This past week, after a recent purchase of Apple iPads for our middle-school students, I quickly set up the cart and got the units out to the students for an upcoming lesson. It was late in the afternoon on Friday when the sixth graders were wheeled a class-set of iPads. Most had prior knowledge of using an iPad or other tablet, however they had never used them in a school setting. (Our middle schoolers are Google App and Chromebook wizards) Using Apple Configurator, I pre-loaded a Bridge Constructor app for an upcoming engineering lesson and was excited to see how students would take to the devices.

Students walked up to the cart, grabbed an iPad, went back to their seats, unlocked the screen and began looking for the app we had discussed. There wasn’t a need to go into details and explain what was going to take place with the technology. That was it. In the time it took for me to write this paragraph, 25-students were designing bridges.

A few students looked on together for a few moments to get comfortable, most went at it alone. Students were able to begin designing bridges and testing them in under one-minute. There were no questions for me to answer on the technology itself. They collaborated, discussed various strategies quite politely and respectfully among each other. For this generation, the technology is right in their wheel-house.

Looking back at the lesson, there was no confusion, no professional development needed. I allowed the students to become the teachers of the app and they answered my questions.

I am writing this because there still is a mis-understanding that students aren’t ready to use technology appropriately or long introductions to digital devices are needed. In my humble opinion, setting high expectations on digital activities is the only way to go. We could have had an “Introduction to the iPad” class for 45-minutes and accomplished nothing but a ton of eye rolls. Instead, the 21st century student is much more capable than we give them credit for. In some regards, we need to get out of the way. The technology available allows the focus to take place on the curriculum and materials at hand.

Take advantage of this!