On Sunday, my daughter set up a lemonade stand for the very first time. She handled everything — buying lemons, standing in line at the bank to get change, making a sign — and ultimately made a small profit that included a two dollar bill. But heading into late morning on Saturday, I was more than a little bit worried about the endeavor because my daughter, being 8, seemed to think that a lemonade stand and homemade lemonade would appear at the simple snap of her fingers.
As I tried to explain all the steps involved, she lost interest and I became frustrated. I was facing a very typical teaching / parenting challenge: how on earth can I move what’s in my brain into the brain of my student / daughter? How can I help her to see what I know to be true?
That’s when I reached for my iPAd and handed it to her. I knew the tool would attract her attention. And, beyond that, I knew it would slow both of us down enough to help us do some real planning.
She opened Explain Everything, and we worked in one slide at a time to trace the process from ingredients to first sale. Because she had to draw almost everything, she had to literally visualize each step. By the time we were finished, she was fully in command of the 25+ steps it would take for her to turn her vision into reality. She took me by the hand and led me through the rest of the day, telling us where we needed to go and what we needed to do. By Sunday afternoon, she was ready to go.
I sometimes hesitate to pick up my iPad because I’m not fluent enough in the tools it offers to use it to capture my thinking. I admit that. But I have to continually remind myself that, as a teacher / parent, my thinking isn’t what’s most important. Whatever helps my student / child think best — understanding the problem she is trying to solve and her own agency in seeking solutions — is the tool I should try to provide. If I don’t do that, then I’m simply in the way, maybe even part of the problem.