Providing students laptops in learning is intended, in my view, to empower them to be more effective creators, communicators, researchers, and collaborators; technology integration isn’t intended, in my view, to enhance students ability to watch, but to do. In previous posts I have referred to laptops as “more powerful pencils,” not more powerful televisions or film projectors. I am also especially enthused by the way we all, students and educators, are better able to pursue our passions to far greater depths by having tools by which we can access rich mines of information about our passion and build powerful networks with others who share our passions.
When the first iPad was released, I was, and to some extent still am, a critic and a cynic. My concern has been that it is designed far more for the consumption of information than the creation of it. It is a shiny, gleaming screen through which we can surf, scan, and survey, and by which we can be endlessly entertained. It reminds me a little of the fancy screens the human characters in the Pixar film WALL-E watch, endlessly, as they consume media and calories but don’t construct or create anything at all.
Now consumption is fine, some of the time, and if you are in a household with multiple devices, like my household, an iPad may well have a great role to play. But as a singular tool for students, I didn’t think it is the right way to go for schools which seek to promote learning by doing, technology enhanced PBL, and 21st century skills (and with the iPad 2, I still don’t entirely, but my concern has diminished), .
In reading the recent biography of Steve Jobs, then, I was struck to recognize that Steve agreed with the criticism.
[Quoting Lev Grossman of Time] His main reservation, a substantive one, was that ‘while it is a lovely device for consuming, it doesn’t do much to facilitate creation. Computers, especially the Macintosh, had become tool that allowed people to make music, videos, websites, and blogs, which could be posted for the world to see. ‘The iPad shifts the emphasis from creating content to merely absorbing it and manipulating it. It mutes you, turns you back into a passive consumer of other people’s masterpieces.’
It was a criticism Jobs took to heart. He set about making sure that the next version of the iPad would emphasize ways to facilitate artistic creation by the user.
Jobs acted on his disappointment and did ensure that the iPad2 vastly stepped up its power to enable content creation, with the addition of a camera, apps for Garage Band and iMovie, and much more. For more information, see, among others, this piece.
Watching TV the other night (I believe in consuming entertainment some of the time), I saw the new iPad 2 commercial entitled Love, and the dots all connected: this ad was designed exactly to speak to the disappointment many of us, Steve included, shared about the iPad1, and to promise us that Apple does remember and is still committed to providing computing power for production and creation.
The ad itself, and the story of Job’s disappointment with the iPad 1, are powerful reminders and examples for our schools and classrooms too: are we appropriately and regularly using and deploying the technology available for our students to produce, create, and advance their ability to pursue and effectuate their passions, or are we too much of th time just asking them to use technology to consume, to watch, read, take notes of someone speaking and fill in forms that might as well be a paper worksheet?