I’ve spoken out a fair amount about tablets in classrooms. While I like them as a device, my concern has been that given the limited and finite resources available to schools, I’ve been wondering if schools are purchasing tablets when they could be buying cameras or microphones or full laptops that allow students more leeway to both consume information and to create.
I’ve been using a tablet on and off for the best part of a year. I’ve spent time with an Asus eee pad and a Blackberry Playbook (strangely I’ve never spent that much time with the all pervasive ipad). As I said, I like using a tablet. Living in a small town, I like the ability to purchase and download books instantly. I like the ability to jump between twitter, my book, a news app and email all with the touch of a finger. But I’ve noticed that I mainly use it for consuming information. I write email, 140 character tweets and notes about the book I’m reading. But I don’t use it for what I would consider to be intensive, high level, deeply creative tasks. Of course, this might be just me. It might be a changing paradigm of computing that I’m getting caught behind.
But still, overall I would consider a tablet to be mainly a consumption device. This was a great criticism I had of them.
But I’m wondering if that is fair.
Technology certainly has democratized the tools of creation. We can now create and publish to the world in any number of ways, using any number of media. This is the theory of technology as the great leveler. We now each have our own global printing press that we carry in our pocket.
But how many of us use it?
How many people actually use the tools we have available to us to write, to take great photos, to create videos or animations?
Certainly there are a lot more than in the past. Millions of blogs and flickr postings. Youtube videos uploaded by the millions of hours.
But many of these blogs and twitter accounts are short lived, only publishing a few items before being abandoned. Let us also be free to admit that a lot of what is published isn’t worth our time to look at.
So is the consume vs create paradigm a false binary? While we certainly want people to be able to create using the tools they are comfortable with and share what they make, is it reasonable to expect that all people will be high level creators? Should we be concentrating on these skills or should we instead be working to help people become informed consumers and curators of information since this is the most coman role they will find themselves in? What is the best use of time in our classrooms? What skills will people be called upon to use most often? A successful program will of course involve helping people to become successful consumers, curators and creators of information, but should “creation” be considered the top of pinnacle?
Something to think about.