Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Music's Not in the Piano

A good friend of mine told us, when he first saw our living room, that we needed to buy a Baby Grand Piano. It would be perfect, he explained, in the corner by the windows, overlooking the lake. We had never considered the idea before, yet we both liked it. Only problems: Baby Grands cost about $20,000 AND neither of us plays the piano. Nonetheless, interior arrogance led us to float our contact info in musical circles, asking for a shout out if a used Baby Grand became available on the cheap.
Gratefully, no leads panned out, and as a result, 15 years later, no Baby Grand resides in the corner by the windows overlooking the lake. Just lush, beautiful, oxygen-giving plants.  
(Stay with me here - the piano analogy will make itself known by the end of this post, I promise).

So today, this iPad Day 2, I am here to report a mixed bag:
The sturdy, functional part of the bag: students are completely engaged, iPads in hand; iPads are, I believe, at one with the student mind. Quick enough, responsive enough, individualized enough to maintain student attention and engagement, period.
The soggy, ripped part of the bag: iPads are certainly are most successful in a 1-to-1 environment: it's challenging having 5 different students use each iPad, saving pictures, documents, tying to push their work out of apps to their own ends.
Two Teacher lessons-learned today:
1) I'm finding myself challenged with the notion of letting go of control. Case in point: students were writing on iPads today and as I was circulating, I saw one student had taken a goofy picture and embedded it in his document. That's not what I asked them to do, but when I look closer, I realized he was writing about the picture. I need to loosen up my presumptions and allow this multi-tasking generation to max out on these machines. 
2) At the same time, I have to figure out a way to help students leverage the technology to access and develop their critical thinking skills. I had my Sophomores today exploring the question: "What is Poetry?" I presented Bloom's Taxonomy for Technology, encouraging students to answer the question using higher levels of the taxonomy. Tomorrow, I'll see the full results, but from what I gleaned in class, most were clearly at the bottom level, knowledge. My work is cut out for me, central question being: how to help students use  this technology that they are clearly crazy about - to help them access high order thinking; after all, the music's not in the piano; the learning isn't in the iPad: I need to orchestrate; they need to practice; and only then, will boyfriend sing.