Technology in schools is one of the fastest-growing trends our world has seen. Almost like any profession in today’s society, by the time college students have graduated from their respective programs, the technology and tools about which they learned during their coursework to get their degrees are outdated when they arrive on the job. It’s no different with education. In the past 10 years it seems, education has seen a surge of technology and its uses in the classroom, which has been spurred forward by the surge of emerging technology itself. One of the latest trends in education is one-to-one (1:1) devices, which is where every student is given a device to supplement his or her learning in the classroom and beyond. The most popular and talked-about device to be used is the iPad. This reflection will briefly discuss the positive and negative effects of having 1:1 iPads in the classroom, and will also consider my personal opinion, based on research, about this growing trend in education.
First of all, I’d like to discuss what is different about an iPad. There have been many schools that have already been 1:1 laptops for a number of years; in fact, I graduated from a 1:1 Macbook high school. However, iPads are quickly overtaking the laptop initiative – why? A couple of reasons in conjunction are time and space. iPads take up less space than laptops, and their flash memory allows for faster boot up (The History 2.0 Classroom). Also, everything that can be done on a laptop can be done on an iPad. Some argue the learning curve of a virtual keyboard, and as someone who wasn’t raised with touch screens, I have to agree that it is a little more difficult. However, the students who are coming through our classrooms today have been exposed to touch screens much earlier and are more comfortable with them than those of us who are in the midst of this changing technology. Another reason iPads are winning favor over laptops is that it is an all-in-one device. It not only has word-processing and web browsing, but it has a camera, ability to record video, and the thousands of applications available continue to extend the capabilities of this device. Finally, the iPad is designed to be a personal device, further making it suitable for a 1:1 environment (Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students).
Now let us take a look at how the iPad can affect a classroom. The research is overwhelmingly positive for how technology, especially in a 1:1 setting, can impact students. In a study on Education reform published on www2.ed.gov, one of the most-common teacher-reported effects on students was an increase in motivation and self esteem. Their students clearly took pride in being able to use the same tools employed by professionals. As one teacher said, “Students gain a sense of empowerment from learning to control the computer and to use it in ways they associate with the real world” (Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students). Also according to this article, students are able to acquire more technological skill though exposure to a device day after day, they experience more collaboration with peers, and they have increased opportunity for research and use of outside resources (Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students).
In reference to another article that discussed whether or not the elementary grades are too young to introduce 1:1 devices, Mark Pullen wrote that the technology increases the teachers’ ability to differentiate instruction. With an individual device in front of each student, that student has a myriad of tools available from which to choose in order to accomplish a single task. This makes it possible for teachers to actually individualize (more so than differentiate) instruction, which cannot always be accomplished through traditional methods of instruction. Another positive influence of having 1:1 devices in the classroom is that the technology allows students to publish work for a real-world audience. Many teachers are using blogs in their classrooms to increase student literacy and writing (much research has been done on how iPads can increase students’ abilities in these areas – check out New Study Finds iPads in the Classroom Boosts Test Scores). The fact that students realize that anyone can read their work, including their peers, is a strong motivator for them to produce their best work. Students gain a lot of pride from seeing work published for the world to read, which is a great way to build student self esteem and self efficacy. The last point made by Pullen is that 1:1 devices can extend learning beyond the school day. 1:1 programs often allow students to take these devices home, which provides the opportunity for parents to work with students on the device and use the educational apps on it (Pullen). In an article by John Dunn, he raises the point that iPads allow for integration versus isolation of skills. In the traditional classroom, students learn different disciplines in chunks. However, the iPad allows for skills to no longer be taught in isolation. “The distinctions between subjects get blurred as students are able to pick a topic in which they’re interested read about that subject in depth, write collaboratively about it on a wiki or in Google Docs, Skype with an expert in that field, and so on” (Dunn). iPads certainly have the ability to extend our students’ horizons.
But what about the negative effects, if any, of iPads in the classroom? Because of the novelty of these devices, there hasn’t been the opportunity to explore this concept as in depth as necessary to provide a concrete answer. However, there are concerns and things of which to be aware when working in a 1:1 environment:
- The skill of reading a physical book is important. Devices should not replace this skill. Students still must learn how to read left to right, top to bottom. Also, in higher education, there is something to be said about being able to take notes, tests, write a paper, etc with a book in your lap instead of having to navigate between several windows.
- Physical movement in the classroom is important; devices should not diminish a classroom’s amount of movement. Especially with the nation’s obesity epidemic, physical activity is important. I believe physical activity is still the best way to engage students, with technology coming in at a close second.
- Devices should not replace concrete manipulatives, especially in the elementary grades. I don’t consider devices a tactile or kinesthetic method of learning. Life isn’t a virtual experience, and neither should all learning become virtual.
- Devices should not become a distraction. This is my strongest reservation about technology in the classroom. Technology must be used as a learning tool, not for convenience. I see the potential for teachers to become lazy and to use devices just for everyday, mundane tasks; word processing, web browsing, an interesting app here and there. However, if a teacher is willing to work hard and spend the effort it takes to be creative, then 1:1 devices can become an incredible doorway to higher learning. Most of the research in support of technology in classrooms has been done on these teachers who create dynamic and fulfilling lessons for their students. When these kinds of activities become the norm, then technology and 1:1 devices will have my full support.
I truly believe that iPads and other technology filtering into the realm of education have the potential to transform the way we learn, how much we learn, and the meaning and depth of what we learn. As I stated before, it’s all in how we use it. I recommend that you read the following two articles about implementing 1:1 devices in the classroom and then how to manage that classroom. I very much agree with the philosophies discussed here.
Also, check out the following resources on iPads in education that gave me ideas for this reflection and for you to make your own conclusions about this trend and learning tool.
Other resources and articles used:
This concludes my DED 318 Technology in Education Class! Thanks for reading, and keep checking back as I start honing in my purpose of this website and make it more my own.