iPads in the classroom… a no-brainer

How would you respond to a parent who is convinced that having an iPad in the classroom will make her child less smart?

‘What’s to stop him just looking up answers instead of using his brain?’ she asks.

I explain that education isn’t just about ‘knowing the answers’ any more, since ‘answers’ tend to be readily accessible to all.  It’s more about learning how to ask questions and to find, interpret and critically analyse the answers. It’s less about remembering facts and more about conceptual understanding. It’s less about knowing stuff and more about knowing how to learn...

Half an hour earlier, my presentation had, I thought, included wonderful examples of ways technology has enhanced learning; kids ‘using their brains‘ not just to ‘find answers’ but to apply their knowledge creatively, such as…

  • videos created by kids demonstrating their understanding of mathematical concepts.
  • animations in which learners have applied knowledge and skills in a second language.
  • connections with classes in other parts of world, via Skype and blogs.
  • an exciting inquiry in which images of plants growing in different environments were gathered from contributors around the globe.
  • students writing, creating and sharing their own iPad books. (link to simple version)
  • a host of images showing learners engaged in a range of trans disciplinary skills.

But this parent remains unconvinced.

What more can I say?

Below: Some images of kids ‘not using their brains’…


Kids not using their brains?

28 thoughts on “iPads in the classroom… a no-brainer

  1. I guess it takes time and continual parental education for a change in thinking for some. We are often in discussion with parents about why education doesn’t look like it did when they were at school. It’s interesting because when asked, of course they want education to be progressive, it makes sense to them that innovation in education is needed, but when it comes to what it ‘looks like’ in their child’s classroom they keep going back to what they are familiar with as a model. Shame as it seems like is was a great presentation Edna, I would imagine there are other parents that came away with wonderful new insights.


    1. Thanks, Emma, yes, the majority of parents were excited by what learning is like today and what will be possible when we have 1:1 iPads next year. Parent education is really important, because the only model of school they can visualize is usually the one they experienced…


  2. Difficult one and I think your response was very good. Some parents have very singular notions of what schooling should be and these are hard to shift. > > >


    1. Thanks. Very true in the case of this one… She didn’t see learning in my presentation (!) and even said ‘ you won’t convince me’… Not sure how one could change the mind of someone so closed to possibilities. I suggested she ask the teacher if she can spend a day at school in her child’s classroom!


  3. You may never get there with some parents, Edna: after all, they are a product of a particular definition of education which is well-entrenched and difficult to shake. Mind you, so are we, so miracles do happen 😉

    I find the best way is a two-pronged attack:

    First, they want their children to have the best chances, so I explain that knowing ‘stuff’ is no longer any differentiator. Knowing where to find answers and what questions to ask, how to interpret information and be creative in their approach – those are the skills that may separate the haves from the have-nots in the age of the knowledge worker – even if that kid’s going to be a brain surgeon.

    Second, I ask them to describe a successful 25 year-old. I bet they will talk about their kid being happy, sociable, connected, and a long way down the list will be academic prowess. Being able to recruit other people – co-workers they may never need face-to-face – are going to be increasingly important. Ask them to watch this new video (http://goo.gl/KH7BP3) from Ericsson to see the way employers and educators think about the world our kids are moving into…


    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Mark. The two pronged attack is a good approach, although parents of primary school kids are often not ready to think of their children as adults! The Ericcson video is great, I’ve used parts of it in other contexts ( mainly with teachers) and it’s something everyone should watch.
      FYI I am a generation older than these parents! But then, I have been learning about education for thirty years and their experience of it is only from when they went to school 🙂


  4. While the “using their brain” parent response is disappointing, I’d hazard a guess that the same parent, at every opportunity, lets other parents, who aren’t fortunate enough to have kids in your class, know that their kid’s class is iPad ready.
    While persistence might not be top of the list for 21stC essential skill sets, persevering and involving parents in their children’s learning will convince them of the likelihood of success.


    1. Thanks, Lynne. I don’t actually teach a class, it was a presentation to all parents of grades 4 and above, talking about going 1:1 next year. Most received it very well and were excited by the learning that’s already taking place and where it can go in the future. Some are concerned for one reason or another, but I was surprised by the intensity of this one’s conviction that technology will stop her child from using his brain!


  5. I find the debate about the inclusion of technologies into the classroom really difficult. Our pictures of children using chromebooks often look like yours of iPads, sometimes as a stand-alone, sometimes as part of a whole heap of info, research tools and the like. Looking at our sixth formers, and they often have iPads/phones out alongside the chromebooks, files, materials and equipment, collaborating together to find answers to the curriculum challenges they are set. ‘What’ as they say ‘is not to like’?
    So I suspect the problem is that parents see the children at home using the same devices as toys, for gaming, for media consumption, for entertainment. It would certainly upset me if I saw my children using my cherished Mont Blanc fountain pen as a stick for hoopla! That’s gives me an idea for a blog by the way so ©. :o)


    1. Your description sounds like great learning to me!
      I used our school’s learning principles as a basis for my presentation (our beliefs about learning) and gave examples of how the tech can support and enhance each of them. Always starting from the learning, with the ipad as just another tool…
      I like your point about parents possibly having difficulty distinguishing between the device as a toy and a tool for learning! I look forward to your blog post 🙂


  6. I would invite that parent into our classrooms so they can see how we use iPads as an additional tool to promote learning. They will see how students use a range of apps to demonstrate their conceptual understanding or apply their understanding in a new context or consolidate their understanding, etc. They will be able to talk to the students about their learning. Seeing learning happen in front of your eyes via an iPad is undeniable evidence of the value of adding this tool to our tool kit 🙂


  7. Exellent reply and excellent images that say it all. Anyway, we’ve all seen this before. Any type of “new technology” is, at first, unwelcome. Some people may have said, some thirty or so years ago, that singing in a language class would have been a waste of time, or that playing a game was useless. We are living a change of paradigm, and it is very difficult to analyse things from inside the forest. People who are not part of the educational process might find it hard to see the change. Greetings to all!


  8. One issue I’m finding with iPad learning is that original thinking has almost disappeared! I’ll ask students a question for HW that requires them to apply something they’ve learned in class and yet they still google the question I generate, copy and paste, and turn it in!

    I asked students “Were labor unions effective or ineffective in the late 1700s/early 1800s in meeting their goals?” Several students went to Wiki Answers or another source instead of simply referring to their text or notes to help formulate their response. This has happened on several assignments so far this year.

    So far, teaching in the iPad 1:1 model has inhibited original thinking and increased laziness and apathy in many students. What can be done to prevent students from Googling answers to my HW questions that go beyond facts, names, dates?


    1. Hi Bryan

      If you want original thinking, don’t ask questions with googelable answers. You might, for instance, ask them to google two different perspectives on an issue and compare or evaluate them, adding their own perspective. Or ask them to make connections between what they find out (by googling) and other things they have learned. Or ask them to create a new title or headline that sums up the essence of what they read… Take a look at the Harvard Visible thinking routines for some great ideas to provoke original thinking.
      It’s not the iPad’s fault 🙂


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