Instead of a national curriculum for education, what is really needed is an individual curriculum for every child.-Charles Handy
It seems everywhere you turn, you find a “must have” app list or a “top ten apps for educators” list. They list apps that are free or are the favorites of the author. I used to look quite frequently at these lists when I first started with iPads. I didn’t want to miss out on that one great app that might instantly transform my classroom.
Now, I rarely look at those lists. I occasionally write about an app or two in my blog, but it is usually in the context of increasing rigor or advancing personalized learning. I am often asked what are my “must have apps”. I don’t mind sharing the ones I use, nor do I mind sharing my favorite ones at the time. That list changes with what my students need.
Once I asked myself what is my goal of the iPad in the classroom, I found that I didn’t want it to be an “app machine”. It can certainly be that, but I wanted it to be a tool for learning. I had to define what that looked like for me first. I was in a meeting recently and someone raised a question and no one really knew the answer. Within seconds, everyone was pulling out either their iPad or their smart phones to look up the answer. We can memorize states and capitals, presidents, and other bits of trivia but we also need to teach our students how to solve problems and find information. We also need to teach them how to find credible sources for that information. We can’t do that with 2 desktop computers in the classroom, but we can do that with iPads. By learning to think critically, analyzing information and its sources, we are doing so much more than any app can teach. As we move into personalized learning environments, we need to think beyond just apps.
Having said that, I do use apps daily and I have some apps that are very valuable in reinforcing certain skills. There are many great apps out there and there are some that are junk. We have to filter through them and discern the best way to incorporate them into instruction. As we increase rigor with Common Core State Standards, we can use the iPads for so much more than just apps. Students can create in writing, arts and music. They can read and do research. They can explore and extend learning. If you think your students can’t do it, then think again. I watch my 5 year olds do it every day.
I encourage all of my iPad teacher friends out there to cut the cord that tethers them to apps. Ask yourself what is your goal and think about what it looks like for you and for your students. If you can’t envision it….then trust me, THEY can!
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