Barseghian, T. (2014, January 27). How can we maximize the potential of learning apps? KQED Mind/Shift. Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/01/how-can-we-maximize-the-potential-of-learning-apps/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+kqed%2FnHAK+%28MindShift%29
I generally find the Mind/Shift Blog to be full of ideas that are both rich and practical; this post was ne exception. I follow Howard Gardner’s work closely—he is best known for his work on Multiple Intelligences and currently works at Harvard’s Project Zero, an incredible educational organization. His most recent book—co authored with Katie Davis—is titled The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World. I read two reviews earlier this winter in which the reviewers found Gardner’s tone a little preachy and vague, pitting “youth” against “adults” and creating a false dichotomy between a generation reliant on electronic devices and a generation accustomed to communicating differently. Surprised that Gardner would draw such a sharp distinction, I hesitated to rush to put the book on hold at my public library. However, after reading the excerpt Tina Barghasian selected, I may go back and read the book, but slwoly0- and with an eye to my 75-year-old father’s increasing tech-savviness.
In the excerpt reprinted, Gardner and Davis warn against the majority of educational apps that they say serve an outdated model of “factory-style” automation, rapidly and sleekly delivering digestible educational content with a rewards system that they compare to behaviorist B.F. Skinner’s. However, they also point to the promise of emerging web 2.0 technologies as far richer and more engaging. They claim that “as we transition from web 1.0 to web 2.0 and beyond, there is no reason anymore simply to respond to stimuli fashioned by others, no matter how scintillating and inviting they may be. Rather, any person in possession of a smart device can begin to sketch, publish, take notes, network, create works of reflection, art, science — in short, each person can be his or her own creator of knowledge.” (Gardner and Davis, 2013). They use Scratch as an example of a potentially wonderful app for fostering ingenuity and engagement, yet also warn that, like a hammer, even an engaging app can be misused—in this case, for hacking. This excerpt concludes with a reminder that mindful, attentive adults need to be attending to children’s engaged learning rather than offering mindless consumption in the name of education. The authors choose a Sesame Street word finding app as an example of a tool that could potentially be a path to greater engagement with words in the world for young children, or a mere electronic babysitter.
I was hooked—again—by Gardner’s thinking and will be reading the whole book this summer.