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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Will the iPad and Similar Technology Revolutionize Learning?

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

I am writing this blog post on the new Apple iPad while on a plane returning from the Newschools Venture Fund Community of Practice and Summit in Washington DC. There, at the nation's capital, a gathering of education entrepreneurs from across the country explored the themes of technology and innovation.

We learned about strategies, about people, and about organizations that are trying to leverage the use of digital technology to improve learning outcomes for youth -- particularly those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. We learned about the approach of the School of One in New York that uses computer-based programs to customize learning for each student. We discussed the approach of hybrid schools where part of the learning is online. We learned about the High Tech High video chat system that they use to conduct teacher-sharing protocols with teachers in their network and around the world. We also used text message polls (like on an American Idol) created by Edmodo to stimulate discussion.

Milton Chen, Senior Fellow at the GLEF, encouraged us to think about developing new technologies that can assess deeper learning -- core content skills and knowledge with complex cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem solving. The meeting theme was very timely and provocative.

As I write this using an iPad, I find it interesting that we did not discuss the implications of the iPad and other tablet type devices on learning and school. I think this technology will revolutionize the way a student will access all types of information: media, academic research, and books (non-fiction, fiction, and textbooks). In addition, students can produce digital work, blog, chat, and email with peers and teachers -- all for a relatively low cost.

The iPad still has room for improvement but the technology will evolve and the cost will drop (currently, it's around $500). Look for many new applications to be built for the iPad that will serve as a course of study or a unit of instruction. Someday, teachers might just create apps for their students instead of handing out papers, or posting assignments on the Internet. I also wonder if this technology will allow access for students across the world that do not have access to schools or teachers.

At Envision Schools, we will be watching, experimenting, and learning how best to use -- or not use -- new digital technology to transform the lives of students.

What do you think? Are these and other new technology a possible silver bullet for learning? Are you using any of these or other new technologies to improve outcomes for students?

Comments (91)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

April's picture

I have heard from a variety of parents that they are finding success with these education apps. Many homeschool families are utilizing these apps to bring interactivity and technology into their teaching for very little money.

This is the future because it's easy to carry with you anywhere and carry a large amount of these apps for a variety of subjects. For much less than a computer, you get the ability to run these apps, utilize the internet for online classes and even type up homework assignments.

Darlene Andre's picture

Technology has always been a motivator and a way to differentiate. I love Web 2.0 tools because students can use them on any platform, at any time and do some of their best work when they know others beyond the classroom may be viewing it too. Students still need direction from dedicated educators as they use these tools. We've changed how we teach moving from lecture to mentor. That's what the workplace will be like too. I can't wait for the day all of my students have their own portable learning device.

Emily's picture

Technology is a wonderful thing to use in the classroom. The strategies that you mentioned such as virtual classrooms and learning online is the direction our society is moving. I have a Smart Board in my classroom in 6th grade, and use it almost every day to engage learning. The students love the opportunity to use it, and are well behaved because of it.
However, I think that today's society is relying too much on the use of technology. Student's writing and social skills have declined due to these technological advances. We are breeding a generation of social outcasts, due to some of these devices. These students no longer have to solve problems because the technology can do it for them.
My other problem is the cost that some of this technology brings to the school systems. We let go of 400 teachers in our district in the past year, just as they are mounting new LCD projectors in each room? Is technology more important than a person's job?

Lisa Schaa's picture

I am not sure about the Ipad, as I think it is not such a great thing educationally YET, but I do know that technology is the future in education whether the teachers/administrators/parents like it or not. The kids LOVE it. They are engaged, when they blog, they have an authentic audience, they use critical thinking skills, it is interactive, I could go on and on.....

Loretta Smith's picture

I don't know much about the Ipad, but am fascinated with the concept and the possibilities it creates. I feel that, as time moves forward, technology will take over even more of our lives, but we as teachers have the ability to teach our students to utilize it's potential without sacrificing social skills. Children love technology and enjoy working in groups so I see it would be relatively easy to incorporate collaborative learning with what the Ipad has to offer.

Jennifer Jarrard's picture

I think that education is moving toward more technology incorporated into the classroom and instruction. I think that the iPad is a great new assest that could be used in the classroom on an everyday basis. Students love to use technology especially the newest, coolest thing. I think that the iPad has a lot of potiential in education and will show itself soon.

Bob Lenz's picture
Bob Lenz
Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
Blogger

I agree - I cannot wait until all learners have PDL's or Personal Learning Devices. Yesterday, I was imagining with my team at Envision the day that all the best lectures on all the important content areas will posted on
line and students will watch them after school on their PDL's and work on projects in teams at school!

Bob Lenz's picture
Bob Lenz
Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
Blogger

[quote]My other problem is the cost that some of this technology brings to the school systems. We let go of 400 teachers in our district in the past year, just as they are mounting new LCD projectors in each room? Is technology more important than a person's job?[/quote]

Emily, great questions. I have been wondering about the effects on technology on teacher's jobs too. I think we have to get ready for a new paradigm - as learning gets put into the hands of kids and technology devices become ubiquitous, we might not need as many traditional teachers. The next decade will be very exciting and tumultuous!

Henry Halff's picture

For kids today, technology is as common as furniture and as much a part of their lives -- except in school. Imagine what schooling would be like if books or desks or paper and pencils were all readily available, indeed common, everyplace but schools. Imagine what schooling would be like if teachers did not have a ready command of these tools, were suspicious of them, and viewed them as distractions from the "real" tasks of education.

Carolyn Green's picture

[quote][quote]My other problem is the cost that some of this technology brings to the school systems. We let go of 400 teachers in our district in the past year, just as they are mounting new LCD projectors in each room? Is technology more important than a person's job?[/quote]Emily, great questions. I have been wondering about the effects on technology on teacher's jobs too. I think we have to get ready for a new paradigm - as learning gets put into the hands of kids and technology devices become ubiquitous, we might not need as many traditional teachers. The next decade will be very exciting and tumultuous![/quote]

I agree -- this is an interesting question. However, I think it's important to keep in mind that the price of technology has decreased substantially. You can buy a very nice LCD projector for just a few hundred dollars, which is just a drop in the ocean of a school budget. While it certainly doesn't look right, the money spent on projectors in your school probably doesn't even add up to one teacher's salary.

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