The school year is well underway. Students are getting to know their teachers. And in an increasing number of school districts they are getting to know their tablet computers, too.
Nationally, more schools are integrating technology such as tablets in the classroom as a teaching tool.
For instance, in North Carolina one district, Guilford County, is using tablets from Amplify. The county represents the first district to pay for the tablets after they were field tested in other districts. The tablets were partially paid for by a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Amplify is a division of News Corporation, which also owns the Fox television network and other media holdings. Amplify provides or is developing curriculum, games and an Android operating system tablet. The games will be offered for sale to schools next year.
Its CEO is Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Public Schools.
“K-12 isn’t working,” Klein told Carlo Rotella, director of American studies at Boston College, who authored a recent article on tablets and public schools for The New York Times, “and we have to change the way we do it.”
“Between 1970 and 2010 we doubled the amount of money we spent on education and the number of adults in the schools, but the results are just not there. Any system that poured in as much money as we did and made as little progress has a real problem. We keep trying to fix it by doing the same thing, only a little different and better. This is about a lot different and better,” he added.
But there are some concerns about using tablets in the classroom. In the recent Times article, it was warned of the “overvaluing of technology and the undervaluing of people; the displacement of face-to-face interaction by virtual connection; the recasting of citizenship and inner life as a commoditized data profile; the tendency to turn to the market to address social problems.”
There are concerns too about what a private company could do with students’ confidential data. The increased technology could lead to teacher layoffs, and children may end up spending too much time in front of computers rather than in human interaction.
But schools are looking for value on tight budgets. Tablets are now selling for $199, with training and support. The price tag is on target for what schools can afford.
Klein said that a student can learn more if curriculum is altered to match his/her learning style, interests and learning pace. The tablets help with this. Also, many students enjoy working on tablets. Teachers could use the help tablets provide. The tablets may help to increase test scores, too.
Amplify wants to see its tablets in middle schools nationwide, with high schools and elementary schools next in line. Apple would no doubt like its iPad in schools, too.
The market is impressive. The Times reported that some 99,000 K-12 schools spend a total of $17 billion a year on tech or instructional materials.
Recently, Robin Britt, a tech trainer, was quoted telling teachers, “Now your job is not to dispense knowledge. It’s to facilitate learning. No longer is the teacher the bottleneck between students and knowledge. Rather, the teacher architects the environment — in the classroom, on the tablet, online, everywhere.”
How the use of tablets in schools evolves could revolutionize education. Meanwhile, students and teachers have a new tool at their disposal.
Edited by Alisen Downey