A friend recently asked me whether they thought an iPad or a laptop was better for their child.
If you thought I would have said “iPad” straight away – you’re right. After all, seeing a child interact with a tablet makes you marvel at how intuitive and accessible it really is compared to a laptop which seems ancient in comparison. Besides, I love my iPad but the more I thought about it, the more my answer started shifting towards a laptop.
Escaping technology bias
With minimal start-up time, convenient size and beautiful screen, it is clear that tablets are biased towards consumption over creation. However, since reading Douglas Rushkoff’s book Program or be Programmed I’ve become far more aware of the importance of recognising and not giving in to the natural bias of technology.
In a media environment that is becoming increasingly participatory, stories and mythology are no longer told but co-created. As the rise of social networks, blogs, podcasts and online video has shown, digital media is biased towards creation by enabling everyone to write and publish. We are no longer resigned to being passive consumers of media – as was the case when traditional mass media was the only player in town – but active participants with real influence and the power to shape communications.
When you look at it through this lens, tablets are almost a throwback to the past as it discourages longer, meaningful creation. It’s well suited for short bursts of content creation such as a tweet or a status update, but not so flash at long emails or blog posts (as Prakky opines).
Learning to create
The long and short of it is that although there are apps for creating – word processing, spreadsheets, photo editing, etc. – they are shallow compared to the same thing on a laptop. At this point in time, touchscreens are yet to offer a depth of interaction that a keyboard and mouse offers.
Much like the argument that Google bypasses critical thinking, so too have tablets removed the need to understand how software and hardware works, offering up instant solutions. For this reason, while I think there’s a place for both, for children who are just starting out, it is vital that they explore, question and test the limits of technology without restriction.
What do you think? Are iPad’s and tablets better learning devices for children or is there still a place for laptops?