I remember my daughter’s first day of third grade as if it was yesterday. She was nervous because she was switching to a bigger school that included third, fourth, and fifth grade kids. Even though she knew some of her classmates already, she was terrified that the bigger kids would pick on her, or that she wouldn’t make any new friends. As a parent, I wanted to shadow her throughout the day to make sure that she was okay, but I told her that the day would be great, and she would do just fine; while at the same time trying to fight back the tears.

I remember being anxious and concerned when I went to go pick her up after school. Did she make new friends? Did she like her new teacher and new classes? Did she get picked on or lost? I ran into the school to meet up with her in the main hallway, and I was quite surprised when I saw her skipping down the hallway, shouting “Mom! We use iPads in class!”

The entire car ride home, she explained what the class did with the iPads, and how they were going to continue using them. I was, as any other tech-parent would be, quite impressed. I did not hesitate to RSVP to a computer class invitation, to explain what the students were learning with the available technologies.

During the event, students gave their parents a tour of the computer labs, and showed them what activities they did during class. They even demonstrated some of the apps used on the iPads for certain class activities and assignments. My favorite part of the night was when my daughter’s teacher, Mrs. Liz Langer, invited me into her classroom to show me some of my daughter’s projects.

I was amazed to discover that she had learned how to create QR codes at 8 years old (I don’t even know how to make QR codes). Using a digital recorder, my daughter recorded herself reading a summary of a book she read in class. That digital file was then uploaded onto Langer's computer so a link could be created for the QR code. Once the QR code was made, they printed it out so they could place it on the back of the book that they were summarizing. They also were working with various movie and media apps to produce short newscast productions on certain topics they learned in class.

“They are using problem solving skills, and I have some students combining two to three apps, without any direction from me, to do a project,” says Langer. “Their language skills are developing faster with iPad use than with a book. They communicate with one another on a level that they never had to before, because they can see and share their blogs; and they need to pay closer attention to their sentence structure and spelling as they are sharing so much with one another.”

Langer also emphasized how the “WOW” factor of using iPads motivated the students in ways she could never reach them with a textbook. “They come to school with so much technology knowledge… video games, iTouch, iPhones, computers, etc., to have them sit in a classroom all day, lecture after lecture, worksheet after worksheet, is not going to work,” says Langer.

And I agree with her. Nowadays you can’t go to the grocery store, sit on a bus, or just walk down the street without seeing at least one person glued to their mobile device. We live, eat, and breathe technology, and it continues to change not only how we act as individuals, but how we act as a community and society as well. Everywhere we look, technology is embedded in our cars, kitchen appliances, televisions, and it’s even starting to become a fashion statement.

In my opinion, I think America should concentrate on creating jobs within this industry, and start by incorporating certain digital technologies into the core, school curriculum. We need to start motivating our kids and appreciate the things that they are passionate about. We need to point them in the right direction, and provide them with the opportunities that are not only going to help them grow as individuals, but help us all grow as a society.

What better way to do that than to bring in the devices and skills that they are using outside of the classroom?

Mrs. Langer is one of the rare teachers who incorporates her personal passions and hobbies into her school curriculum for her students (I’ve met some others, but they are hard to find), and there is a huge difference in the students’ behavior and participation when that happens. I think this is key to our nation’s success. We have to get kids excited about learning again.

I think we need to put less attention towards rebuilding the manufacturing sector, and more towards embracing new technology. I strongly believe our manufacturing era is coming to a close, and we need to focus on the areas that we can become successful leaders in; and I think we need to start pointing our children in that direction.

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