Opinion
Education Opinion

If You Meet an iPad on the Way, Smash It

By Justin Reich — November 04, 2012 2 min read

There is a famous Zen koan (a verbal, mental puzzle that Zen Buddhist adherents use for meditation and to deepen their practice) that offers a deadly paradox:

If you meet the Buddha on the way, kill him.

Being a few meters short of nirvana myself, I can’t perfectly articulate the meaning of the puzzle, but the general idea is this: “The way,” the path to enlightenment, needs to be individually traveled. If you meet the Buddha on the way, you cannot reach wisdom by slavishly following his path; you need to kill him (metaphorically) and follow your own way. A gathering of Buddhists isn’t about the Buddha, it’s about what the Buddha sought. There are useful guides to the way, but ultimately each of us must follow his or her own path.

This week, I’m helping host EdTechTeacher’s iPad Summit, what we believe is the first national gathering of educators pioneering the use of iPads and tablets in schools and classrooms. As I think about facilitating the event, I keep coming back to the idea that this event for iPad users can’t be about iPads. My own koan for the week is this:

If you meet an iPad on the way, smash it.

If this event becomes a meeting about how we got rid of power cords or extended battery life or solved workflow challenges or found some neat apps, then we fail. The iPad summit is not about the iPad.

The way we are seeking is one where we prepare young people for a life of civic commitment, of self-reflection, and of meaningful work and contributions to community. The way is about unlocking student talent, compassion, and humanity. If the iPad distracts us from defining the way, then we have to smash it.

Our introductory keynote speaker, Tony Wagner, will probably have nothing to say about iPads. Rather, he’ll draw from his recent book Creating Innovators, about the kinds of learning environments that nurture creative, entrepreneurial thinkers. He will talk about play, passion, and purpose as critical nutrients to fertilizing the soil where innovation can take root. He’ll share a vision of emerging educational spaces—like Olin College, MIT’s Media Lab, and High Tech High—that have developed effective strategies for fostering collaborative problem solving and creative thinking. His iPad-less introduction to our iPad summit is by design: we want to devote our attention to the “why” before we contemplate the “how.”

Once the way comes into focus—once we can imagine the learners we wish to cultivate and the experiences we wish to nurture—then we can think about iPads. Then we can think about how to put the affordances of the iPad in the service of our goals: how instant on functionality gives us the power, at any moment, to turn iPads off and focus our attention on each other; how the limitations of file storage force our students to learn to organize their work in the cloud; how a portable connection to the world’s information and the world’s Internet-connected population offers an unprecedented resource for problem solving; how a portable media creation device offers flexible ways for students to routinely demonstrate their understanding in multiple modalities.

I offer my best wishes to everyone headed to the iPad Summit this week, and this advice: If the nitty-gritty details of iPad use distract us from our larger mission, then we need to smash them. If we get too lost in the “how” of iPads in classrooms, then we need to stop and ask “why?”

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.

The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
Speech Therapist - Long Term Sub
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read