I have long espoused that digital technology should be less a vehicle by which teachers may deliver content but a tool by which students may learn.
My son, in second grade, is a very tactile and concrete learner. He had quickly learned to despise homework and would refuse to complete it and, once the damage was done, it took some time to convince him that we could make homework fun. By now, having earned his faith in Daddy’s ability to transform homework, this is what tonight’s homework looked like…
First, he had the week’s 10 new spelling words which he must alphabetize. Originally this was a very frustrating experience and he was not doing well on spelling. To help him, I had typed his words as independent text objects in the SMART Notebook app on my iPad and he would rearrange them kinesthetically with his finger before copying from the screen onto his paper. He’s reached the point of being able to alphabetize the words without the help of the iPad, but he still likes it occasionally. Tonight I encouraged him to not only use the iPad, but to type the words himself — extra spelling practice.
For his math homework, in which he was estimating sums by rounding to the nearest ten, I pulled out a number line from the SMART Notebook Gallery and showed him how to adjust the minimum and maximum of the number line to be the tens just below and just above the number to be rounded. Then he could visualize which ‘ten’ was closer.
I was amazed at how hard he worked, how long he worked, and how happily he worked. The best part was that I didn’t need to spend time creating alternative content for him, I just gave him an alternative tool by which to succeed with a good old fashioned paper worksheet.