Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advice to Hesitant Teachers: Think of iPads as Super-Powered Crayons

This letter was sent to me by a retired teacher from our school, Virginia Singer. She had a chance to use iPads with her first graders last year, and has been reflecting on the experience as she watches us include iPads increasingly authentically and successfully in our program. I like her analogy of iPads as "super-powered crayons"!

I have been pondering your challenges as you encourage more teachers to try iPads with kids. I wonder if years ago when kids first started bringing crayons to school there wasn't some of the same hesitation to include them in the classroom. There was, and still is, a kind of magic associated with new crayons—the potentials they offer, the very newness of them. It is almost impossible not to open the box immediately and get started. iPads, in a very general way, are much like that box of crayons. For kids they are irresistible in their newness, their potential and their mystery. Probably when crayons first came to school many teachers thought them frivolous, a waste of valuable teaching time and they saw no way for these colorful sticks to promote learning. Nowadays, every child has crayons! Classrooms use those 8, 16, 24 and even 64 different colors in so many deeply educational ways: recalling a field trip, detailing the fall trees on the playground, mixing the colors, noting the nuances in the various shades of blues, greens and oranges. Kids illustrate stories they have heard or read, predicting the outcome, adding a new ending, becoming authors themselves. New characters emerge through drawings. Crayons stimulate kids’ thinking not just in the regular classroom but in special classes, too. Kids use stick figures in P.E. to demonstrate a variety of activities and to illustrate how to resolve conflicts that invariably arise. Crayons allow kids to show how music makes them feel, what an instrument looks like or sounds like—how many keys or strings or pipes. Colorful renditions of nouns or emotions make learning another language easier and certainly more visual. Crayons are scientific, too, producing different results when they melt, freeze, blend or drip or whether they are used vertically or horizontally. Crayons show up throughout the school.  In the nurse’s office they allow kids to depict how an accident happened or hostilities got started. They also provide a way to get through a difficult time—after throwing up or scraping a knee, crayons can help the child feel better—a wonderful tool for soothing physical and emotional trauma. 

            Think of an iPad as a super potent box of crayons--a small container full of potential, innovation, color, sound and magic. An iPad doesn't need a set of instructions or a disclaimer. Just hand one to a child and see what that young student discovers. That iPad can sing, draw, store information, play games, show how to do a card trick or challenge  a student to solve a puzzle. It can literally open doors for children,  and windows as well. It is an encourager and an abettor. It is a camera and an encyclopedia, a dictionary and a series of tasks. Just as the box of crayons  offers ways for a child to investigate, create, experiment, record, delve, doodle, test, affirm, examine, explore, study, probe and discover—so, too, does the iPad, but with far more flexibility and promise—(and a higher price!)  I realize there are many differences between the two, but I think their similarities could be exploited. Neither crayons nor iPads take the place of real experiences with a wonderful teacher. Books, blocks, math games, excursions and collaborative projects are the essence of education. We recognize the limits of crayons –they don’t replace trips, science experiments, singing, jumping, building, gardening, painting or curling up with a good book. Neither do iPads.  If we think of iPads as crayons with super powers we might be more comfortable including them as another classroom tool.

                                                                          Virginia Singer

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I love Virginia's analogy. What a perfect way to think about iPads. I hope she contributes again to this blog!