Hyperventilating about tablets in the classroom

You’ve probably read plenty of stories how tablets are shifting the tectonic plates in teaching. And ‘personalized learning.’

I hang around many all-things-digital folk, making rallying for ‘tablets in the classroom! tablets in the classroom!” I also talk to those anxious as desktops give way to touch screens in the class. My daughter’s class now does a math class on Dell tablets. My school has two touch-screen computer hubs.

And though I run a (tablet-free, for now) computer lab, I was a tad irritated by a statement by a fellow computer lab instructor quoted in a TIME article as saying “We don’t care about handwriting.” This was in response to a parent’s concern about screens in a classroom in California.

Not sure who the royal plural ‘we’ referred to, but Matthew Gudenis certainly doesn’t speak for me, or my school’s position. (Read The Paperless Classroom is Coming” in TIME this week.)

Gudenis should’ve read this wonderful piece by Susan Vechon, “Why Learning To Write by Hand Matters,” (in Education Week) who admits she stumbled on the connection between handwriting and the higher-level thinking after many years of teaching.

I’m not dissing tablets, per se. I would be the first to admit that classrooms need to use more of the technologies that young people encounter once they clamber back on the bus after school. But that does not mean dismissing the value of books and pencils, notebooks and research. If we are not careful how we present them, the tabletized learning environment could unwittingly turn students into consumers of knowledge, not producers of ideas and opinions. Touch screens can turn readers into content snackers. We need to create spaces where students could do some thinking and talking, apart from clicking and scrolling.

Twelve to fifteen years from now, these will be our human resources, our intellectual capital. They will be the ones generating your reports, formulating cogent arguments that impact communities, writing persuasive letters, covering the local news.

To say we don’t care about handwriting because kids today know to type, is like saying we don’t need to care about spelling and grammar, because we have auto-correct and spell-check. So let’s stop hyperventilating about tablets, and get excited about what we can do with them.


Update: Just came across this Discussion of Screen Time


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