Yesterday’s a reader commented on the fact that we humans don’t seem to learn very well. And simultaneously yesterday I had my first IPad lesson – from a small grandson who had just turned three. He had no trouble navigating the main menu and immediately picked a summary of Toy Story 3, choosing to have it read to him and swiping the screen to turn the page at exactly the appropriate time. After that he turned off the sound and re-told the story from memory without a slip. The term, “digital native”, seemed apt. Even though I turned on a computer before any of my four sons, I felt very much reduced to “digital immigrant” status.
The next adventure was equally interesting. After Andre had put a random number of magnetic letters on the fridge, he sang the ABC song to them, – though they didn’t precisely match the letters he was singing about. As a diversion I suggested that I play the same tune on the piano for him and that we could sing it, but he wanted to play it too, – and couldn’t. “How do you do that?” he asked with some frustration. Of course the right reply was “Practise, practise, practise”, but that would not have been entirely honest either. I’ve always been able to play by ear and since I had parents who could do the same, they let me experiment as soon as I could climb on to the piano bench. The result is that reading music is still a challenge decades later. We come by these challenges honestly though. Andre’s great grandmother could sit down and play the piano at four. She was frustrated that when she picked up a violin at the same age she couldn’t make it sound pleasant from the get go.
So what will an IPad contribute to learning? I’m not negative about it. I rather like the fact that it is less easy to multi-task and leads to focus on one task at a time. But it is so easy to flip to something else If we find ourselves burdened with information overload, what will the three year old find when he starts school a little more than a year from now? What is encouraging is that the most interesting activity of the afternoon was kicking a soccer ball around in the spacious open space of the lower floor and yelling as loudly as possible to hear the echo. Some things are still totally native.