Teachers give students an Apple (iPad)

Video game system or makeshift SMART board kit?

Innovations in classroom software and other technology have allowed many schools to do more for students despite increasing strains on budgets. According to a recent Mobiledia article, classrooms can expect to see more gadgets that will dramatically change learning environments. The article cited one example of how technological innovation can lead to saving educators a great deal of money:

“Yale students recently used free ‘Smoothboard’ software, an infrared pen, and a Wii remote to transform a standard projector into the equivalent of a $1,000-5,000 SMART board for about $100,” the article stated. “The innovation could have a big effect on public school classrooms in the future.”

However, classroom gadgets aren’t just about cutting costs. The article referenced customized learning as another advantage. Remember those days when the entire class had to read a textbook passage together? Some of your classmates may have been falling asleep because they already understood the material. Some others may have had to ask questions at the end of each paragraph (much to the disdain of the rest of the class). Imagine the same situation with an ebook with a built-in dictionary and interactive quizzes. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to learning, technology offers educators a way for students to move at different paces and still cover the material they need to get through. And, using classroom management software, teachers can actively encourage classroom-wide collaboration. Many educators are taking matters into their own hands to improve the classroom experience.

“Rather than waiting for committees to deliberate and state officials to fund more classroom technology, many educators and administrators, like the students at Yale, are using the web to build their own applications and software for individualized learning,” the article stated. “This decision has potential to spark innovation, which can be stifled in school systems where the buying and distribution of technology, textbooks and supplemental material favors larger, more established vendors and is a long process.”

iPads for eighth graders
The major concern for educators is finding ways of maintaining a productive learning environment with increased connectivity. That’s why teachers don’t usually allow smartphones in class, after all. A classroom full of students all using iPads to take interactive quizzes may sound like a pipedream when the same device could just as easily be used browse the web for funny captions of cat pictures. However, some schools are already integrating iPads with education.

Valley Center Middle School in Kansas plans to deploy iPads to 225 eighth graders in a new pilot program, according to Wichita ABC affiliate KAKE. The connectivity allows students to take charge of their own learning, meaning they won’t have to rely entirely on input from their teachers. Additionally, the large range of applications and other functions offer benefits for learning.

“The iPad just has so many different apps and capabilities, that’s the reason why we’re getting them for our students,” said Greg Lehr, vice principal at Valley Center, who was quoted in the article

Remember group assignments? It’s not always easy to get everyone working on the same project in the same room even as an adult. That’s why many collaborative projects end up in Google Docs. According to KAKE, Valley Center plans to allow students access to collaborative software and other productivity tools, such as Google Calendar, to track progress on assignments. If the program is successful, educators hope to expand it to other grade levels.

What do you think about using iPads in the classroom? Do you think there are other ways educators should be using technology?

Kate Beckham

Kate has been lighting up the blogosphere for over 5 years, with a keen interest in social media and new malware threats. When not sitting at a café behind her Mac, you’ll usually find her scouring the racks for vintage finds or playing guitar.