iPads for All?

English: iPad with on display keyboard

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tablets have huge potential to revolutionize education in the classroom. In fact, the Ed-Tech in India report I co-authored looks in-depth at their potential to do just that for schools in the developing world. And they are getting smarter every day–India’s $40 tablet, the cheapest in the world, is about to become a “phablet” with a phone feature.

But just because we think tablets are awesome, it doesn’t mean we should send them into classrooms with no thought or planning. Over at VentureBeat, there’s a great guest post by the CEO of NOMAD, that explains a few reasons why educators should think twice before implementing tablets.

One major point to consider:

The iPad is primarily a consumption device. A major buzzword in US education circles for the past few years has been STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). We lament that we are losing so many prominent U.S. tech jobs to foreign-born scientists, engineers, and programmers. There is essentially universal agreement that we need to invest heavily in STEM education, particularly from a human resource standpoint. Well, guess what: Handing a student an iPad won’t inspire them to build it or program it. You’d be better off giving them a graphing calculator or a cheap computer and teaching them to code.

If you think the device is inspirational in and of itself, walk into a school that has a BYOD policy, then lift any content or usage restrictions and see how students spend their time. A few exceptional kids might surprise you, but for the most part, you’ll find a gaggle of Facebook and Twitter posts and some really high Temple Run scores.

Teach a man to fish, eh? Give a kid an app and you inspire her for a day; teach a kid to make apps and you inspire her for a lifetime.

I agree! The post also mentions the need for extensive planning, allocation of financial resources where they are most needed, and teaching students to be “mobile multilingual.” His advice applies to all schools–whether it’s one of the most expensive high schools in the US or a low-cost private school in Kenya.

Read the whole article at Why most K-12 schools aren’t ready for the iPad revolution.

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