K-12 schools have begun introducing tablets into their classrooms to facilitate learning, and feedback has been mostly positive. With many districts striving for a 1:1 student to computing device ratio, tablets are becoming the go-to solution -- they’re lighter, cheaper, and more user friendly than most laptops. Plus, K-12 students want to learn on them.
Leading the pack of tablets in education is the iPad. In schools, the iPad is outselling its computer cohort, the Mac, by 200%. Hundreds of apps geared towards K-12 education are available on the iPad and there is a range of preconfigured lessons accessible through iTunes U (above). In 2012, Apple released a new feature to iTunes U – the ability for teachers to create their own courses. For example, Boyne City Public School designed their own U.S. Presidents lesson pack for its 4th grade classes. The lesson pack includes podcasts, videos, readings, and apps that facilitate student learning.
In the above video, first grade teacher Eric Crouch describes the impact that iPads have had in his classroom. With an almost non-existent learning curve, students are able to delve into the material quickly and eagerly. “Because everything is such an easy process… there are no roadblocks for them and so they’ll immediately get involved in something way further than you would have thought they would,” Crouch says. “With the iPads, they tend to take right to them and, whatever it is we’re doing with them, they just run with it.”
Of course, the introduction of iPads in the classroom is not without its opponents, and critics have valid points. For instance, students are often more proficient at using technology than their teachers. Teachers must be properly trained before rolling out iPads in the classroom in order to avoid awkward lessons; if students have to show their teacher how to use their iPads, the program’s chance for success decreases.
Another possible drawback to putting iPads in students’ hands has to do with a child’s attention span. Digital technologies and various media forms vigorously compete for a child’s attention. Toy commercials, for instance, do so by being very fast-paced, colorful, and loud. Consequently, children have become easily distracted and have difficulty focusing according to some teachers. "I have to do a song and dance to capture their attention," says Hope Molina-Porter, a high school English teacher in California. If one of the last relatively digital media-free environment – the classroom – becomes yet another place where children are exposed to high-energy forms of media, could this have dire developmental effects?
Integrating iPads into the curriculum – how to do it, if at all – is not clear-cut. iPad roll-out programs can be successful is carefully planned out, however. The program needs to be designed in a way that allows students to benefit from advances in technology and easy access to information without sacrificing their ability to focus on other activities. For instance, games and applications that inhibit a student’s inclination to go into “automatic mode” while encouraging concentration can be beneficial to his or her development. Furthermore, non-digital activities should remain an important part of the lesson plan in order to limit the amount of digital media exposure a child receives throughout the day. Finally, the main source of educational support should always be the teacher and parents. Replacing their role in a child’s development with an iPad is not an option.
What do you think about iPads in the classroom? Let us know @NapkinBetaBeyond.