Recently, I watched a video on the Education Week website about California elementary school students using iPads in their classrooms to create storyboards and practice storytelling. What might be commonplace for the majority of iPad users, and perhaps many primary school students, continues to amaze me. Through the iPad app, Puppet Pals, students can visually create their stories (choose settings, characters, etc.) and record their story as they create it. When the visual and oral parts are complete, they transcribe their stories.
Teacher, Robert Pronovost, explains that the app is particularly beneficial for students who have trouble with developing their story ideas through writing. I know firsthand that students are not often allotted the time necessary to develop their writing ideas and skills; journals are popular classroom aids, but students who are better oral storytellers sometimes fail to complete journal entries in prescribed ways and suffer from rarely being able to flourish creatively.
An app like Puppet Pals enables students of all abilities to express themselves, while exposing them to literary elements and encouraging them to think about sequencing and the importance of structure in writing. Puppet Pals provides teachers with a resource for improving and equalizing literacy skills in their classrooms. Demands to meet state academic standards have stretched the achievement gap in many U.S. communities, so anything that creates an equal playing field is especially helpful in classrooms.
Pronovost also touches on a critical point in talking about his classroom, which is that in lower income and working class school districts, students typically do not have access to technology outside of school and are not able to practice the skills associated with it. He admits to spending his own money on the app and other iPad features, but a teacher who goes out of his way to bring a beneficial resource to his classroom says something about the importance of technology to students' futures: access and adequate use of it will be necessary for real-world functioning.
Educators often question the value of technology in their schools and classrooms, but as Pronovost's class so clearly exemplifies, not everyone has access to technology, but someday is expected to know how to use it. As technology features are updated and added to the classroom, equality should be a consideration in making final decisions. Students who do have access to it at home are gaining valuable experience by being able to use it in school. Education, in my opinion, is about gaining access and acquiring agency. In order for students to be successful, schools have to provide them with what they lack elsewhere, even if it means limited exposure.