The pressure is on to make sure the education of U.S. students is on track with their global peers. Unfortunately, according to a 2015 report by Pew Research Center, that’s not the case, particularly in the areas of science and math.
It’s no wonder, then, that in the quest for educational advancement, teachers want their students to have access to the newest, theories, processes and technologies to help the students excel.
One of the most popular technologies has been the introduction of tablets, particularly, iPads, in the classroom.
Maybe you’ve been thinking about augmenting your program with iPads or another type of tablet. But before you and your school make a hefty investment of finances and time, consider these questions to ensure this technology is right for your purpose.
Have you ever gone to the doctor, with a diagnosis already in your head, but when he reviewed your symptoms, he came up with a completely different conclusion?
Sometimes, with an educational diagnosis, just as in the case of a medical one, we skip over the symptoms and go straight to the answer. Consider taking a step back and asking a few hard questions first, to fully understand and confirm the issues that you have, and that the iPad is designed to address.
How will it benefit you? Sure, it’s cool. It’s trendy. But how does it enhance your teaching specifically? How will it help your students? Maybe you want to encourage students’ love of writing by using apps that create books. Maybe your science class is studying astronomy and you want them to use an app that, when used outside at night, shows the constellations. Perhaps you want to reduce the amount of paper used in the classroom and think digital documents would be an improvement. Having a well-thought out purpose for how you’ll use the iPad as a tool to improve your students’ learning is key
Would the iPad support your current or desired lesson plans? Or, on the other hand, will you need to build your lesson plan around the new technology? Unless you’ve already discovered a strong need to revamp your teaching, the technology should augment, not overshadow, your lessons.
What other solutions will address your issue? Clearly an iPad is not the only way to encourage a love or reading or writing. Books, newspapers, magazines, hard copies or on school computer, can build a love of reading. Google Drive and group assignments can spur collaboration. So what is it about the iPad makes it a must have for your class.
Band-Aid. Kleenex. Magic Marker. We often use these product brand names for any bandage, tissue or pen. Are we doing the same when we talk about having an iPad in the classroom? In other words, if you’ve determined that your class can truly benefit from using portable tablets in the classroom, do those have to be iPads?
True, Apple provides significant support for the use of iPads in education, with apps, books, music and movies. But Apple isn’t the only option.
By the end of 2014, Chromebooks, combined with Google Play for Education apps were the most popular new device going to U.S. schools, displacing iPads. Chrome books are less expensive than iPads, and include an integrated keyboard, but have fewer apps available.
If you’re considering portable technology in your classroom, look at the options before automatically assuming you must have a specific device.
Or, as some educators recommend, consider making a combination of several tablets devices available to students to use for different needs.
School districts that want to add iPads and other devices also need to ask whether they can afford to provide a device for each student, use shared devices, or allow students to bring in their own tools. That leads to additional questions about security, privacy and technical support.
But beyond that, educational leaders should determine how the devices would fit within the curriculum. Will teachers receive training in innovative ways to make the devices beneficial? How will results be measured? Will the rollout happen district –wide, school-wide, or more gradually? How will parents be informed and educated about the new tools and changes to the curriculum?
With so many questions, it is important to have a thorough plan.
An iPad, or any other tablet or technological device, requires an investment of resources. Instead of assuming you need one specific device to fit your students’ educational needs, take a hard look at your long-term goals. Then see what types of solutions might address those goals. Once you have that answered, questions about whether or not you need a device, and if so, which one(s), will be easily answered.