Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPad

We don't do a lot of "technology" around here.  So far as I can tell, it's a partially a combination of ignorance, technological incompetence, and cost.  But it's mostly a preference for reading books, family game nights, playing chase outside, puzzles and Legos inside, and a fear of glassy-eyed zombie kids who whine when the screen goes dark (I'm speaking from experience on that last one.) 

Like many families, screen time for our children is very limited and is carefully monitored.  If they're watching something on the computer (our TV is usually packed away... it comes out for football season and the occasional golf tournament...) it's usually something educational (or it's Shaun the Sheep, which is about animals so it falls into the realm of bio... ok forget it.  It's just entertainment.)  The most advanced "video game" they've ever played is Math bowling on Starfall and in terms of handheld devices... well, we do have an electronic Yahtzee that gets passed around a lot (in fact, Clare once rolled a Yahtzee just by randomly chewing on the buttons) but I think even that is about  to die on us...

I'm just wary of kids and screens.  (It's how I was raised - nearly screen free - a little Square One on PBS here and there and "Pepper's Adventures in Time" on our 1980's computer!)  I don't even have to explain why we limit it because I'm fairly certain you've heard it all before.  It's not as if they don't like screen time... my children ask for "movie nights" as much as the next kid, but I love that when we say "no" they have an easy time finding something else enjoyable to do.  They have some serious imaginations working over time - forced to fabricate their own fun because they're certainly not getting it from a screen.  We hardly even use the computer for school - we have books, maps, books, colored pencils, books, a few cd's, and more books.  And that's the way I like it.  

You can imagine I had a little crisis when we were gifted three refurbished iPads for educational purposes.  (Thank you, Mom and Dad!  We love you!)  Ummmmm... the crisis was short-lived.  Very short-lived.  I was super excited to check out the possibilities and to explore apps that would fit into our lessons.  And I wondered if I was caving in to the electronic side of education (the near equivalent of the Dark Side, in my mind), turning my back on my philosophy of education through reading and real-world exposure and experience.  After taking a week to explore the wonder that is the App Store before even telling the kids that we owned iPads, I'd laid my worries to rest.  Wow!  There's some fabulous stuff out there (and I'm quickly learning how to avoid the garbage!)

my very intelligent and lovely mother helping me set up the iPads and assuring me that they won't ruin my children!
She's the greatest!  (I love you, Mom!)
In a way, having an iPad perfectly compliments one of my personal methods of education: use a variety of materials and types of resources to fill in and round out a topic.  We have a tendency to dive into a topic and hunt down related books, puzzles, movies, cd's, events, activities, etc... to add to the educational experience.  Our iPads won't take over our lessons, they will augment them, and their addition will be in keeping with my methods.  

Here's how I imagine (and plan) that we'll use the iPad for homeschool:

* First and foremost, it's my intention that it will be an additional resource to "fill out" much of what we already do.  It allows us to have a variety of resources right at our fingertips.  For example, we've been studying the human body and have been able to use an interactive body program to learn more and drill the names/locations of different organs and bones.  Or - I'm planning on working with the kids on learning some U.S. and world geography this summer and have found apps that we'll use (along with songs, wall maps, books, etc...) to start memorizing the names and locations of states and countries.  Or - We already regularly use our field guides to try to identify birds we see, but with the iPad, we can bring it with us and identify bird calls! 

* We will also use it to reinforce things we've already learned - mostly through math drills and phonics/spelling practice disguised as games.  

* We will use it to help the kids learn poetry and other memorization items.  We'll also use it to keep a record of those things.  For example, I used a voice notes program to record the poems that the kids were responsible for memorizing for our recent poetry night.  When I wasn't immediately available to review the poems with them, they listened to them (using headphones) and were able to recite along with my recording.  As they learn new poems, or speeches, or lists, or whatever, they will be permitted to record themselves so that each child will have an audio collection of the memorization work he/she did throughout the year.  

