iPads in Education

Innovating education with technology.

Does the Rise in iPad Purchases by Schools Benefit Education?

     Apple stock recently surged upon the report that over 14 million iPads sold in the last quarter. Astoundingly, around 1.1 million iPads were purchased by US schools. That equates to around 7.5% of all iPad sales. You'd imagine that statistic should be cause for celebration among those of us that are advocates of educational technology however we need to carefully examine how the technology is being utilized. The last huge technology wave to hit the education sector was interactive whiteboards - largely designed as a very costly means for sprucing up frontal lecturing and content delivery. The power of technology can best be seen when students are given the freedom to use it as a tool to create, communicate and innovate. Technology can and should be implemented within a more student centered approach to learning.

     With that in mind, I'm still trying to digest the logic of the Los Angeles USD that has committed $500 million to a 1:1 iPad initiative, primarily in order to stock the iPads with Pearson course content that prepares students for standardized Common Core testing within 2 years. It's ironic to have spent so much time and effort pushing for technology adoption by schools and then find myself scratching my head at how the city in which I live - a city that's living on the brink of bankruptcy - can make this sort of misguided decision.

     In their defense, administration states that they are replacing physical textbooks with digital eBooks and courses. I think the larger question however might be why we remain tethered to the notion that education requires such selective and standardized course content delivery - digital or otherwise - when content is so readily available everywhere. As educators, the toughest shift we face is relinquishing control. When students leave class they access any and all content that drives their interest. We should turn our focus to developing their skills to find, evaluate, curate and utilize the content that's abundantly available instead of selecting and delivering a minuscule slice of the exponentially growing content pie ... primarily so that we have a vehicle for controlling and assessing student learning.  Outside school, students use technology as a vehicle for exploration and discovery.  Unless we make a similar shift in education, schools will become increasingly marginalized and institutional education will continue to diminish in value.

     It's wonderful that schools have recognized the need for classes to mirror the technology rich culture that exists outside school.  Take one look however at how how your students use technology outside class and you'll find them exploring, interacting and learning independently.  As long as we remain married to the notion that we need to control, deliver and standardize their education, any tools we remain relatively ineffective.  As the old adage goes, "the only time computer comes before education is in the dictionary".

Sam Gliksman
Twitter: @samgliksman

Author of iPads in Education for Dummies ... now shipping


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