I recently downloaded a physics app to my iPad for my daughter to use. Although she is only in elementary school, she is already starting to be exposed to various science and math concepts so I thought the app might be helpful.
Later that day she came up to me and said, “Did you know if you rub two balloons together that they will repel from each other if you try to put them next to each other because of static electricity?” Wow, I thought, this app must be amazing. Look at how smart she is. And look how smart I am for putting the app on the iPad and helping her take advantage of the promise of new technology. I can see the science awards flowing in and my fear of having to pay for college is dissipating rapidly. I have a genius!
Then, in an instant, the idea of scholarships is gone because of one simple question. “Why do the balloons repel from each other?” Silence. “I don’t know,” she said.
And here lies the issue – does she really understand? While she can memorize what she saw, she does not fully grasp the concept of static electricity. Sure, she might pass a quiz, but could she apply what she has learned?
Pushing the iPad aside for a moment, we took out two balloons and did an experiment. I explained what was happening….and why. Then, we found a different app that allowed her to rub balloons together and perform other ‘physical’ activities. I asked the question again. “Why does this happen?” This time she was able to explain what was going on in great detail.
The lesson is simple. Using technology to memorize things is useless and a huge waste of money. Just get a book. However, using technology as a means to enable students to experiment and explore is tremendously helpful. In addition, combining this ability to explain and show what they have learned is true and meaningful learning.
What has been your experience with technology in the classroom? Has it been helpful? Why?
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