Beatrix Webber, '24
As technology has grown to be an integral part of life in the 21st century, Lower School students have incorporated iPads into their school day. Many of us grew up with SMART boards as the peak of new tech in the classroom, and we turned out fine! So, I can only wonder, is the iPad worth it? Or rather, is an iPad worth having at the expense of important human connections?
Before we can fully answer this question, it is important to understand how and why Lower School students are using their iPads. Lower School Counselor, Ms. Miner, says that before the pandemic she didn’t use the iPads much in her classes, but during the pandemic they implemented a new program named Seesaw. “Seesaw is how we can push out activities,” she said, “and we can communicate with the students” which helped her maintain direct contact during isolation. However, the adjustment back has been more complex. “Last year by necessity, they were on their screens a lot” she continued “if you're not careful about it, as a teacher, it can end up being 100% individual work … but it's also very, very important to interact with humans”.
So how does she strike a balance? Ms. Miner has a unique perspective as counselor, she says “kids need to talk to other kids, and they need to work with other kids … And they don't always like it because it's stretching them and challenging them”, but that human interaction always takes priority. Fourth grade homeroom and geography teacher, Ms. Bader, agrees. She says that her mantra is “The minute the technology gets in the way of relationships, put it away.”
That being said, technology can be more advantageous to students of varying learning abilities. Ms. Bader says Padlet, an app where students can answer prompts anonymously for their classmates to see “is great because kids who may not be as vocal in class can contribute. There's something about typing instead of saying it that brings out a courage.” Similarly, Ms. Miner acknowledges the difficulty of producing writing. She says, “for instance, you can use voice to text” which enables students to get their ideas out before worrying about writing it. These accommodations allow students to engage in independent work that is more geared to their success, whereas in a classroom some students may feel the need to stretch and adapt to the blanket lesson plan or may feel too shy to speak up. On Seesaw, “a shy-er student can feel like they can ask questions or get clarification” Ms. Bader notes.
That being said, there are some downsides to having technology as a massive portion of the curriculum. Besides the potential loss of human connections students may find themselves easily distracted. Ms. Miner says, “they’re things that have lights and have movement and have cute kittens and funny puppies… all those things like that can definitely be a distraction.”
But at the end of the day it is all about striking a healthy balance. Ms. Bader says that if technology “furthers the deeper, more important human goals. Then I'm a big fan and I do use it quite a bit, but not to the detriment of relationships”. At the end of the day, I’ve come to learn that it is not a black and white answer to the question: is an iPad worth having at the expense of important human connections? The truth is, as Ms. Bader and Ms. Miner have helped me realize, it is important to strike a balance in which students feel they can get the most out of their education and their overall school experience.
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