Believe me, I love the iPad just as much as any other educator. I’ve been actively using one in my speech therapy setting since the iPad first hit the streets back in April, 2010. It really is a fun addition to my speech room, but I need to remind myself that my iPad should not be the be-all and end-all of my speech therapy sessions. The reason that I mention this is because I feel that some of my colleagues, and myself included, overuse our iPads from time to time. Are you guilty of this? (It’s okay, don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone, haha!)
Who wants to shoot some hoops?
Let me tell you a personal story that highlights the importance of using iPads in moderation within the speech therapy setting. One of my most favorite apps to use in speech therapy is called Arcade Hoops Basketball by Skyworks. (Just so you know, the free version is cool, but I recommend that you upgrade to the paid version because it unlocks a bunch of awesome themed skins – one of which is a zombie basketball level!). Anyways, this one time I was working with a pair of students whose goals centered around perfecting their /SH/ sound. I had the bright idea of introducing them to that basketball app so they could practice the /SH/ sound while they /SH/oot some hoops on the iPad.
All students want to play with iPads all the time, right?
Well, not always. In fact, this particular pair of first graders confessed something to me that really threw me for a loop. “Mr. Raj, we have been using the iPad so much lately. Instead of playing with the basketball app while we practice our /SH/ sound, can we actually walk down to the gym with you and shoot real hoops with a real basketball for a few minutes?”
Real vs. digital – which one wins?
When my students made the request to play real basketball over digital basketball, I immediately realized that they were right. It was clear that I was getting into a bad habit of using the iPad too much! So why not opt out of that basketball app idea in favor of real basketball? And here’s the thing, my speech area is just down the hall from the gymnasium and during this time of the day, the gymnasium was unoccupied. So, why wouldn’t I take them into the gymnasium to shoot real hoops? Long story short, I did just that, and between the two students, I was able to elicit over one hundred responses (sweet!). All in all, it was a wonderful speech therapy session that involved /SH/ooting a REAL basketball over a DIGITAL basketball. Now, imagine if I had just dismissed their initial comments and forced them to play with the app? I am positive the session would not have been as successful.
Again, I am not hating on iPads. Not at all.
I want to go on the record as saying that I love iPads and digital tablets as a whole, but I also want to go on record as saying that we must not forget about other aspects of education. We should not get into a bad habit of using iPads too much (like I started to do). Nikolaos Chatzopoulos, an elementary school teacher in Clearwater, Florida said it perfectly when he stated the following in his recent article titled iPads In The Classroom – The Right Questions You Should Ask:
The truth is that that no device can match the value of human interaction with real life situations or with other human beings. The iPad can be a tool of immense value in the classroom. However, it should remain just that: a tool that complements instruction and offers learning opportunities for situations and learning concepts that are impossible to be accessed, observed, or analyzed in a classroom setting without the assistance of technology.
In closing . . .
We played basketball during speech therapy. Real basketball. My students produced so many crisp and clear /SH/ sounds while they played real basketball. The smiles on those students’ faces were huge. I’m proud to announce that I now make a conscious decision to use my iPad in moderation because as I found out, too much of anything, no matter how good it is, can quickly turn into something sour. So my questions to you are, are we, as speech-language pathologists, sometimes using our iPads too much? Are we sometimes forcing our students to do something digitally that we might be able to do in real life? Could the real life version trigger stronger opportunities for conversation and communication? Interesting questions to ponder, huh? Haha!
MORAL OF THE STORY: Moderation, my friends. It’s all about moderation.