For those following along, this is part 2 of a series on iPads and similar devices in teaching, tutoring, and mentoring. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there is a sort of formula for getting this right. I say that, because I see it at work in my interactions with students, everyday.
As the mentor, this all-in-one Organization is fabulous, because it’s like a Mary Poppins bag. You can put so much stuff in it! I’ve got apps for everything (heaven bless the app developers). I really like having students grade their own work, so I have an app for that. We do a lot of coding and diagramming, so I’ve got an app for drawing on top of documents (Notability $2.99 in the App Store). There’s an interactive kids’ news app called News-O-Matic (an awesome free version) that has a letter-to-the-editor function, and folks actually write back! I’ll post a list of all my favorites later.
As a student or mentee, having one place to keep all your stuff is literally a Godsend. Imagine a future where no one has to drag around a nerdy wheelie backpack, because she can download all her books onto a device. No back injuries! No need for binders and paper either. We can put those things back in the fun category instead of the burden/hassle category. I love pretty paper, but didn’t know it until I was an adult, because I just stocked up on boring old college-ruled.
For those with learning differences:
Some of my students have executive functioning deficits. That means they have difficulty making plans that account for lots of variables, then figuring out the steps in order to accomplish the plans, and actually executing them. If you’re thinking “Oh, I have that trouble all the time. Everyone does. If I didn’t I’d be rich and famous by now”.
It’s not really the same thing. To give an example, you probably know a kid who constantly forgets his backpack, or his pencil, or to brush his teeth, or when listening to a list of long complicated instructions, he checks out after the first or second item. This kid’s bedroom is probably a disaster. You’ve probably heard lots of tips on how to help this kid be more mindful, or to remember things more often. You’ve probably also been discouraged, if not disgusted by this kid. Well, I hate to break it to ya, but many of those cases are due to a disability. They really can’t help it when they tearfully try to explain why they lost yet another box of crayons or homework assignment. As a great lover of agency and freedom, I am extremely careful in using the word ‘can’t’. But I use it here, and I mean it seriously. If you are dealing with a student who fits this description, and you’ve been having feelings of discouragement and disgust, I invite you to try for compassion, and dig deep for understanding.
For a small portion of the population, executive functioning deficits are serious and lingering problems that don’t go away. If you’ve been struggling in vain through many teary school days, take heart. Your student isn’t doing it on purpose to make your life hard. He may just have an executive functioning deficit, something that often piggy backs on other learning differences, such as dyslexia. Short of a full diagnostic analysis, you’re looking for a kid who has the above-mentioned problems, but is emotionally warm toward others, has artistic and expressive talent, and genuinely doesn’t seem to know that he’s forgetting things, or lagging behind.
I had a student who wrote so painfully slow, and was yet so pleased with his work, and completely oblivious to the fact that he was several words behind everyone else. His handwriting didn’t account for the extra time and apparent carefulness he had to use. It was still barely legible. He was also warm and caring toward everyone, had a flair for drama, and was a terrific storyteller with a great imagination. But he needs an accommodation if he’s expected to do all that’s required in school and expand his talents.
One of the best ways to accommodate this child is to teach him how to simplify. The iPad is one way to do that. If most of his work can be completed on the iPad, there’s no more need for a pencil, binders, backpacks, folders, stacks of paper, worksheets, or crayons, or handwriting. By combining all of that into one device, you free the student to explore his strengths. The executive functioning energy he was previously spending on all of this stuff, is now liberated to be used on drama, or art, or storytelling, or any of the other various talents the child has.
Maybe you’re thinking that the device is an easy way out, and that this kid just has to learn how to manage lots of stuff. “How will he survive at college? Or on his own as an adult”?
This kid will survive better at college knowing how to simplify his life. He will have learned that it’s okay to not have a ton of stuff. His accommodation may be that he only has three shirts instead of 15, because managing those three shirts exacts only as much energy as he’s willing to sacrifice to stuff. Being able to take all of his notes on a device, and keep track of them by date, time or location, as one can with Apple and Android devices, will make it easier for him to find stuff, than if he were searching across six different binders, textbooks, and stacks of notes.
“But what if he forgets or loses his iPad?”
It could happen. But the kid who knows himself well, and has been taught early how to deal with his executive functioning deficits, can protect himself against this by using one of many useful functions offered by these devices. For example: Apple offers a service whereby your iPad can constantly be sending a GPS signal with a unique signature that can be found by another device. You can also back up all of your data to the cloud so if your iPad is lost, your school assignments, photos, music, notes and browsing history are still there for you.
I hope this was useful, and would love to hear other ways devices are helping your students with executive functioning trouble.
Stay tuned for the next post on the iPad in mentoring!