Innovating education with technology.
Everywhere I turn schools seem to be buying iPads. Critics, even in this forum, question whether investment in a relatively new and untested technology can be justified, especially given the current economic climate. To some degree, I think their scepticism has merit.
Buying iPads for your school may not improve the standard of education.
Technology is a tool. The issue of greater consequence should be how you plan to use them. To be clear, this isn't a question of whether you should use this particular app or that app. Overall, I think the whole "iPad discussion" centers far too much on a review and critique of available apps. The particular app that you use for Math or the cloud app you use for collecting documents all have their purpose on a micro level. The macro question however is one of vision...
"How will I use new technology to change the fundamental practice of education?"
You see, without a clear vision your educational dollars may in fact be wasted.
If you want iPads so that you can distribute digital reading material to support a largely teacher driven, content based program ... it's not enough.
If you want iPads so that children can practice drills without any knowledge or context of how the skill being drilled has relevance to their daily life ... it's not enough.
If you want iPads so that you can develop and disseminate flash cards that help students cram for testing ... it's not enough.
If you want iPads because you envision them improving education by making existing processes more efficient ... it's not enough.
And of course, if you want iPads because they're cool and everyone else is buying them ... that's clearly not enough.
On the other hand...
Maybe you want iPads because they can enable students to access and evaluate vast pools of knowledge in order to help them resolve problems and form original opinions?
Maybe you want iPads because they provide an instant gateway for students to research themes that have intrinsic interest to them?
Maybe you want iPads because we live in a global society and iPads are an excellent way to communicate and collaborate with people around the world?
Maybe you want iPads because they have an integrated camera and microphone thereby allowing students to express themselves in a variety of media instead of purely text?
Maybe you want iPads because you see them as tools that may enable education that is both differentiated by abilities and interest?
Maybe you want iPads because you see that it might ignite student motivation to learn.
Maybe you want iPads because you recognize that they help students with less resources tap into their creative potential to develop music, art, photography and more.
Maybe you want iPads because you have a vision of how they might empower students to pursue their passions and take greater control over the path of their own education?
We're still talking about bringing education into the 21st century - yet we're already eleven years into it. Our society, culture and industry are all forging ahead at exponential speed leaving the practice of education in their wake. We could quote overused cliches such as, "it's not about the technology" but frankly finding ways to place technology in our schools is an important first step. However it's just a first step. Technology has become a core component of almost every facet of our daily lives but modernizing education requires significantly more commitment than simply providing students with access to technology.
Are you buying iPads or other technology because you see an urgent need for change in our aging, "business as usual" system of education? If not, then it's simply not enough ... and our kids are screaming for more.