Recently I read through applications from schools requesting technology grants. As I’ve been doing this for several years, something came to my attention. The trend in school technology has been going from wiring schools for computers, to computers with projectors, to large scale (white boards) to hand held devices (iPads). Most of the schools were requesting funds to buy iPads for their students and teachers. There are many issues that come to my mind when I think about teaching with iPads.
An article in the New York Times brings to our attention the fact that these devices are very costly to schools and that they haven’t yet been proven to improve education. “There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” said Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, who believes that the money would be better spent to recruit, train and retain teachers. “IPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.” NY Times Jan4, 2011
On the other hand, some administrators feel that the iPads would save money in the long run by reducing printing and textbook costs. They feel that it’s not about a cool application. It’s about changing education in the classroom. I believe that it’s a really “cool” device for kids and will certainly get them engaged and eager to use. However, you can’t just hand an iPad to a child and expect him to learn. There must be much supervision and teacher preparation in advance. The iPads must be loaded with useful apps and appropriate content made available. Bridget McCrea’s article in The Journal talks about “Five Things Not to Do During an iPad Rollout”: 1) Go into it without first organizing classroom materials, 2) Expect students to ignore Angry Birds, 3) Assume that sharing information and files is easy, 4) Forgetting to budget for apps, and 5) Ignore the fact that the device can be a distraction. To learn more about this, go to: http://thejournal.com/Articles/2012/07/25/5-Things-Not-To-Do-During-an-iPad-Rollout.aspx?m=2&Page=2
Justin Reich wrote an article in Ed Tech Researcher entitled, “If You Meet an iPad On the Way, Smash It”. He discusses the fact that he’s hosting the EdTech Teachers iPad Summit and talks about the keynote speaker. “Our introductory keynote speaker, Tony Wagner, will probably have nothing to say about iPads. Rather, he'll draw from his recent book Creating Innovators, about the kinds of learning environments that nurture creative, entrepreneurial thinkers. He will talk about play, passion, and purpose as critical nutrients to fertilizing the soil where innovation can take root. He'll share a vision of emerging educational spaces—like Olin College, MIT's Media Lab, and High Tech High—that have developed effective strategies for fostering collaborative problem solving and creative thinking. His iPad-less introduction to our iPad summit is by design: we want to devote our attention to the "why" before we contemplate the "how."
“Once the way comes into focus—once we can imagine the learners we wish to cultivate and the experiences we wish to nurture—then we can think about iPads. Then we can think about how to put the affordances of the iPad in the service of our goals: how instant on functionality gives us the power, at any moment, to turn iPads off and focus our attention on each other; how the limitations of file storage force our students to learn to organize their work in the cloud; how a portable connection to the world's information and the world's Internet-connected population offers an unprecedented resource for problem solving; how a portable media creation device offers flexible ways for students to routinely demonstrate their understanding in multiple modalities.” By Justin Reich http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edtechresearcher/2012/11/if_you_meet_an_ipad_on_the_way_smash_it.html
After reading through the applications for technology grants, I can say that many of the schools didn’t receive the funding they requested, because of several of the reasons that were cited above. They didn’t really have a plan on how they were going to utilize them in the classrooms, they didn’t budget for apps, and they didn’t have a plan for teacher training. I think that there’s a great deal of planning and educational philosophy that goes into the use of this technology before the students ever get their hands on these devices. How and what do we want them to learn? How can we foster collaborative learning? How can we individualize learning? How can we monitor learning and assess it?
In addition, there are many other handheld devices that are less expensive that could also be used in the classroom. Some of them are simpler and don’t even have internet connection, but can be plugged into the teacher’s computer and loaded with apps. There’s more control of use in that case and no risk of playing Angry Birds. Please read the following article on “Tablets for Schools” by James Lengel, Hunter College 9/20/12 http://www.powertolearn.com/articles/teaching_with_technology/article.shtml?ID=180
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences using iPads in your classrooms. We’ve yet to see the results, so please share with us!!