Out of Pleasantville

Jam of the week: “Tourette’s” by Nirvana

As you can probably guess from the two stories I wrote for today’s paper, I’ve had iPads on my mind for quite a while now. Many of the teachers and administrative staff I’ve talked with for the articles and upcoming installments of the series have marveled at the fact that technology has advanced to the point where its becoming an integral part of learning.

The change feels less drastic to someone my age. I can recall when the world was black and white like in “Pleasantville” and no one had a smartphone yet. As dark and meaningless as the world was before the advent of the smartphone, I grew up with computers, eventually a laptop and a tablet. The digital world is one I feel comfortable with.

Still, I find myself amazed at how the iPads are being implemented at Webster City schools. When I graduated from high school and moved onto college, my sister notified me that the school was beginning a student laptop program. I remember wishing that such a program would have been nice to have around while I was there, but I brushed it off thinking about how much time I wasted on computers anyway.

At Wartburg College, I usually had a laptop or tablet with me at classes. Most of what I used it for was simple note taking. We had online content to read, we did most of our research online and we tried to ignore the people sitting next to us who watched movies on repeat during May term classes. On that note, I suspect it’s harder to get away with goofing off in a high school environment than sitting in the back of a big lecture hall.

What amazes me about the iPad program at Webster City schools is not simply that they’re giving each student access to a tablet computer. Although, that’s pretty impressive itself. What I find most exciting is the way that the technology is being implemented into the schools.

A minor spoiler warning for tomorrow’s installment of the digital learning series, one teacher has used the iPads for several years to flip the way the traditional classroom is held. Students in the flip class access lectures online at home or wherever they can get an internet connection. There, they can watch the lecture at their convenience and re-listen to it as many times as they want. Then, students meet in the classroom to do work. I joked about the “forlorn”days before mobile computing technology, but can you imagine a generation of kids growing up who don’t use the word “homework?”

While it’s just a phrase, it’s indicative of the huge shift that’s happening at schools across the country.

Since I’ve had tablets on the brain for so long I’ve talked with a lot of people about it. While many share my excitement, many also feel worried about introducing technology into the classroom and what that will bring. It’s a big jump to take. When my dad lent me his iPad, I’m pretty sure he only saw me surf the internet, play games and change all his settings without asking him. I know the district is looking at the implementation of the iPads as an organic process and how they are used is largely up to teachers and students.

The quote that closes one of my stories today from Mark Murphy really hit home with me. He said that students are growing up in a digital environment and prior to this program, they were largely asked to set that aside for school.

As with all new technology, I think it’s best to adapt and utilize it rather than being left behind. Maybe it’s for the worst and we’ll wish we were back in Pleasantville. Only time will tell, but it’s exciting for me to be around while it happens.