I’m a little uncomfortable about what I’m going to advocate here, as it feels a bit like brand endorsement. I am not a fan of branding, especially around kids. No, not branding as in cattle marking; although that is also a very bad idea around kids. I just don’t like children being viewed as a marketing opportunity, they’re not cynical enough.
However: I think all schools should use Apple. There, I said it. Now I’d better explain it.
Schools are essentially slow moving things, and technology is a fast moving thing. This often means that schools lag behind current developments a ridiculous amount. I mean, there are teachers out there who still think that “doing a powerpoint” is the cutting edge, whereas most private companies are encouraging people to move away from powerpoint and really engage with their audience, something that teachers already do brilliantly. But we were blindsided by the arrival of interactive whiteboards and whizzy slides and forgot that these tools cannot replace a charismatic, knowledgeable expert at the helm.
The relationship between primary schools and technology is always an uneasy one. Anyone remember the NOF training? Money spent trying to update teachers’ IT knowledge, and oh how we all hated its misguided efforts. Then came Computers for Schools vouchers and as a result millions of digital microscopes serve as bookends in stock cupboards up and down the country.
ICT lessons themselves are too often about teaching processes, learning how to use equipment. I used to spend at least 10min of each precious half hour lesson reminding children how to save work; a route so convoluted that it was like talking them through defusing a bomb. And there was still always That Child who cut the red wire.
And don’t get me started on RM Window Boxes (http://www.rm.com/generic.asp?cref=GP1225202). A “child friendly” interface aimed at simplifying things for primary aged children. Children don’t generally need their IT simplified, so who’s that for? Never mind “Number Magic”, just let them use Excel and stop messing about.
It sometimes feels like schools just aren’t getting it.
Which is where Apple comes in. They have always been about the interface, or more importantly the removal of the interface. This is the aim of good technology, that there is no barrier to its use. Perfectly intuitive technology is the Holy Grail of work psychologists and Apple is its Champion.
Recently I was coveting an iPad in the phone shop, and when I turned round dd1 was cheerfully using one to play the piano... “Mummy, I REALLY want an iPad”. She can dream on, but it does sum up what IT should do in primary schools. It should enable children, give them options, support them. With no-interface technology we can get on with teaching children to become rigorous and analytical appliers of technology, not just competent users of Windows.
It's not all schools, some get it perfectly. Want to see what an iPod Touch can do? Look at @ebd35’s blog (http://ebd35.wordpress.com/). A boy with no special love of writing created this:
Isn’t it brilliant? This is what happens when we let technology support the learning, not the other way round.
Please may I have an iPhone now?