Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are iPads and other Gadgets Really Helping Kids Learn? Our Response

Educational Researcher and Reporter Peg Tyre recently penned a thoughtful article asking the question: Are iPads and Other Classroom Gadgets Really Helping Kids Learn? See here:

The article makes some valid points concerning costs particularly  when schools go full 1:1 with all staff and students. However, we here at Assabet Valley have implemented a pilot program which is summed  up best in this blog post by Principal Cale Birk entitled "We Can't Afford 1:1 See here:

While we have never truly considered or  looked at the overall costs of a full 1:1 model our philosophy is to bring in the technology in a smaller sample and see what works and doesn't work first. This is part of our progressive, innovative, yet responsible model towards technology.

We are sharing iPads among teachers, classrooms, and students and  it has been nothing but positive and given our curriculum and collaboration a nice jolt of excitement. With this model we have purchased iPads in a cost-effective and responsible way which allows  us to compile data on the technology in regards to student learning without going "all in" just yet. This has also been a time effective decision. We have given our students and staff a taste of the technology without making it the only approach we offer.
To counter the article's theory that iPads or the like can create seismic costs we have found that allowing teachers to share the iPads with one another and their classes has created 8 new mobile computer labs for us. At a time when time and space are critical to the curriculum the iPads we use throughout the science department have allowed us to get students on the internet researching the material as soon as they walk in the classroom door. Without them a teacher would have to fight for time and space in one 
of the computer labs with other teachers and lose a minimum of 20 minutes each time they do so walking back and forth and getting students logged into desktops.

In terms of student learning we only have a small sample of data as we are only half way through year one. But, if you consider student enthusiasm and engagement in your measurement then there is no question that technology in the classroom is helping our students to  learn.Both students and teachers have stated that the excitement in the classroom when the iPads are being used individually or in small groups is a great addition and change to the textbook research.

How could a picture in a textbook with a textbook type description compare to thousands of videos, other pictures, and several points of view about the subject. How is a teacher saying "look on page 47 for the answer"  comparable to a student using a device to research and find the answer on their own via the internet? This is real learning.Using the EduCreations app to create presentations complete with  real pictures,videos,and voice overs most definitely shows a higher level of learning and skill then our traditional poster board versions.

As the blog post I have included points out we have also seen kids really excited on the days Ipads are used. However, they are not used everyday which is also another important piece to the discussion. For two decades now one of the biggest buzzwords around has been differentiation. The ability to reach students with  
 different styles of instruction is another critical piece to real learning.The technology we use in the classroom is a big part of differentiation. We have found that many students who did not always participate as much have found the new technology gives them a new means of expressing themselves.
 The connection of technology has really brought two different generations together for students and teachers. There is now a connection between students and teachers who are really learning  
 from each other.

At the end of the day devices and software programs will never replace great teachers. But, great teachers who use these devices and technologies well take learning to a whole new level.
 We have found that supplementing our curriculum with some great technology has increased student engagement and enthusiasm. With more engagement and enthusiasm naturally comes increased learning.

To learn more about our PD in terms of Ipads and our Science teachers thoughts see this article in the Telegram and Gazette: