The boys wake up from their nap and ask to play with the iPad. They want to play games and make videos and Joel wants to play around with Instagram again. I’m not anti-technology, but I’m not giddy about it. I know that their stack of straws and construction paper that they left on the table is far less pretty, but also far more creative, than the iPad.
Christy beckons them away, saying simply, “Get on your swim trunks. I have something that you might enjoy and if you don’t like it, you can play with the iPad.”
She turns on the hose, knowing that it will become a muddy mess. The boys throw it at each other and muck up their hair and build a castle and a meal and a ditch for toy soldiers (that never arrive). They never ask for the iPad. They never beg for computer time. They are lost in the mud and the movement and the moment.
When I think of Acceptable Use (always a proper noun), I wonder if that’s a piece schools are missing. An iPad isn’t “hands-on” any more than a book. It isn’t mud. It isn’t construction paper. It isn’t a tower made out of marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. I know that iPads are great. I don’t believe it is an understatement to call them transformative.
And yet . . .
Acceptable use needs to include turning the devices off. It needs to include creativity that isn’t pretty. It needs to be a little messier, muddier and more hands-on than the slick apps that so often turn art into slick collage art. Students need to recognize that creativity and innovation often begin with simpler tools that have both greater limitations and greater possibilities.
Teachers need to remind students that there is wonder and mystery and learning to experience outside of an electronic device. Yes, I want kids to use technology. However, if they’re going to use technology acceptably, they need to observe bugs and build stuff with their hands and bust out the Play Dough every once in awhile.