May 29, 2014
What You Need To Know About the Use of the Ipad as a Teaching Tool
The latest gadget to capture the seemingly short attention spans of schools is the iPad. Money gets raised, budgets allocated, and in short order teachers have the option of bringing iPads into their classrooms.
What more exciting educational tool could there be for gadget-happy teenagers already perpetually wired-in and networked? Who could complain about the sleek, lightweight iPad—replete with its cool apps—being the answer to engaging students in the classroom?
Except it isn't the answer.
High school students are trudging into SOS offices and complaining about their school’s use of iPads. One announced, "My mother was responsible for signing the check that purchased the iPads … but they are hard to use and not helpful in the classroom at all. I keep telling my Mom they're awful and she keeps saying how great they are!" When I pressed this 11th-grader, he revealed that some teachers at his school have rebelled against using the device in their classrooms.
The problems with the iPad as a teaching tool are numerous and compelling:
- Interfaces between homework software such as School Loop are not yet configured for mobile devices
- Distracting apps
- Note taking is not intuitive on the iPad, especially for students with learning issues involving organization of information
- Reading on an iPad doesn't feel the same as reading a physical text
- The iPad is not ideal for recording multi-step homework assignments and planning long term
- Some students prefer the act of writing
- Typing on the iPad screen is often clumsy and inaccurate and doesn't mimic a regular keyboard
Students complain that their peers often focus on their iPads and on easily accessible apps that have no bearing on the class. One of my 9th-graders commented that teachers often seem unaware that many students are just playing games or drawing while they are supposed to be attending to a lesson.
While some schools are giving up on classroom use of iPads, they’re only turning to other technologies, such as Chrome Books. Meanwhile, I still hear many students state their preferences for old-fashion note taking on paper and reading from a text book/paperback. I can only wonder how much time schools are actually devoting to training teachers on how to make the iPad an effective teaching tool, and in turn training students to use it appropriately. “Not much,” I’m thinking.
This week's Sunday New York Times had an interesting piece by Anne Eisenberg called "Tackling the Limits of Touch Screens." Among the recent findings:
- Memory and comprehension are often better served when long text passages are on paper rather than on a screen.
- Companies are working to adapt some analog tools to the digital world including 3D keyboards that "pop up" from a flat screen on demand. (Check out Tactus Technology in Fremont CA.)
- In one recent study, engineering students had to assess whether they read more accurately on flat screens or from a physical text. The students said the screens but in reality, accuracy was better with text on paper.
- Touch screens apparently make it more difficult for readers to create what is called a mental map of what they've read and of what's upcoming, which is an important aid to memory. E- pages make that sort of mental "positioning" of information more difficult. (Of course, work is being done to solve this problem through building technology to make flipping through an e-book more akin to reading from an actual book.)
As the iPad has demonstrated, new technology brings with it not only solutions, but challenges and obstacles for students with and without learning differences. There is no one size fits all solution and even in 2014, some 16-year-olds still like spirals, cool pens, and a paperback version of Catcher in the Rye.
SOS Summer Workshop and Summer Coaching Slots are Filling Fast
- Use this Summer to Help Your Child Get Ready for the Next School Year
- Two More Days to Take Advantage of 10% Early Bird Registration
If your child has difficulties managing school workload or struggles with organization, planning, prioritizing, and time management, then a summer workshop or coaching would be a great benefit both for the child and for you (just think, no more nagging or micro-managing homework assignments!).
SOS's summer workshops are hands-on and geared toward just the kinds of study skills and learning issues kids face these days. We even have programs specifically for those students who need an introduction to or refresher on the essentials of constructing well-crafted essays and theses.
Beth’s Book tip of the Week
It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd touches on what’s new about how teenagers communicate through services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and how social media might be affecting their quality of life. Check it out on Amazon.
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