The other day I learned that my daughter's school will be moving to a one-to-one environment for technology from 2nd grade. My son, who is now a 7th grader is already a part of this program as middle schoolers need to have their own MacBook when they begin 6th grade. The new policy will require all 2nd graders to have their own iPads to bring to and from school.
I am sure that we are looking at the future of education with tablet technology. Laptops and netbooks are already common in every class at the college level and visible all the way down the line through high school, middle school, and elementary. It is simply too efficient having your textbooks, library, and notebook all at your fingertips in a neat multimedia package the size of a piece of paper for it not to end up that way. So, I am not arguing against that introduction of technology into schools. But, what are we losing and how will it affect my kid's chances of getting a good job (since that is what this blog is about)?
The influence (interference?) of technology in education is not limited to the gadgets the kids and teachers are toting around. Blackboard or Moodle (enterprise level education software/service) along with intranets and blogs are allowing teachers to share information with their students 24 hours a day. My son often has no idea what his homework is until he gets home and checks online at the end of the day. This is great for everyone involved as it eliminates the excuse of forgotten homework assignments. How can my daughter claim that she forgot when it is on the website every night? The only challenge we have in our house is that sometimes my son will check his homework, do the first subject and then forget that he had more. For that we created the printable to-do list you see here. He is responsible for writing it all down so it is all in one place as soon as he gets home each day. This is an open source to-do list by the way so please feel free to use it if you like.
For the iPad, MacBook, and technology overall, my Headhunter Dad mindset is asking, "Will my kids be more competitive or less competitive in the job market because of this early introduction of technology in their schools?" There are some common technical skills that most companies will expect of new employees such as: basic typing skills, able to find their way around a computer, Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Early use of these tools of the trade will certainly help to increase the comfort and confidence of our kids so in that sense I would agree that technology contributes to their job-seeking competitiveness. However, there are more critical virtues which will affect not only getting a job but succeeding at the job. To answer this question I referred back to a brief study I did about what the world's most attractive employers are looking for in our kids. It came down to four common attributes: problem-solving, teamwork, maturity, and confidence (the articles can be seen by clicking on the maturity or confidence links). So, does technology add to the opportunities to build on any of these four recruiting points? No, it does not. Yes, you can exercise your problem-solving abilities on an iPad. You can collaborate electronically and learn how to work as a team. Technology, when taught properly also teaches responsibility when interacting with others and also about protecting that expensive hardware. Any achievement whether technology based or otherwise can help to build confidence. But, I do not believe technology teaches problem-solving, teamwork, maturity, and confidence any better than it can be taught without an iPad.
There is a need to learn how to use the tools of society but at the same time there is also value to getting away from the screens and keyboards. Each of our kid's will be different and the challenge is finding the right mix for each of them. My conclusion? Balance. As the Headhunter Dad's Dad is fond of saying, "Life is all about balance Larry."