"The students don't think of it as learning"

I'm trying to figure out if that's a good thing. I'm referring to a line in the Indianapolis Star's recent article about a local initiative to use Sony PSPs in the classroom.

I'm trying to figure out if that's a good thing. I'm referring to a line in the Indianapolis Star's recent article about a local initiative to use Sony PSPs in the classroom. Here it is in context:

PSP content is monitored closely and controlled by the school, though administrators have not run into any problems.

"I believe this hasn't taken off across the country because of the mind-set of people that we are letting kids play games all the time," said Reagan Elementary Principal Dana Lewchanin.

"But we haven't had any issues with misuse. The students don't think of it as learning. They are having fun."

I'm not against using innovative devices to get kids online, nor am I against encouraging the use of non-traditional learning tools. However, I want learning to be fun, engaging, relevant, and rigorous. Maybe that means using PSP, a Nintendo DS, an iPod Touch, a cell phone, or a netbook. However, should learning actually be transparent to the students? It won't be in college and while I hope that every student ultimately finds employment that they really love, it's still going to be work.

Here's the part of the article that absolutely rings true with me, though:

"When they first got to school, we would tell kids to turn off all their mobile devices . . . and then the first thing they would do when they left our building was turn on those devices," said [Robbie] Grimes, the school's technology trainer. "If that is how they want to exist and learn outside school, why don't we utilize that desire for education?"

When an employee goes to work (assuming he or she isn't driving a train), do we ask him or her to turn off computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices that they use to access information? More likely than not, the ability to quickly retrieve, process, and synthesize data will be the most vital "21st Century Skill" we can give our kids.

That being said, it doesn't all need to be entertaining and fun. Information management is a skill. PSPs just might be a fine tool to help teach it, as long as students and teachers keep it in perspective. One final example from the article for you to ponder. Talk back below and let me know what you think:

Instead of memorizing the meaning of a list of vocabulary words, they can use a camera or video feature attached to their PSP to take still shots or video clips of everyday life that relate to each word as part of a homework assignment.