1.3 What do we hope to achieve by going digital?

    There are five goals that we seek to meet by going digital. These may change as we gain more experience. In some ways we are taking a bit of a gamble. My wife and I sought and received the support of the staff at his school and we discussed things with him before proceeding with a plan. All of the key players are on board, now we can flip the switch and voilà! We have a digital student. Wrong! We will need clear goals and ways to decide that we are on track or are off the mark. Our goals for going digital are as follows:

Goal 1: Grades of C or better in all classes by the next trimester
Goal 2: Grades at B level or better by the last trimester
Goal 3: Reduce school materials carried down to a single student (not adult) sized backpack.
Goal 4: Organize all school work including; agendas, homework, notes, spirals, binders, and reminders using Digital Student tools
Goal 5: A Digital Student who can ingest and change (edit, mark, draw) documents and images, record typed and audio notes, distribute content to teachers and stay on top of work with minimal intervention.

    Our goals will help our son meet academic success. For our son, that means our chosen platform (an iPad) is the center of his digital world. It will take some doing, but I intend to supplant his Xbox 360, Wii, PSP, and DS game devices, and his laptop and desktop PCs as the dominant access points to the digital world. This is a good time to mention that his iPad does not have any entertainment video games loaded on it and I intend to keep it that way. The exceptions to-date are educational games. One teaches math and the other is a physics game that allows him to build a roller coaster rail system and then see the associated physics. I see nothing wrong with him having a bit of fun at the right time and place. As long as he is learning, I’m fine with a select few games. Because I control the App Store account on the iPad, I am confident of our ability to restrict its use to learning activities. That hasn’t stopped him from trying to go gamer on his iPad though.

    I am aware of the fact that he accessed the Game Center that comes preloaded on the iPad on the very first day that he took it to school. I’m sure that the temptation was far too great for him. He has certainly gotten pressure from classmates who have reacted to the iPad by saying things like, “you’ve got an iPad, cool! Have you got Angry Birds loaded on it?” I’m proud to say that he gave the perfect response, which is “I’ve told you guys this iPad is not for playing games, it’s for educational use only!” That’s my boy.

    If we are to meet our goals, our son must really buy in to this approach. I believe that we have a good chance at success because he seems to really enjoy using the iPad as a learning tool, even if he can’t play games on it. I acknowledge that it is too early to predict outcomes. Our son works hard to make use of the investment in his academic future. I’ll cover this further in the upcoming post on how things are going so far.

    I have read negative comments from sources that range from parents to teachers about using technology in the classroom such as the iPad. The critic’s view is that technology can’t replace a highly capable and engaged teacher, and the potential for distracting the class from its purpose is high. Our goals address organization and time management skills deficiencies. I’m afraid that these are both areas that haven’t received effective solutions from any quarter. I’d say that until now, we had failed to find a workable solution for our child. One has to wonder how often failure is just accepted with these and other challenges. As parents, we often felt powerless. When you can’t focus on learning because your child can’t organize things and is forgetful, it becomes difficult for everyone involved to see a successful path forward.

    We are highly optimistic that we now have a pathway towards success. Our son is a very bright, gifted and talented child. By focusing on goals 1 and 2 we expect to see better grades. As enablers, goals 3 through 5 provide a foundation that is solid. One that has many ways to involve and inform parents and teachers in a much more timely manner than ever before. There is now a centralized hub of information about all aspects of our sons school experience. It is too early still to predict outcomes, but as I’ll describe later, we have already overcome some major challenges for our son.

    In the next posting, I’ll address why we decided on the iPad as the electronic tool for our Digital Student. For quick access to the posting, click here.

By Ken Granville

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