Good Morning, Mr. iPad

Last week’s most-clicked ASCD SmartBrief item is a blog post on a familiar theme: how will new technology change learning? In particular, CEO and cofounder of Envision Schools (a charter school management organization operating in California’s Bay Area) Bob Lenz asks, “Will the iPad and similar technology revolutionize learning?

Lenz’s commenters shift the conversation to how teachers’ roles will change as mobile technology decentralizes learning. Notably, one teacher shares that her district laid off 400 teachers while rolling out LCD projectors in each classroom. She asks if technology is more important than teachers, a good question when the majority of discussions about technology’s effect on learning seem to think schools of the future will be like Ronco roasters—set it and forget it.

As teacher Bill Ferriter noted in a recent post here, “Without a good teacher making decisions based on their knowledge of kids, content and instruction, tools are useless.”

Rather than ask whether new technologies will be the silver bullet for schools, it’d be more interesting if Lenz had asked his readers if and how mobile technology or personal learning devices have changed how they learn and/or access new learning, and how they could envision those experiences translating to the K–12 environment.

For example, Weblogg-ed’s Will Richardson notes that most of us learned how to use our mobile devices through hands-on experimentation and that this contrasts with the prevailing school culture on new learning, where users are “conditioned to wait for direction on what to learn, how to learn it, and how to show they’ve learned it.”

Laura Varlas is an ASCD project manager in publishing, and a graduate student in the secondary education: English/language arts program at George Washington University.