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Will the iPad and Similar Technology Revolutionize Learning?

| Bob Lenz

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?

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I do not think new technology

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I do not think new technology will be a silver bullet for learning. Nothing is going to solve all the problems that come with working with a variety of students from various backgrounds. With that said, today's students are becoming more comfortable with technology and have come to rely on it for daily living. Technology should be used in the classroom and new technology should be added after careful scrutiny of its possible uses in a classroom.

I am not familiar with all the uses and programs for the iPad. I admit is a great piece of new technology with enormous possibilities in the classroom.

Many of today's classrooms are using Smartboards to help tie together material on a computer with materials present in a classroom. A teacher that I talked to today was going to a mini-workshop to learn how to get the students’ math text book on the Smartboard so that she could use it to have an interactive lesson in her classroom. Imagine "writing" in their textbook to emphasize words and do actual problems. The iPad and other tablet devices are the next step in using technology to interact with various materials and textbooks.

The same teacher was also hoping to learn more about iChat to use in her classroom to help improve lessons taught to her class. She could have other teachers in her grade teach/talk to her class during a particular lesson. Two classes could be taught at the same time with both teachers adding their expertise, taking team teaching to a new level.

As technology progresses (and prices come down), it will open doors and opportunities for many students around the world. Connecting with others, sharing information, and interacting with materials will become easier and more efficient. I do believe that technology will help improve learning in our classrooms if it is used in meaningful ways. Teachers need to understand their students’ needs and how available technology can help them meet those needs.

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