In every generation, changing technology and cultural norms create new ways of thinking and interacting, and this naturally carries over to the classroom setting. So while our grandparents learned to use old-school typewriters, our parents had electric typewriters.
We, on the other hand, took keyboarding classes in the computer room. And kids today are growing up with all manner of devices in their lives, from home computers and laptops to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
So why haven’t these technological advances made it into the classroom? There are several reasons. Many teachers are afraid that students will use phones and tablets to communicate with friends (although kids have been successfully passing notes under the noses of teacher for years) or cheat on tests (again, students looking to use crib notes have invariably found a way).
And then there is the cost to consider, a difficult road block in an economy characterized by budget cuts. Despite that, some teachers and school districts are pushing to bring tablet technology to the classroom, and there are a lot more potential benefits than drawbacks.
In truth, it’s not difficult to see the myriad ways that tablets could aid to the learning experience. For one thing, they allow teachers to approach kids on a level they’re familiar with.
Students that aren’t keen to crack a book or raise their hand in class might be willing to participate more fully with a fun device to make lessons more interesting. And there are all kinds of opportunities to use tablets in the classroom, both on an individual level and as a group.
For example, programs like Edmodo let teachers create an extensive virtual space for students to interact. The setting is like a controlled social network in which teachers can pose questions and discussion topics for students, create polls, post assignments, and more.
Further, kids can type questions during lessons for teachers to revisit at the end of class (instead of interrupting), they can chat about lessons outside class, and they can submit assignments and see grades. Of course, parents can also get in on the experience by tracking a calendar of assignments and events.
In short, such programs allow for totally integrated classrooms in which everyone can participate in the process and ensure that students are getting the most out of the educational experience.
But there’s more to it than simply putting “cool” technology in the hands of students in order to get them invested in their own education.
Although many teachers will enjoy the opportunities to engage students that tablets provide, the greater benefit for educators is that they, too, can have fun with these mobile devices. They offer a system for teachers to change the way they approach lessons by creating new and interesting interactive curricula.
The result is that they can become energized about their jobs, passing along their infectious enthusiasm to their classes.
Whether they’re discussing the motifs in a piece of literature, renewable energy law, or the Pythagorean Theorem, tablets could help them to illustrate lessons and make them more interesting and accessible for students.
And if the ultimate goal is to create students that are passionate about learning, not to mention capable of using technology and thinking outside the box, tablets could definitely be the medium that leads to a brighter future.