Last night on Twitter: iPad v. Laptop and the search for a grand unifying theory of tech

Quite a good bun toss last night between @amichetti, @ryanbretag and me re the merits of 1:1, multi-device:1, iPad v. laptop. In the end I think we’re all more or less on the same page: the iPad is a companion device to a laptop or the laptop is a companion to the iPad, one does not replace the other, schools individually have to decide what’s best for their communities…

All of this is moot, really. Education is not about devices, as @ryanbretag rightly says. My blog is called “A Stick in the Sand” because, like Alan Kay, I think tech is great but there are very few ideas that can’t be taught equallly well with a stick in the sand. 

And so all of our tweeting made rather narrow debating. We limited ourselves to seeing technology as additive or substitutive, not transformative. (Here’s a good example of transformative practice.) I hate when I get suckered into that talk. I’m only passingly interested in what we can do now on all our devices. We tweeted about what iPads and laptops can and can’t do today–run Google Docs or not, run Flash or not, run Adobe CS or not. Good schooling is not about those applications any more than it is about devices. 

What’s much more interesting to me is a discussion about what we can imagine doing with our devices tomorrow. Can we really build a classroom without walls using iPads? (A BC school did after a fire destroyed their school building.) How might schooling change if all students had a personal learning device, such as an iPad, with them all the time? Does that change the notion of a school day? (At my previous school, Think Global School, we used mobile technologies to tear down the Mon-Fri-8-3 idea of school work.) Hence my repeated comment that if you’re vision is a 1:1 program, you’re already behind the curve. You’re visioning for today, not tomorrow. (I’m ignoring very real practical considerations, but I’m talking about visioning here.)

Therein lay the differences between @amichetti, @ryanbretag and me: we were talking different contexts. (It doesn’t take very many replies before the limitations of 140 characters begin to distort people’s positions.) I was speaking very broadly about education, my colleagues in the Twitterverse about local issues…sort of like Einstein’s physics and quantum mechanics. Maybe we’re looking for some grand unifying theory? 


  1. Reply
    Koathanger January 31, 2012

    Eloquently written – couldn’t agree with your thoughts more! Interesting how you stated that Twitter may not be the best forum for discussion. I enjoyed reading some of your Twitter discussion yesterday. Visioning is tough. I know where I might want to end up, but not sure how to achieve it, especially given the constraints of our present school systems. Above all it’s the empowerment of learning for all stakeholders, real transformative learning.

  2. Reply
    Joe Campbell February 1, 2012
  3. Reply
    Russ Goerend February 1, 2012

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