Just give me one good reason to use a tablet in the classroom
I’ll start with a confession: I don’t really get iPads. This came as something as a surprise to me as, by and large, I’m pathetically geeky about Apple products. I use my iPhone 6plus all the time and have just bought one of the new ultra-slim Macbooks. I fully expected to dig iPads, but my problem is that I just can’t really a see a use for them that can’t be handled more efficiently or effectively by either my phone or my laptop. Anyway, that’s just me; I’m happy to live and let live and if you’re an iPad aficionado then more power to you.
The point of this post is my growing amazement at the desperation of the education establishment to chuck money at tech companies. I’ve written before about my take on edtech and the sunk cost fallacy. Essentially, my views on students using mobile devices in the classroom remain unchanged:
I’d rather they spent time in lessons learning. Mobile devices are, on the whole, a distraction and I would much prefer to see the teacher utilised as an authoritative source of knowledge. Although I can see justifications for asking pupils to read electronic texts and to publish their work online, there is always an opportunity cost; time spent on these kinds of stuff is time that cannot be spent on higher impact activities. As far as I can see, the research on edtech is fairly neutral. That said, if individual teachers feel passionate about the use of technology, I wouldn’t want to stand in their way – though I would fiercely resist attempts to compel teachers to use technology for its own sake.
While I’m sure there may be schools where the use of iPads has been thoroughly thought through and where the experience of staff and students has been enhanced through their use, I’ve yet to see this in practice. What I do routinely see is schools investing vast swathes of cash in iPads and then looking around for something to do with them. Tablets, like most edtech, are a solution in search of a problem.
That kind of thinking leads to nonsense like this article on 20 ways to use a tablet in the classroom. The 20 suggested uses include 360-degree videos, taking photos, shooting movies, making comics and music (with no experience needed!), recording radio shows, making notes, using Angry Birds to learn maths, using augmented reality to… well, just because, setting up a class blog, and several other predictably pointless activities. Check out the full list yourself if you can be bothered.
Now, I’m not denying that you can do all these wonderful things, what I’m asking is why you would want to. Almost all the suggestions are superficial gimmickry. None of them will ‘transform learning’ unless by that we mean, retard it. They’re just fun. The raison d’être seems to be that school is boring; learning stuff is dull so you need expensive toys to drag children out of the stupor induced by dry old frauds banging on about history and science and other tedious guff like that.
One genuinely useful thing you can do with your iPad is to use it as a visualiser to model and deconstruct students’ work. This though can probably be done better and more cheaply with a purpose-built visualiser which start from about £150.