The Invisible iPad — It’s Not About The Device.

In 2012, while attending my first ISTE conference, I was both overwhelmed and inspired by the literary thousands of ways that technology could be used in the classroom. Sessions like “60 Apps in 60 minutes” and “100 Apps for the English Classroom” seemed to be staple session titles. These sessions seemed like standard protocol and “best practice” when looking at technology’s role in the classroom.

Our aim is to use as much technology as possible, but not the same app twice.

I have always had technology in my life, from America Online, to building my own computers, to early 90's video conferencing. The unique experience, I feel, especially when hearing people reminisce of real old-school tech, is that my technology did things, and it did them with simplicity and ease. This critical point should be acknowledged, that in the 90's technology truly became a consumer product that could get things done.

Technology finally became the vehicle to connect with others and create something meaningful.

It wasn’t until 2014, that I was able to concretize my thoughts when looking at technology, education, and the point where they intersect. That year, I published an article on the Mindshift blog, called The Invisible iPad — It’s Not About The Device. Fast forward to 2016, and it is still not about the device. The statement needs clarification though. Does it mean to ignore the device? Does it mean that we shouldn’t be trained, or coached in how to use it?

No, it means that we should become efficient, effective, and thoughtful users of technology through the lens that focuses on not what the device can do, but what we can do with it.

Edison wasn’t trying to invent the lightbulb, he was trying to create a way for the world to see in the dark. This is how we must look at technology in our life.

Think about technology you take for granted and then look at how you interface with it and are “thoughtful,” so to speak, about its use. Take an automobile for example. You need training, drivers education, a permit, a license, and once you are “ready” you are required to be attentive, engaged, and focused while using it. Make a mistake, and your “privilege” to drive can be revoked. Now, some people obsess over their cars. They care what they look like and how fast they are. Others look at their car as nothing more than a method to get from point A to point B. Computing Technology isn’t much different from that, yet at what point do we shift from the shiny sports car to the device that gets us places?

Three years ago, I was sitting in our computer lab envisioning what I wanted the end of the third year of our 1:1 iPad program to look like.

As the Director of Educational Technology, how was my role going to help drive forward meaningful learning?

I imagined how all the 21st-Century buzzwords would be internalized, multimedia production would abound, and independent and curious learners not just in middle school, but in primary as well. I wanted my faculty and students to feel empowered. I wanted to answer the following question:

How are we giving our students not just the skillset, but the mindset to use technology as a tool to solve any challenge they are faced with?

That is why it CANNOT be about the device. Devices come and go. Devices shift, combine, and remix.

Now it’s iPads vs Chromebooks (and maybe Surfaces, I guess), but what about 9 years from now? When my 1st graders are entering high school, will there be an iPad Thinner Than Air Pro(jector) 2? Or will it be something different? This is why we must focus on what the device can do. We need to focus on how technology allows us to do something greater than we can without it. To connect with others, share with others, and make a difference.

It’s true, students and teachers need training, coaching, workshops and more workshops, but that doesn’t create buy-in, and it doesn’t create stakeholders. Those are created by helping people understand that technology is a tool to add both

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So when I say, “it’s not about the device,” something I have been saying for over two years now, it isn’t because I want to ignore the device, or assume that it will do something magical by itself, it’s because I want users of technology to look past the device and see something bigger. Something great.

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