* We also plan to use the camera feature to help us gather our nature photos into one easy-to-study place.  We currently use the family camera to photograph our nature finds and the pix often get lumped into a file called something like Summer 2012, and then when it's time to find the picture of the praying mantis we found it takes forever to sift through and find it.  I'm hoping that whatever we photograph close to home will be on the iPad so that we immediately put it into a "nature" folder and find it quickly when we're ready to examine it further.  I'm still not sure if we'll take the iPad with us on nature walks... or just stick with the camera...

* This isn't super educational, but I am also going to allow the kids to use the camera feature to take pictures of the stuff that they create - block cities they construct, marble tracks, Lego trucks, paintings and drawings, sandcastles, 3-D models of Native American villages, industrial shredders made out of old oatmeal canisters, etc...  Then, we all won't feel too badly when it's time for them to be disassembled or to "leave the home" with the Thursday trash.  I think it will be really special for each child to have his/her own folder of photos of things that they built or created - especially to show out-of-town relatives when they come to visit! 

* For now, I've made the decision to not use the iPAd for books. Maybe I over-think things, but I think there's something important about a physical book - seeing a complete work in front of you, being able to page through it, and to visually track your progress as you read through it.  I'm hoping, for now at least, to avoid interactive stories and animated books because I feel so strongly about maintaining the appreciation we've begun to foster for good literature - which has merits that don't hinge on graphics or multiple choice outcomes for the reader.  Good books are good, in part, because they have the power to change us for the better, or to instill values in us, or to challenge our minds to a deeper discernment of life.  Animated books, in my opinion, detract from that power, making the reader think, "well, what else can this book do?" even after having absorbed the text.  Interactive stories, or stories where kids choose the outcomes, minimize the power of a work of literature and emphasize the whims of children... which might not always tend toward the good, true, and beautiful!  Animation and "choosing" which direction to take a story in are appropriate for games, but the purpose of games and the purpose of books are very different, and I'd like to not confuse the two at this point.  I suppose my opinions on this may change (thought I sort of doubt it) but for now, we'll leave books off the iPad and leave the animation and interaction to the games.  


We've been using the iPads for a few weeks now... the kids have had access to them about three times each week - so I'm still doing my controlling and limiting.  I've been extremely particular about the apps I've downloaded - just because something is educational doesn't mean I'm going to abandon all my old standards and suddenly start to be ok with stuff that's obnoxious, inappropriate, or unattractive.  I've stayed away from pop-culture, cartoony, ultra-animated-with-annoying-sounds stuff.  Obviously, there's a lot of animation in apps out there, so I've tried to stick with things are "lovely" or "artsy" or at the very least "unobjectionable."  And, as with everything else (!), I have an opinion!!!  Some apps I've previewed have been immediately deleted and I'm gearing up to write my first reviews in the App Store.  As far as the App Store itself... couldn't they PLEASE give some indication of the age-appropriateness of an app.  Please?  And also, I wish that they had a feature where you could "tag" (?) an App to buy later - there have been some that I've seen that will be great for future use - multiplication tables or learning ancient cultures, etc... but I don't need them yet, and I haven't figured out a way to mark them so that I don't forget about them (Pinterest, I guess?)  

So, as you can see... I've stopped worrying and we've embraced the iPad here in our home and school.  As far as school is concerned, we primarily take a Classical + a little Charlotte Mason approach around here, but I think it's safe to say that now we're Classical Charlotte Mason-ers with a little iSchool thrown in :)  

Posts Coming Soon: 

A Crazed Mom Who Controls and Limits What her Children Consume Via Screen Lays Out the Family iPad Rules


Our Best-Find Homeschool Apps So Far (in Case You're Wondering What We're Using and Loving)

... or maybe I'll just combine the two because who really wants to read a list of rules (ugh.)  Actually, I would... but that's just me :) 

1 comment:

  1. This is super helpful, for real. I'm pretty much exactly the same as you with screens for the kids. It was a big deal that they were allowed to have personal CD players at Christmas (and now they barely use them). They don't watch t.v. except for a few minutes of Jeopardy once in a while for John Paul or the still shot Beatrix Potter VHS tape when they're sick :) But I can definitely see how useful the iPad could be with homeschooling and I maaaay just think about it for the future. I love your ideas on ways to use it. Related: Are your parents taking adoption applications?


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