Should Students be Allowed to use iPads at School?
There can really be no doubt about the fact that the face of education is rapidly changing. These changes are occurring at a fast and furious rate and in no area is there a greater transformation than in that of technology. We have transformed from a system which had very little in the way of technology or supports, to one which now has schools connected through wireless and able to access more applications and support than most of us ever thought possible. One area of technology in particular which is growing rapidly in education is the use of iPads. In fact, there has been a dramatic rise in the presence and use of iPads in the classroom with individual schools, and even entire school districts, funding and implementing them. Nevertheless, as with any change in education, the use of iPads in the classroom comes with a fair amount of debate. Proponents of iPads sing the praises of their use, while detractors claim the opposite. Indeed, it has become one of the hottest topics in education and technology right now with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. That being said, I have comprised an article which examines the positives and negatives of students using iPads at school, and in turn will let people make up their own mind.
iPads Should be Allowed at School:
1. Student Engagement: Undoubtedly, technology in general is an excellent tool to use to help engage and motivate our students. They are keenly interested in technology and are “little experts” at utilizing it. As always, we should attempt to provide and use materials and resources which interest out students…and they love iPads! As I visit different classrooms who are using iPads I cannot help but notice how excited and engaged the students are in their work. Not only do they have access to a plethora of information, but it is easier than ever to access by using the iPads. Students who are prone to distractibility, lack of concentration or poor attention spans, are more engaged and experiencing notable success. Engagement is key.
2. Communication and Collaboration: The iPad will bring many things to life, including acting as a catalyst for communication and collaboration. The ways which the iPad can be used for communication and collaboration are really too many to list. However, the more obvious methods include submitting documents through email, sharing of documents among teachers, parents and students, instant descriptive feedback and connecting with others online for interactive experiences. The list is huge! Also, they are so lightweight and convenient that they can be carried around by students as they collaborate in different groups and share information which can be instantly inputted and displayed for the class using an interactive whiteboard. Lastly…remember little “Johnny” who rarely speaks a word? Now with the iPad you can begin to hear his voice as he is more comfortable sharing on this platform then he is speaking in front of his peers. Watch his confidence soar as he becomes empowered and soon speaking in front of his peers will not be the anxiety ridden task it once was.
3. Personalized Learning: I have mentioned in a past article that I believe personalized learning is a key education trend for 2013-2014 and beyond. Personalized learning is any learning experience which is self-initiated and self-directed. It is based upon the individual needs, preferences and abilities of students who “own” their learning. (1) The use of iPads fits right into this concept quite neatly. The iPad allows for a multitude of applications, timely feedback and an ability to communicate and collaborate with others. Teachers essentially become facilitators of student learning which is something we all strive for.
4. Goodbye Textbooks: This is a huge advantage if it is used correctly. With the use of iPads, schools will have the ability to actually download a variety of textbooks. Not only is this ecologically friendly by drastically reducing paper usage as the students interact right on their screen, but it has a number of other benefits as well. For instance, there have been many stories in the media about young students hurting their backs due to the large quantity of textbooks they have to carry. The iPad will eliminate that concern. Also, by being able to download texts to the iPads there is a huge savings in cost to the schools. The more money that is saved on expensive textbooks means the more iPads that can be funded.
5. Creativity and Critical Thinking: One of the greatest goals we have when teaching our students is to promote critical thinking. The iPad will help a great deal in accomplishing this task with apps that allow them to gather information and present data in innovative, creative and engaging ways. They allow the students to explore their creativity while they are problem-solving and critically putting their work together. They can make decisions about how to display their work, whether it be through movies, spreadsheets, charts or graphs. The opportunities are really endless.
6. Equity: The use of iPads by schools and school districts brings a whole new level of equity and levels the playing field for many of our students. For instance, there are many students who have a variety of disabilities, both physical and cognitive. The iPad has a number of applications which have been created to assist these students. In particular, for those students who have exceptionalities such as autism, there are a number of apps which help with communication. Also, if schools and districts invest in iPads they are also creating equity from a socioeconomic standpoint as well. Many of the needier students do not have access to technology other than the limited time their class is able to access it in the school…while their wealthier peers can go home to access technology provided for them to research and complete their work. By providing iPads at school for everyone, we are narrowing the equity gap.
7. Way of the Future: Technology and iPads are the way of the future. Instead of spending time and energy making sure students do not bring them to school, we should be investing that same energy into showing them how to use them properly. This includes teaching online safety as well as instruction on the huge amount of technological power and applications they have in their hands. This will be a life skill and it is the responsibility of educators to teach life skills.
iPads Should Not be Allowed at School:
1. Cost: Many schools and districts will not purchase iPads as the cost puts them out of their reach. To properly equip a whole school or a district is beyond expensive! Others will argue that this cost can be made up through a few factors such as the declining need to buy expensive textbooks or by implementing Bring Your Own Device programs. Nevertheless, cost remains a serious impediment to many schools and districts.
2. Distractions: The potential for iPads to be distracting is one of the most common complaints heard in regards to using iPads in the classroom. As if there are not already enough distractions in schools….iPads brings yet another one. Tempting game applications, online chats, and teachers stopping the class to deal with such issues not only serves as distractions, but ultimately prevents the students from obtaining the learning they are there to get in the first place.
3. Connectivity: There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a great lesson which is filled with critical thinking, collaboration and engagement…and then lose all connectivity. That can sabotage a very powerful learning experience and can frustrate the teacher and learners alike. Hopefully as schools update their wifi networks this will be less of a problem, but it is still a very real issue in many districts.
4. Designed For Single-User: This is a very common complaint. The iPad was essentially designed for single users and not for sharing. This does not only impact the user in terms of multitasking with a variety of screens, but more importantly information is not stored and apps, settings and documents can all be easily lost or altered.
5. Keyboarding/Typing: There really may be a variety of opinions on this, but I often hear complaints about the difficulty of typing on the iPad. It is particularly difficult for young children as it requires a dexterity which they are just beginning to develop. Personally, I do find it quite difficult to type on the iPad and much prefer a good old desktop computer!
There can be little doubt that there are many powerful arguments on both sides of this issue and there really is no easy answer. The world is an ever changing entity…and we need to change with it. However, before doing so we need to weigh all factors and put a proper plan into place. This is especially true when working with children. Education is a continually transforming entity…that is true. We need to change with it, but also need to ensure planning and supports are put into place which will make it a productive and beneficial change for all.
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1. Rethinking Learning. Barbara Bray http://barbarabray.net/tag/personalized-learning/
2. Pros and Cons of iPads in the Classroom. Jason Aubrey http://info.lecturetools.com/blog/bid/57442/Pros-and-Cons-of-iPads-in-the-Classroom
3. 17 Pros and Cons of Using iPads in the Classroom. Ashley Wainwright http://www.securedgenetworks.com/secure-edge-networks-blog/bid/85262/17-Pros-and-Cons-of-Using-iPads-in-the-Classroom
4. iPads in the Classroom. BBC Interactive. http://www.bbcactive.com/BBCActiveIdeasandResources/iPadsintheClassroom.aspx
5. Teaching and Learning: Using iPads in the Classroom. Ben Johnson. Edutopia. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/ipad-teaching-learning-apps-ben-johnson
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