Friday, November 16, 2012

Creativity and mobile technology

Sir Ken Robinson opened the day's business at NCTE 2012. His mixture of simple truths, stand-up comedy and tweet-able soundbites is quick to win over an audience, as he rolls out contemporary educational aphorisms. Waving the flag for diversity and creativity is so important in the face of widespread curriculum 'reforms'. Reforms that push students and teachers into a conveyor-belt mentality. Throughout the rest of the day, I followed sessions on using tablets in classrooms - well iPads to be specific - and there's certainly no shortage of these to choose from. Two things struck me. First of all, the sheer enthusiasm of academics and teachers for iPad apps. Indeed it's an enormous app-etite! Most presenters seemed happy to stick with describing 'really great' and, of course 'awesome' apps. I only heard one lone voice that tilted at the idea that these presenters might be inadvertently advertising Apple products to their colleagues, their students and their students' parents. Secondly, there seems to be quite a lot of confusion about the use of the idea of affordances. Partly this stems from slippages between thinking about the affordances of the tablet and the affordances of an app itself. Rick Beach even took it one step further by suggesting that affordances were really what educators could 'extract' from apps. I'm not really convinced by that idea. But all told there were plenty of examples of innovative practices - although few people were asking really searching questions about students, portable technologies and new literacies. Consequently my notes (in the NCTE app!) ended up looking like a shopping list of apps. Perhaps this shows that this is new territory. The massive take-up of i-Pads and the proliferation of apps has taken classrooms by storm. But I do think there is a pressing need for more considered and more research-based, reflective accounts to sit alongside the emerging how-to publications...and all those enthusiastic presentations. Advances in literacy, Ken Robinson suggested, are the product of an interaction between technology and human creativity. Perhaps we need to pay more attention to the human bit.

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