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Duck meets iPad

_1pete duckMy daughter Enya has been looking forward to going to Five Acre’s new (as in opened last year) Middle School all summer. She gets to be reunited with some friends who moved up from the Explorer class, she gets to be reunited with her teacher Tom, and, oh yeah, she gets an iPad!

The iMacs in the Explorer classroom were a regular feature in Enya’s 3rd to 5th grade experience. I remember how she got a lot of mileage researching Japanese Pigmy Squid last year, for instance. But iPads… Touch screens. Oooh! And the Middle Schoolers get to take them home, too!

And take it home she did. They were passed out on Friday, and all my wife and I saw of our child over the weekend was bits of “look at this!” and “look what this does!” in between extremely long periods of her disappearing into another world entirely.

Now I know pretty much all parents have issues with screen time, and we’re no exception. But there was so much discovery going on that we decided to let things take their course. What we were rewarded with was watching our almost-twelve-year-old on a photo safari, in an effort to get a good picture for the iPad’s home page. She was exploring how the light fell on flowers and scooting behind the ducks in the garden, try to get that perfect shot (she also discovered an interest in more advanced photographic filters and effects later in the day). We also ended up listening to our share of musically accompanied explanations of musical keys and scales (discovered on “Garage Band”).

Technology is an important part of the class room experience today. Newcomers to Sequim High School are even tested on technical savvy as a prerequisite to school participation. I talked to Middle School teacher Tom Harris about the iPads this morning and he values them for their capacity to have an entire virtual library in your book bag for free (last year the Middle Schoolers had a reading of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” on their iPads, for instance, and Tom’s planning another Shakespearian comedy for this year). They’re also great for gathering data, photo documentation for students’ journals, and, according to 7th grader Cole, writing wherever you fancy.

They are also, of course, invaluable for flexible and independent Internet research for the students. Although the iPads have safe search filters and other restrictions installed, a part of Tom’s curriculum involving the iPads is exploring the ethics, etiquette, and safety precautions necessary when traveling the fast lanes of today’s web.

While I have my problems with today’s technology getting in the way of genuine human relations sometimes, I’m also happy to see that same technology used appropriately in a learning environment. As for the ducks, I’m sure they’d agree. As soon as they can use touch screens, anyway.