Tuesday, June 12, 2012

iPads at Spring Lake Elementary Schools

I read in the paper that both elementary schools in Spring Lake are investing in iPads for students in Kindergarten through fourth grade. I had a couple of immediate thoughts. Is this a wise investment of taxpayer dollars? Will these devices enhance learning?

I have mixed views on the use of iPads in class.

For one thing, this sounds fantastic and absolutely a vital thing to do. Technology is in almost every aspect of life and the workplace now, so I can only imagine what these kids will encounter when they are 18 or 22 and looking for their first career job. Having become proficient with tablets will not only give them an advantage, it will likely be a basic necessity.

I also am excited  for the teachers. I have seen some demonstrations of the use if iPads for instruction, and it breaks the mold of instruction in exciting ways--additional readings, video illustrations, content created specifically by teachers for their lesson plans. It really has the potential to be an educational breakthrough.

I also worry a bit. Like all new technology, there are pros and cons to the use of iPads in class. So, every advantage I mentioned above comes with a downside. Specifically, how do we make sure kids are using technology to advance their understanding of math or improve their vocabulary and basic grammar as opposed to playing "Angry Birds" or other games? But then again, with old fashioned paper there was doodling and paper airplanes. Kids need to be inspired to pay attention no matter what materials we use.

Finally, as a college professor, this reinforces my efforts to stay up to date on educational technology. I use a lot already, and my students are increasingly coming to class with laptops, tablets, and e-books. Some of them are distracted by their smart phones and can't go a New York minute without checking for text messages or Facebook updates. But others are using technology in impressive ways that enhances their learning and makes them "ready for prime time" in the job market just around the corner for them.

I'm hoping to read stories a year or two from now about exactly how students, teachers, and parents are using the iPads to their benefit.

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