Hall Davidson at TASA 2013: Tablet Device as Backpack

Is the backpack destined to become extinct too?

Is the backpack destined to become extinct too?

I had never heard Hall Davidson speak until I saw him at the Midwinter meeting of the Texas Association of Schools Administrators. If you have not heard his presentation, you are in for a treat: enthusiasm, energy, state-of-the-art information. As we say around here, it was the whole enchilada.

His title was, “Leading, Learning, Achieving: The Realities of the Digital Age for Administrators,” and he covered a lot of ground. First he defined what digital content is and isn’t: an e-book, for example, is not digital content, if it isn’t linked to anything and is not dynamic. Davidson says “digital” should mean the following:

  1. Dynamic updates
  2. Extended digital tools
  3. Content creation
  4. Account-based resources
  5. Cross platform for a BYOD world

He demonstrated new digital tools to show what is possible today.

Central to his presentation is the idea that the paper textbook is headed to extinction, with the conviction that it should be. Using a tablet device to demonstrate, he says the digital devices will replace not only textbooks, but backpacks as well – that a tablet device can include text, translation devices, dictionaries, entire encyclopedias. He even demonstrated how, for very little money, he converted his tablet camera to a microscope.

The pedagogical problem all of this is attempting to address is that it has long been established that personalized instruction can lead to two standard deviations of improvement. That’s assuming 1:1 teacher/student ratio. We also know that we won’t ever reach that ratio with teachers, but technology can address the need to personalize. Davidson also proposes that we can address the affective as well as the cognitive domain, as non-cognitive factors play a huge role in student achievement or lack of it. A student who is given the kinds of scaffolding we can provide digitally will achieve more and feel better about his or her school experiences. Simply adjusting reading levels of materials presented to students can help accomplish this, according to Davidson, and Google already provides this in their advanced search feature.

And our new digital natives love to create content. Davidson demonstrates several multimedia apps that make it simple for kids to do, even in the younger grades.

There’s much more. You can find his presentations here.

What do you think? Should backpacks, just like the paper textbook, become a thing of the past? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section.

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