A recent post on SMATOOS, an online education and technology news and information site that tracks the impact of technology upon education and offers up-to-the-minute industry news, app reviews and interviews with education specialists and industry leaders, offered an interesting perspective on balancing the use of tablets in the classroom.
While it is important to prepare our students to thrive in an increasingly digitized society and an economy where innovative sectors are rapidly being created through Information and Communications Technology, the degree to which we integrate digital tools into our children’s curriculum must be carefully considered.
As more and more schools are incorporating tablets in classroom curriculum, students are utilizing them to complete assignments and teachers are employing them as supportive tools, consider the following:
First, tablets aren’t cheap; and in some areas, more governmental funding is available to offset the cost of technology than in others. It’s important that every child, regardless of his or her social status, has access to the same technology at the same pace so that we don’t create a “digital gap.” When considering financial aspects of integrating tablets, schools will do well to weigh the cost of textbooks against the cost of apps.
Second, according to a study by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, the use of technology in classrooms has a negative impact on children’s writing skills. Copy and paste features available on tablets make it easy for students to gather vast amounts of information without the “need” to carefully scrutinize it or to create original text. In addition, children are combining formal and informal language, causing additional problems for them in acquiring strong writing skills. Computer apps on tablets should be used for practice and support but never to usurp training in essential writing and literary skills.
Third, education must focus strongly on mastering concepts in media literacy. Copy and paste features also make it possible for students to readily access information without checking it for relevance or credibility. In our increasingly digitized classrooms, children need to learn how to utilize digital tools efficiently and to critically identify the characteristics of pertinent, reliable sources within the parameters of their studies. Use of tablets does not abdicate scholarly charges. Failure to teach students these crucial lessons now, could spell disaster at the college level.
At this early juncture, while we struggle to find a balanced approach to the use of tablets in the classroom and while some students view them as educational tools that help them to focus and others view them strictly as entertainment devices, it is too soon to draw definitive conclusions about the part they play in education.
What remains certain, however, is that transitioning to digital classrooms must be accomplished judiciously, ensuring that training in foundational skills is carefully preserved and that all children have equal access to new technologies.
What’s your opinion about the use of tablets in the classroom? Include your comments below or on our Discussion Forum.