An iPad for my Great Uncle – Technology Tuesday

Last week amongst a funeral, a family reunion, and an out-of-town anniversary party, I was mandated, by my great-uncle, to pick him up an iPad. He knew I used them with my students and decided I must be the family expert. The request felt like a mandate, I’m sure, because there was just too much going on. Thank goodness another family member, who does not have four kids in tow, offered to pick it up for me. My job became simply to set it up.

A manageable task, I began to have fun. My eleven-year-old son Cole and I worked together starting with a list of things we thought an 80-year-old person would want an iPad to do. Uncle Dan has never owned a personal computer. The contrast between what Cole takes for granted and what we were introducing to my uncle was significant. Email, Facebook, Pandora, internet – were things he knew about, but had never used. We also thought he might be interested in weather, games, and book reading apps.  We had to set up his accounts and started him out with an iTunes gift card.

Passwords were equally interesting because we were creating them. I pulled out genealogy information and we made them up based on things like his birthday, his late wife’s name and anniversary, and his parent’s street name. It was interesting to think in terms of what he would remember and find significant.

We turned the iPad over to Uncle Dan and encouraged him to push all the buttons. He wanted an instruction book and we insisted he see what he could figure out by just doing it. His daughter-in-law, who has a computer, but not an iPad, offered to coach him and learn a little herself.

At the anniversary party Saturday night I found myself telling the tale of my “way to busy week.” As I mentioned the iPad mandate, three interesting ideas struck us:

First, Uncle Dan was born in the 1920s – the start of automobiles, radio, and airplanes. Imagine his perspective for the evolving technology of today.

Second, isn’t it cool that he has made-up his mind to be a life-long learner and try something new?

Finally, can anyone imagine what Cole’s great grandkids will bring him to try out? Will they tell him to push all the buttons, and find out what he can still learn how to do?

I’m happy now to have the time to find it all truly amazing…



What makes integrating technology worth it?

We are  two years into the 1:1 iPad program. At the start, and even more so today, I believe these are seven things that makes the integration of technology worth the effort:

Enable independence
This has been the biggest “teacher transition” for me. They don’t need me to lecture to them what I know. They have the tool(s) needed to find it out and “know it” for themselves. Instead of a sage I have become a “learning coach.”

Improve communication
Through email, blogs, social media etc. they can create conversations that go well beyond our four walls.

Problem solve
There are plenty of apps and tools that help them problem solve  and the intuitive nature of today’s technology encourages them to “push all the buttons” until they figured out how to get what they want.

The real excitement begins when you have four other students gathered around a desk saying “show me how you did that.” Followed by, “I wonder if we can get it to do…”

Provide storage
We are still looking for the perfect tool, but even with plain old email we can create a place to hold things. This becomes their portfolio of work and can be used to illustrate growth in a skill or subject area.  This is a tool used by lots of teachers, but when the product is digital; It’s not limited to paper, It’s not clutter that I we have to keep in storage, and we can each keep a copy. My need to be organized is fulfilled!

Assist with time management
Their calendar, planner, timer etc. are all on the iPad. It looks a lot like “real life” as we all put due dates on the calendar, set goals, and share events.

Inspires creativity
Students are constantly creating presentations, composing music, viewing art, reviewing literature, conducting research, editing for publication. They become photographers,
movie-makers, and authors instantly.

Makes learning fun
When they don’t know they are learning, when middle school students think they are “playing,” when they get excited to try something new – than learning and teaching are a whole lot of fun!

What am I missing? What makes technology worth integrating in your classroom? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you!