The iPad was first released in 2010. Schools began jumping on the iPad bandwagon within months. How wonderful to have all of the student work and text books contained on one light-weight device. No more heavy backpacks to lug around and students could learn anywhere--provided they have access to wifi. This was truly going to revolutionize teaching and learning! But has it really? Here is what I know:
1. Technology is changing rapidly every day so it really isn't about the device, it is about how you use the device to increase your learning (think SAMR)
2. Despite the rapid increase of using tablets in education, textbook companies are still woefully behind in designing textbooks for high schools (and middle schools and elementary schools) that are effective digital learning tools with interactive components and regularly updated content. Discovery Ed is possibly the best I have seen so far but they don't work for everyone.
3. There is enough feedback from students who don't want digital textbooks! They still prefer actual BOOKS (gasp!) and we know that research supports their desire so why throw out the books for sleek technology that isn't meeting the learning needs of our end users? And what about students who want to keep their books (I am thinking about those kids inspired by a novel in English or the AP Physics student who is planning to study science in college)?
4. Taking notes is still a staple for learning and isn't going away. And on top of that, we know now that writing notes out longhand is much more conducive to the learning process than typing, so again, why replace pencil and paper with a shiny device?
5. If the school doesn't provide a device for each student, what about those students who don't have access to technology? Or WiFi? Or both?
Could we actually be undermining our goal as educators by using too much technology?
I don't consider technology in schools a passing fad, but I do think that as educators we owe it to our students to be selective about how we use technology in order to create intelligent, flexible, creative citizens. That means using technology appropriately and designing learning experiences that allow students to choose the right tool for the task. And we need to find a way to close the digital divide. Otherwise, the whole purpose of education (IMHO)--to create an educated citizenship and large middle class--will be undermined. As with all "new" ideas introduced into education, technology was supposed to improve learning. I am not totally convinced, however, that every family would agree. Some schools have really done a great job while others haven't.
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I think we have a lot of work to do in order to ensure that all of our students can benefit from the use of technology in schools because there are countless benefits. The trick is to be discerning and intentional in training, roll-out, parent education, and ongoing support in order to really maximize the benefits. And isn't that the truth for all initiatives, and perhaps why the pendulum seems to swing so much in education?