to see what the students’ go-to apps are, and how creative they can be with their answers. I can count on one hand the number of students who do anything new, creative or exceptional without prompting.
Most students go straight to Word or Pages. A few more use Powerpoint or Keynote. The occasional student will use PicCollage or iMovie, but generally will use it to create work that mimics word processing or poster creation. Despite being brought up with technology, they are still using it in old-fashioned, boring ways. They are not using it to extend their learning, or think more deeply, despite of (or perhaps because of) their ability to use technology.
Students need to be taught how to use the iPad. They need to be taught how they can use it to create amazing things, to share their learning and connect it with the real word, to deepen their thinking. This can be done in a number of ways:
Give students high-quality examples.
Show students what other people around the world have created on their iPads. Most have never thought of the iPad beyond Pages or Angry Birds because they have seen no other way. Show them the possibilities.
Give students the thinking tools they need.
The iPad alone will not help students think deeply. Give them the DATT, DeBono’s thinking hats, the Socrative method. Give them graphic organisers and questioning tools. Then give them the opportunity to use these tools alongside their iPad.
Teach them how to learn socially, and share.
Many students use social media, but don’t necessarily use it to learn or to connect in meaningful ways. Blogs, Twitter, Edmodo, Google Drive…all of these tools work on iPads and can be used to allow students to learn off each other and to share their learning with the world. These tools allow them to take REAL action in the REAL world. Show them how to use them well. Again, give them examples of students who are doing amazing things.
Introduce them to new apps.
The best 1:1 iPad teachers explore the app store themselves, and don’t just rely on students to show them new, exciting apps. Find apps that allow students to do things in new ways, to think in new ways. Introduce them to your class, and to the school. Students need practice using a range of apps, not just become experts with a few. Show them that you are constantly learning too, and that new tools mean new possibilities.
With guidance, students will become more adept at using the iPad (or other 1:1 devices) in innovative ways, allowing their thinking and learning to constantly improve, instead of resorting to old thinking in new ways.