speaking of ‘way back’

Do we need a way back to using paper?  Do we need to abandon technology?

Digital Devices in the Classroom: A Learning Aid or Toxic Distraction for Kids?

The article talks about whether it is beneficial or not for kids to use technology in the classroom.

I have a reMarkable tablet.  I used it in the classroom and everywhere else and continue to use it long afterward.  It is a convenient way of carrying books, a sketchpad (design, draft, art, explanations, quick sketches), and a notepad.  It has a pen.  No sound, no web browser, no video player function – an e-reader with a pen.  It can be set down temporarily without the battery running dry.  It must have a computer to upload stuff (e-books, PDFs, etc.) to be downloaded by the tablet.  It can be used in bright sunlight but not in the dark.

I also have a Surface Pro 4 tablet.  It actually is rather distracting when in the classroom – for me.  It’s so full-featured that it becomes awkward and glitchy to use.  As well, staring at it gives me eye strain (AMOLED screen, unlike the e-Ink screen of the reMarkable), and picking it up, handing it to someone, moving it around, etc. is cumbersome (reorients to landscape or portrait, the screen gets ‘touched’ like a mouse button, the brightness goes up & down, etc.).  It’s handy for what it does, but it’s a computer — read: complicated tablet that does too much.  It is a self-contained machine that needs nothing else.  (Well, it does need a mouse.  The touchpad is crap.)  It also has a pen.  It can be used in the dark but not in bright sunlight.

So on to usability.  What is the end user experience like?  Is it a distraction?  What is the opposite of distraction?  Have you ever used electronics in the classroom?  The previous school I worked at hated using technology in the classroom.  Gimmickry.  Distracting.  A long time to set up and tear down.  Yet, iPads were introduced later on.  Very handy for skill development.  Various instructors asked me to help them with their classroom technology.  At first, management looked on with disdain and scorn but allowed it.  Later on, I was a necessary evil.  The Bellamy Brothers (lyrics) comes to mind.  Should we hold on to the old or grab on to the new?

In my view, it’s not important.  It’s just another machine, another tool.  Paper replaced slate boards.  Ballpoints replaced quills and ink bottles.  Yet, desks still had inkwell holders when I was a kid.  How bizarre.  Well guess what – dollar stores replaced five-n-dines.  Wal-Mart replaced K-mart.  Smartphones replaced flip phones.  Cycling and hiking clubs have replaced smoking clubs.  People don’t wear gloves when they leave the house.  But they still wear hats.  My view – just another thing.  Get used to it, and don’t be an alarmist.

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