Getting computing devices into schools is relatively easy; changing classroom practice with technology is really, really hard. Over the past century, radio, television, video cassette recorders, desktop computers, laptop computers, handheld devices, tablets, and cell phones have all been heralded as potentially transformative classroom tools (Cuban, 1986, 2003). With every generation of computing technology, a small group of educators has been able to use new tools in transformative ways, but on the whole, classroom practices have proven stubbornly resistant to change. Consider this thought experiment: If you could take all the money that schools invested in computer labs in the 1980s and 1990s, would you spend that money again on those labs?
Over the past four years, we at EdTechTeacher have seen an incredible surge in another type of technology in schools: the tablet computer. Led by Apple’s iPad, and followed at a distance by Android and Microsoft tablets, schools across the United States and around the world have made major investments in tablets. It’s exciting to see so many more students and teachers with access to computing devices, but it’s also scary that so many schools have adopted these devices so quickly, with limited evidence for how they might improve learning.
Since the iPad was first introduced in 2010, we’ve been exploring how teachers and learners can make the most of tablet computers. We’ve visited dozens of schools, worked with teachers in professional development settings around the world, and hosted several iPad summits across the United States. Our sense is that the patterns that have unfolded in previous generations of technology adoption are unfolding now.
When you look at the very best work happening in iPad classrooms, you’ll see students creating media, showcasing their understanding, collaborating with peers, and communicating with broad audiences. The pockets of excellence are ever-present and inspiring. On the whole, however, tablets are most often used to reproduce existing practices—to distribute resources and enable students to take notes.
Past generations of school leaders might have been forgiven for permitting these patterns of technology adoption, but today we have the benefit of history to look back on. We know that without a change in our technology integration strategies, there’s no reason to expect that a new device will magically create new teaching practices in schools.
To make the most of the investment in tablet computers, school leaders need to do three things. First, they need to work with their communities to articulate a clear vision for how new technology will improve instruction. Second, they need to help educators imagine how new technologies can support those visions. Finally, they need to support teachers and students on a developmental journey that will take them from using tablets for consumption to using them for curation, creation, and connection…
Download the first chapter of iPads in the Classroom: From Consumption and Curation to Creation for FREE or come learn more with Tom this summer!