Redefining Literacy with iPads

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.  ~Alvin Toffler

We are all such creatures of habit and we seldom like change…I tend to go to the same stores, eat the same food and sit in the same spot in school meetings and in church.  My students tend to sit in the same (unassigned) spot on the carpet and get upset when someone else is “in their spot”.  The girls tend to be far more vocal about it, but the boys are all “Dude…” and it usually is resolved without much argument. 

Change isn’t always bad.  In the last 23 years, I’ve gone from teaching with chalk and chalkboard, to whiteboard and dry erase markers, to a Smart Board,  and now I use both Smart Board and iPads. I’ve adjusted the way I teach by learning one way, unlearning and learning anew.  I can’t seem to function without my iPhone and iPads, both personal and professional.  (Yes, I have 2 of them.)  When I think about my kindergarten students, I marvel at all that they are able to do and to experience in this digital age.  Their language is peppered with “Tell your mom to text my mom so we can have a play date.”  “We downloaded a movie from Netflix and watched it on the laptop.” “I played Angry Birds on my mom’s phone when we went out to eat.” “Why do you need a map when you can look at the GPS?”

When asked to define literacy, our first thoughts tend to go toward the obvious- reading and writing.  It seems more accurate to define literacy today. Librarian Valerie Strauss defines literacy today as Transliteracy.  She says, ” Literacy has evolved, to not be defined or confined by container or format. It’s not just reading words on a page. It might be decoding graphic novels, it might be decoding video. It will be literacy in forms we haven’t even dreamed yet. We should encourage kids now to get their literary riches in formats that appeal to them and that they are comfortable with, whatever it may be. That is the future. The literacy of the future is finding meaning in many forms.”

Ipads serve a very real purpose in today’s “transliterate” classrooms.  I find they are easy to incorporate in all areas of content; and my students, as young as they are, lead the way.  I’m glad I’m along for the ride.

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2 thoughts on “Redefining Literacy with iPads

  1. I so enjoy reading your blog and the wonderful things you are doing with your students. It’s very inspiring! I completely agree with how technology is a part of their world and environment. This is how they enjoy learning, playing, and getting their information, and we need to keep up with that as educators, I think. I am still on my journey to try and get ipads in my classroom; currently one or our involved PTA members has tried to convince my principal that writing a grant for Barnes and Nobel Nooks would be more economical, easier to hold, and just as useful. However it seems that you would not be able to do as many things on those as you would the ipads- just from the reading I’ve done. Do you have any thoughts about this?

    • Jill,
      I think the main question is what do you want to use the devices for? The iPad has access to Apple’s full library of over 140,000 apps available for only the iPad, plus built-in support for iTunes.
      For users that simply want an alternative to traditional books, the Kindle and original Nook are the best. Someone who wants a device that’s more like a computer would likely be happiest with an iPad. The apps are what make the iPad so powerful.

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