The other day, I was listening to an episode of “On Point” that was discussing educational apps and debating whether they helped or hurt kids’ development. One caller, a teacher, shared his sense of being a passive “monitor” while his students explore the Internet. Another caller shared her concern that lack of empathy will be a growing problem, as children spend more time looking at a screen and less at their peers.
I’ve heard these thoughts before, but for some reason these negative attitudes really got to me this time. As a media educator, these perspectives are my worst nightmare — giving folks an excuse to embrace old school (literally) education models and cut technology budgets in already under-resourced schools.
IT’S ALL IN HOW YOU USE IT
It is true that tablet PCs tend to be used by one person at a time, but it doesn’t have to be that way. iPads and mobile devices can be used just as well in a group setting as a desktop computer, sometimes even better. The emphasis should be on creation, not solely consumption, to make it work.
For the past year, Spindle & Widget (my multimedia learning and production company) has been partnering with Regional Educational Television Network in Burlington, VT to teach educators how to use iPads to make team-created videos in the classroom. What we have seen is that once teachers are given a pathway to use technology actively, they jump in with both feet.
TEAMWORK IS IN
Teamwork was an identified workforce skill in the SCANS Report — a 2000 national study of the skills needed for career success. More than 10 years later it’s at the heart of STEM project-based learning values. Employers cite teamwork as a desirable career skill in most fields. Using technology in a group setting , even if working remotely with a team spread across the globe, will be a part of most young people’s futures.
Using iPads to design and build projects can promote technology and team skills at the same time. Our iPad video workshops require teachers to work in teams of 3 to write, record, and edit digital stories. Working together, they must take on different roles: camera operator, audio engineer, talent, editor. In a few hours, they record and edit a short video that they then upload to share online. Once they have completed the process, they have a blueprint for teaching video projects in the classroom. See some of the projects our students produced here.
SAME STORY, NEW STUFF
And to be honest, this is nothing new. I have been teaching these concepts since the days of VHS cameras and editing boards (please don’t do the math). What IS new is the focus on technology in every classroom and study area, and the ease of access to that tech through all-in-one tablets. In the past, only the AV department had a camera, and video editing required special equipment, sometimes even a special room. Now it is possible to outfit an entire class with iPads and microphones, and break the class into teams working on video projects at the same time. The teacher is no passive observer, but an active mentor. The completed videos can demonstrate skill or concept mastery, and can be used to educate and inform the general public, or at least the next year’s class. In this way, media education reaches beyond the classroom and into mainstream culture.
If you don’t believe me, watch this interview with Jay Hoffman, 2013 Vermont Teacher of the Year, and media technology instructor.
Or read this article in Edutopia, “How to Integrate Tech When It Keeps Changing.”
This fall, I’m working with RETN again to teach iPad video workshops. What other strategies do you suggest to promote teamwork and social interaction while using technology?