I’m not an expert on all grades—and I’m only three years deep into my research on the grades I specialize in, which is 1st through 3rd in the U.S. I have spent a bit of time in 4th and 5th—Chromebooks are very useful to these grades and are a step forward. (From no computer 😆.)
I have such a different perspective from articles such as Stager’s that I just don’t know where to begin! And since this is an off-handed comment, I’m not going to dig up citations—but hope to do more of that soon on my blog.
On the topic of laptops:
- Trackpads are a huge problem. Childrens’ hands get extremely tired trying to manipulate them. So an article that mentions a laptop without emphasizing a mouse—I realize this seems like a small thing, but it isn’t!
- To say a Raspberry Pi is better—I just can’t imagine. I did RPi stuff in after-school clubs but the setup and takedown is insane. And you don’t want your kids behind giant glowing tombstone-sized screens. They also are totally underpowered—they take longer to boot and get going—so it seems funny to criticize Chromebooks as not being beefy, then mention… RPi?
- To say that a Chromebook can’t fulfill Papert’s and Solomon’s list smacks as disingenuous—it’s just that there is a lot of elitism around what is proper technology. Just off the top of my head: Sphero, Twine and Voxel Builder are legit tech. Scratch and Scratch Jr. are legit—but are aging. I looked down on these, too, until I saw what kids were doing with them.
There was also a project that Linden Labs was doing on iOS called Blocksworld that was fantastic, but everyone ignored it (and their in-app purchases were awful.)
Since my focus is young kids, I feel (and the research seems to be showing more and more) that tablets are the sweetest computer at that age. A pre-reader just cannot navigate a keyboard yet. And a tablet is not a computer for mere consumption for them—armed with the right software, they will write, record, create visuals of all kinds, it totally opens them up. I hope to show more of the projects that I do with the kids because I think it will be eye-opening.
For me, the hardware issue is pretty easy at present: iPads for up to 3rd grade; Chromebooks thereafter. The more interesting discussion—the software—is where we should spend our time. And also, there is a limit to how much time you can spend with technology in the younger grades, for motor skill developmental reasons.
If I am off, I am always glad to be directed to papers I’ve missed!
Thanks for sharing these insights! Reading them, I think you are totally right that it is a bit wonky to say (as I did!) that a Raspberry Pi is a better choice than a Chromebook. I also think you are 100% on the nose re: tech elitism. As the father of a young child, I'm heaps intrigued by what you've said about iPads and young kids (especially those who cannot read, yet). I've played a little bit with some apps meant for kids, and in a past life, before I confused myself with a liberal arts education I was set on becoming a pre-school/kindergarten teacher. If I ever go back to school I'd most certainly be interested in exploring how to design systems (digital, physical, and otherwise) with children in mind, e.g. what does a public transit system for kids look like.
You should! I wondered if I would enjoy teaching kids or if they would drive me nuts. And they drove me nuts! But then I learned to adapt and now I just think they’re each a wonder. There have definitely been kids that I didn’t like. But then I got to know them.
I haven’t really discovered too many ‘educational’ apps—I like the form factor of the iPad and the kids use apps for filming, recording, drawing, linking to each other. We use it more like a ‘medium’ rather than a ‘subject’. I went into this job thinking that I wanted to help find a way to bring programming into the classroom—but I now feel that was misguided and arrogant. There are more important things than programming. Perhaps not in commerce—but in life, surely.
Thankyou for your questions and for the linked article. I really appreciate your sincere searching for answers and the fact that you would take the time to read and to listen is remarkable!