An iPad recently became a member of our electronic family. I was very excited for the educational possibilities and proceeded to load it up with all kinds of, what I thought, were great apps. However once the kids had the iPad in their hands their favourite game was We Farm. It drove me mad. What possible use could tending a "virtual farm" be? I had hoped my 10yo would practice her times tables in some of the lovely apps I had downloaded. Those addition apps were left untouched by my 7yo. All they wanted to do was waste time on We Farm. I hate to admit this now .. but I almost deleted it!
Then one day I happened to be reading on the couch while they were having their "We Farm" time. They began discussing what crops they were going to plant. The 10yo wanted to plant a crop that gave a greater return, but the 7yo wanted to plant a crop that matured faster. Then they tried to figure out if the greater return was worth the "wait" of a longer maturation time. They also considered if they would be around to harvest the crop (ie asleep or at school). This evaluation process was repeated for animal purchases as well. They finally agreed upon a plan that was going to get them closer to their desired goal (apparently a new farmhouse was in order). Now THAT is a whole lot of math!
There I sat .. proven wrong once again. Never was my bias towards "drill and grill" activities more apparent than in that moment. I had read all the articles about how gaming can provide practice for basic skills and even foster higher level thinking within those skills but the games I was choosing were thinly veiled drill and grill worksheets. I failed to recognize that all those skills could be wrapped up in a virtual farm.
I still believe that the basic facts have to be learned, and that, yes, there is a place for drill and grill activities (0ld biases die hard). However, I certainly won't be wasting anymore time downloading those type of apps to my devices. The opportunity to take those basic skills and apply them in a situational context seems far more valuable (and enjoyable). Does this have to be done with technology .. no ... but I don't think my husband is quite ready to hand over the reins of our real farm to the kids quite yet!