iPads in the Classroom
Editor’s Note: The thoughts and opinions expressed below are those of the author.
It seems not a day goes by that I don’t see an article/discussion/tweet/etc. that talks about iPads in the classroom. Descriptions like “game-changer” and “revolution” are usually mentioned (and often in the title), and perks typically include higher engagement and enhanced learning.
Truth be told, I’m an advocate for these programs. Really, I am. I think getting a good technology foundation in classrooms is something long overdue. I own an iPad, a smartphone and a notebook powerful enough to double as a desktop. I’m certainly not anti-tech, but before we go down the rabbit hole, let me throw on a disclaimer: these thoughts are for those who already want to move towards an “iPad in the classroom” future, not those on the fence because I’m not going to necessarily talk about the pros or possibilities that these programs provide. It’s obvious that most things will succeed in an ideal situation, which is why I want to play devil’s advocate and talk about a few less than ideal situations …
When I was in college, which wasn’t long ago, I didn’t take a laptop or tablet to class. The main reason? Because I knew if the instruction was boring, I wouldn’t pay attention if I did. Theoretically, if I had to work on my laptop as per teacher instruction, that may not have been a problem. But my point is if students are just doing what they’ve always done, like take notes for example, but they just happen to be on a tablet rather than using pen and paper, then don’t expect engagement to go up. (Note: Obviously, simply taking notes on a laptop or tablet works for many people. I’m not knocking that. I present this issue in conjuncture with the fable that simply the presence of technology will enhance engagement.)
Some kids doodle on paper when they get bored, some fall asleep and others text. Sit a computer or tablet, especially one that isn’t being monitored, in front of them and what do you expect them to do if they get bored? Say goodbye to engagement. There will have to be assignments and tasks that utilize the technology; otherwise, what’s the point?
Moving on, one of my favorite possibilities a tablet could provide is the ability to have all textbooks in one < 2lb package, but where will this leave the cost of textbooks? Textbooks are expensive. (Note: “Expensive” was the term my lawyer advised me to use. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t use the words ‘overpriced’ or ‘racket.’” And, yes, my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek.)
Renting or buying used textbooks is cheaper than buying new, but those avenues are both overpriced expensive, too. Put textbooks on a tablet and both of those alternatives take a big hit. “Used” textbooks won’t exist unless you count the tablet itself, but how feasible is that? Renting gets put in a similar boat because companies that rent out textbooks won’t be able to continue reusing the same books. The model is ruined if they have to pay publishers every time they rent out an eBook. Now, theoretically, buying a digital copy of a textbook should be cheaper than its hard copy counterpart, but one look at the price of a used book on Amazon vs. its eBook counterpart will tell you that’s a bit of a pipe dream right now. This may not be a big problem in k-12 schools, but if the idea is to introduce students to technology in k-12 only to have them abandon it or go further into debt by making them pay the full new price for every book when they get to college, then why bother?
Finally, things like social media policies, obtaining apps and general personal use guidelines provide some sticking points, but do I even need to explain the irony of opening up “a world of possibilities” only to put that world in a cage? Maybe it’s time, since we’re talking about a reformation of sorts, to bring up a group of students who are taught to be independent and responsible. I realize that, speaking of pipe dreams, this idea is lofty, but why not make it like the real world: give students the choice to do the right or wrong thing then reward or punish them appropriately.
Bottom line, right or wrong, my point is this: Don’t ease into it. Don’t go off half-cocked, and don’t think that the presence of technology is a silver bullet that will magically enhance engagement and learning. If you’re going to do it, do it. Insert Yoda quote here.
Images courtesy of stock.xchng.