IPads in the Classroom – Yay or Nay?
The world of education is constantly evolving, and most agree that the onset of new, interactive technology opens up exciting, new doors in learning what we never could have imagined before. But how much is too much? What is the best way to incorporate modern devices, such as laptops and iPads, into traditional educational methods? To what extent should younger learners be exposed to technology in the classroom, and how is the very notion of the “classroom” evolving?
IPads more than ever are becoming a favorite go-to teaching aid in classrooms, with many schools starting to provide students with their own iPads. The advantages are clear: the devices’ interactive nature and direct means of accessing teaching resources and learning games online can be a way of sugarcoating learning, hopefully getting students to retain information more if they learn it in an enjoyable fashion. The drawbacks are equally evident: iPads are costly and, some say, superfluous. They impede on classroom interaction, and can be viewed as a crutch in both the teaching and learning processes. They can be used as just another medium for wasting time (take the incident in the Los Angeles school district, where iPads were dispersed to students with all non-academic websites blocked, and within days every single student had hacked their way through the firewall).
In fact, tablets have been shown to significantly improve classroom learning and knowledge retention, especially when it comes to explaining scientific or mathematical concepts that are too complex or abstract to show with traditional textbooks or chalkboards. Using iPads to communicate ideas about the to-scale size of the solar system, molecules, and timelines has been shown to activate neurocognitive synapses in a unique way from book-learning. Thanks to thousands of imaginative (many of them free) apps available to use, projects, games, and presentations in art, music, languages, social studies, and more are easier than ever. And with many students, the scrolling, swiping, and tapping finger motions used to access information on an iPad can make learning a more interactive and stimulating experience.
Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) combined with the use of tablets and laptops can expand the classroom in a more encompassing way, allowing the classroom and students’ outside lives to mesh. Far from replacing the human approach to learning, VLEs allow students and teachers to contact each other directly with questions and feedback, as well as access a wider educational community. With subjects that are based around communication, such as learning foreign languages, VLEs can give options for exchanges and conversation with students in far-off locations. Providing a plethora of forums, academic links, and webpages to view tests, classroom content, and other useful resources, VLEs give students a greater individual control over their learning. It also makes remote learning easier, allowing students who may be traveling or working to attend class with their peers.
More standard VLEs, such as Blackboard which has been used in most colleges and secondary schools for the past decade, offer opportunities to attend classes online, while others provide online student activity centers where users can cooperate on different projects and games. More cutting edge VLEs such as Moodle, Frog, and Kaleidos offer more opportunities for customization, in an attempt to rival the big social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. The more creative a teacher is, the more enjoyable they can make their virtual classroom, with options to customize their homepage and embed links to newspapers, videos, and podcasts. And while doling out iPads and conducting classes online can be intimidating to educators, it is increasingly important for educators to keep up with the times and present learning in a way that’s accessible to the tech-savvy younger generation.
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