iPads make inroads in Triangle schools – Education – NewsObserver.com

From the newspaper article…

The News & Observer, Raleigh’s capital newspaper, ran an article on the front page of Saturday’s issue about iPads in area schools. iPads make inroads in Triangle schools ((Stancill, Jane. “iPads make inroads in Triangle schools.” Raleigh News & Observer 18 Dec 2010, Print.)) is a fairly standard and objective journalistic covering of contemporary technology in classrooms, with a fair inclusion of pros and cons.  What impressed me most was that the article got all the way to word 827, of the 1054 word piece before it mentioned digital natives.  As a personal experiement, I thought I would column out the pros and cons mentioned in the article and add some comments (in blue):



It’s tech: “Students using a “digital textbook, (for) a fast-paced visual tour of Gothic architecture, the feudal system and the Crusades.”

Durham Superintendent said.“You can actually dissect a frog on the iPad. That was amazing to me.”

OK, so iPads might make very interesting and compelling replacements for textbooks.  No argument there, though shame on us if we can’t go much further than that.

A Wake Forest charter school has been experimenting with 10 iPad this year. “Leaders have been so happy with the results, they recently made plans to order 20 more”

I’d like to know what those results are.  Can’t include much of that in a 1000 word article.  But people are invested in their schools through their children and through their own experiences as students.  We need to understand what success looks like today.

“..kids are telling us, ‘This is how we learn. This is what we want,'”

I believe that this is a much overused justification and not even a very compelling one.  It’s not because this is where our learners are.  It’s because this is where their world is and this is where their future is.  ..And continuing to insist on paper-based, packaged and controlled learning environments is as archaic as handing out stone tablets

“..young readers who record themselves reading aloud”

This is cool and geeky –but why?  Why is having students record themselves a better way to learn?  I would rather have read that, “Youngsters are recording their reading to be heard by younger students.  The readers are taking greater care with style, flow, and enunciation, because they are reading for a real audience.”  Again, probably too long.

“..used in the right way, hand-held computers can deepen content and produce effective assessments and better links to home.” Chris Dede continues, “If it’s used as a catalyst in those ways, there’s a lot of research that it is very powerful.”

No argument here, though the story continues to be a little thin.  Just knowing that these are the sentiments of Chris Dede is enough for me.  But there should probably be some link to Dede’s work at Harvard.  Go here!

Dede adds that,“..tablets are easy to use, lightweight and allow for small group work.”

Again, no arguments.  But I continue to believe that some of the best and most powerful potentials of media tablets for teaching, learning, inventiveness, and collaboration have actually been designed out of the iPad.

“(Students) like being able to type their notes and have maps and other references at their fingertips while in class.”

Again, why is this a good thing.  My answer is that it makes the learning experience more of a conversation.  When students have access to an Internet of content, during their classroom discussions, they are empowered to participate more fully and even more authoritatively.  Add to that the potentials of having students take notes collaboratively, and annotate each other notes, and you’ve got a new kind of classroom learning — a little more relevant to the future we’re preparing them for.

“impressed by his students’ ability both to work independently and to collaborate to solve problems.”

This is an important statement, because it suggests that one of the approaches we might be making is to simply give over the information technologies that are part of their ‘native’ experiences, and let them show us how they might be used — the new pedagogies.


Michael Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute says, “I don’t see how anyone would believe that throwing a lot of money at iPads right now would lead to improvements in this kind of school. This feels a little bit desperate.”

This is true. Simply putting a bunch of iPads in the hands of teachers and learners will accomplish very little. But I have to hope that professional development and continued opportunities and facilities for self-development will be part of the formula.

We must “..make sure the school’s infrastructure (can) handle all the machines operating at once. ..negotiate volume licenses and find affordable applications to install on them.”

A agree whole-heartedly with this statement.  But I believe that the position needs to be taken that schools that are not equipped to support contemporary learning technologies are relics, and not to be tolerated.

“Some say schools are asking for trouble if they spend millions on mobile devices and iPads that quickly become outdated. It’s easy for the devices to be stolen, lost or broken, said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He predicted headaches for teachers.“I think it sounds ridiculous,” he said. “This is the worst kind of thoughtless technology use.”

Basing your arguments solely on the isolated  possible and probable complications of giving information technologies to learners is lazy — and that’s the best thing I can say about it.

Anyone who suggests that teaching in this time of rapid change should not have its headaches to overcome, has their head in the sand.

Wake (Raleigh) “schools may buy personal computing devices for students and faculty in the four schools.. (but) ..not sure they’ll have enough money.”

If personal learner access  to contemporary information and communication technologies is the way to properly prepare our children for their future (and I believe that it is), then you find a way to afford it.  It’s your job!

Computers can open up new worlds to struggling students, Said Atkinson. “You can show, you can demonstrate, and you can give immediate feedback,”

True, true, true.  But I think we need to be  much more learner-oriented in our descriptions.

“Learners can find, see and interact with new knowledge, and have it respond to them.  This is what evokes learning for today’s children”

Again, I feel that approaching the advocacy of contemporary technologies in our classrooms should not be based on our children’s preferences.  I’d rather suggest that our children are growing up in a world where multitasking is a critical skill, and their learning experiences should reflect this.

My Conclusion

It all comes down to our vision of the classroom. What does it mean today to educate? What does it mean to be educated? There are three conditions that are shifting these definitions.

  1. We are preparing a new generation of learners
  2. Within a new information environment
  3. For a future we can no longer clearly describe

In this world, the definition of rigor is not how much you can be taught, but how well you can independently learn and what you can do with what you learn.

What I want to see in the implimentation of iPad programs is how students are utilizing their learning literacies as they engage in exploring, experimenting, discovering, and inventing in their world.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.