Earlier today, on Twitter, I mentioned that the 64GB version of the BlackBerry Playbook is now at the scandalously low price of £129. They’re practically giving it away.
I mentioned that for some educational institutions that would be a really good fit, especially given that you can side-load Android apps. Eventually, I should imagine, you’ll be able to dispose of the BlackBerry OS altogether and juse go with Android for the entire system.
Bill Lord, a Primary school headteacher, replied that he was looking at a ‘mixed economy’ of devices for his educational institution, adding that he had three main reasons for this approach:
- Pupil needs
- Staff needs (confidence/competence)
- Vagaries of the market
I’m with Bill. To my mind, being an ‘iPad-only’ school makes no sense. It’s replicating the Microsoft vendor lock-in all over again. Since when was school about teaching young people how to use particular types of devices?
Instead, it’s better to look at the affordances of each device. That doesn’t mean how much it costs, but rather what it allows you to do. The BlackBerry Playbook at £129, for example, has front and rear-facing cameras and a high-definition screen. Sounds like an opportunity.
It’s OK to build learning activities around specific devices some of the time, but I wouldn’t want to be doing it all of the time. Why not focus on building and using things that are device-agnostic? Surely that’s a more sustainable option? Use the Web, for goodness’ sake!
Finally, if you’re reading this in the UK you should really stop by HotUKDeals every now and again. I’m on there at least three times a day – and not just to find cheaper stuff than usual. I also find it really enlightening in terms of what people are interested in but, more importantly, the comments people leave and the context they give. There’s some serious expertise there.
Image CC BY-NC reebob
My parents upgraded their iPad last week so I spent part of the weekend showing them some of the newer features. My Dad decided he wanted to get to grips with using the Calendar and Reminders apps so I verbalised for the first time something I’ve only known implicitly.
Calendar items are for events and therefore should be organised around NOUNS.
The advantage of this approach is that you can enter specific times for the event. This can then generate ‘remind me 30 mins before’ functionality, etc.
Reminders or To-do list items are for actions and therefore should be organised around VERBS.
The thing I tried to get across to my Dad is that if you need to include a time in your to-do list or reminder then it should be a CALENDAR item.
Personally, I use Google Calendar (events in blue) and the Tasks functionality (in red):
Hopefully that all makes sense. Separating out your verbs from your nouns can help enormously with productivity! 🙂
Last week I was cooped up indoors with my son.
Ben is an energetic five year-old on Easter school holidays whilst I was ill and off work. It rained most of the week meaning that there were fewer opportunities for him to get out of the house with my wife and Grace (our one year-old daughter). The temptation to let him just watch films and play on the iPad was quite high, to say the least.
Thankfully, we’ve already laid down some ground rules for him that help manage his behaviour.
Young children can be inordinately grumpy if they’ve got low blood sugar. Actually, I’m inordinately grumpy if I have low blood sugar.
The first job for my son every morning is to eat some fruit. This is usually a banana. Given that he usually rises at around 6am, it stops him being super-grumpy before his breakfast at 7.30am.
I don’t care what anyone says about children and sugar: too much is bad for both their teeth and their mood. Ben gets that wild look in his eyes when he’s had too much. Fruit, however, contains fructose which seems to be a useful compromise.
2. Screen time
I have to admit, the notion of limiting children to a certain amount of ‘screen time’ seemed slightly ridiculous before we had Ben. But, oh my, you have no idea how more than 15-20 minutes on the iPad (or watching TV) has on his behaviour.
The rule in our house is that he’s not allowed on the iPad until after lunch. This means that at weekends and during school holidays he usually wants lunch at 9:30am!
Whilst Ben has got some games that are purely for entertainment (like Smash Cops which he got as a birthday present, or Gravity Guy and Sonic Racing), most of what he plays has a puzzle element.
He has periods where he’ll just focus on one game to the exclusion of the rest. And that’s fine (for 15 minutes at a time…)
Partly from necessity, partly from principle, we ask Ben to go away and play by himself every day.
We live in an age of mass entertainment when it would be easy to find him something for him to passively consume. When I was young I read books and played with cars because there was nothing more exciting to do. Now there’s a million TV channels, apps and digital distractions fighting for our attention.
Clay Shirky puts the problem well:
I remember, as a child, being bored. I grew up in a particularly boring place and so I was bored pretty frequently. But when the Internet came along it was like, “That’s it for being bored! Thank God! You’re awake at four in the morning? So are thousands of other people!”
It was only later that I realized the value of being bored was actually pretty high. Being bored is a kind of diagnostic for the gap between what you might be interested in and your current environment. But now it is an act of significant discipline to say, “I’m going to stare out the window. I’m going to schedule some time to stare out the window.” The endless gratification offered up by our devices means that the experience of reading in particular now becomes something we have to choose to do.
In a way, therefore, by insisting on analogue play (including reading and writing) we’re teaching mindfulness. It also reinforces the role of my wife and I as parents as opposed to mere babysitters/entertainers.
Are you a parent? What rules do you have in YOUR house? Do they work?
PS You’ll love Leo Babauta’s The Way of the Peaceful Parent