I had a cigar recently with one of my best friends, who is a teacher at a local private boys school. We live in a fairly affluent area near DC, so the schools are pretty ritzy and all want the best and fanciest technology. He was lamenting the funding drive at his daughter’s school, where they’re pushing for iPads for all students in the classroom. He wanted to know why and what they’d be used for. I do too.
On the other hand, my six year old just got Osmo for her iPad (yes, she has an iPad.. but she has to work for it, and it is seriously cool. She is learning a ton with it and is having a blast.
Here’s the thing: at the end of the day, an iPad is a consumption device. You can do some novel things with it, like Osmo, but those things are the exception not the rule. The main use for an iPad is to watch movies and YouTube, listen to music, read, whatever.
The school where my friend teaches doesn’t allow iPads in the classroom. Kids can have phones but they have to stay off until the end of the day.
Meanwhile, I’m a software engineer by trade and I don’t want my kids to have a phone until they’re in high school. I make my kids do a chore list to get any iPad time, and they generally use it learning crafts or “learning about animals”, as my son says.
We’re not anti-technology. We’re pro-imagination. 95% of computer technology is about consuming: iPads, phones, TVs, Music. The last 5% is the good stuff where you get to create: write music, write words, write software, or create interesting art. It’s not that kids can’t do these things, it’s that they have to build their imagination first. Give a kid a drawing pad and some pastels and they can’t be passive with them. Nothing will happen. Give them an iPad and they’ll drool and stare for hours.
Kids aren’t ready for consumptive technology. Hell, most adults (including me) sometimes aren’t ready for this consumption. We need to develop our imagination first.
As soon as they’re ready, my kids are going to get Chromebooks or similar. Hopefully running Linux (but we’ll see). If they have good imaginations, they’ll be able to build all sorts of things, just like they draw all sorts of things with their pastels now.
If not, I guess it will still have YouTube. I hope they’ll at least learn the difference.