I think we need to ask the question, “When is enough, enough?”
As teachers, we all want to move with the rapid advances in technology that we see around us, and want to stay just that one iota ahead of our students, as if that could happen! We strive and struggle and work to integrate the newest techniques and technology into our lessons. But when does the ipad take over the lesson and become more of a teacher than the teacher?
Are we just jumping on a technological rollercoaster where the ride will suddenly come to an end when the technology is superceded? What happens to our iPads when something new comes along? The iFilm, a roll-up sheet that replaces the whole iPad? The iSpecs, a pair of glasses where the inside of the lenses are used as a screen, or better yet, where a projector uses the viewers own retinas as the projection screen? Or do we just plug in a jack directly linking our brains to the net? Technology marches on relentlessly.
We have leaps in technological devices, but are the apps being developed keeping pace, on a level with the capabilities of the devices.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as keen as the next teacher to get more technology into lessons. (I’m currently studying two IT courses, aren’t I?) However, it doesn’t seem that the iPad has measured up to the hopes and dreams we had for it. So few of the apps, according to Murray and Olcese (2011) are actually apps that will be interactive enough to teach a child. Yes, they can supply information, but the interactivity of providing a real lesson is lacking, when it seems that the technology is not.
So as teachers, we must be judicious in our usage of technology. Apps and content must be selected carefully prior to lessons, with the app being the best possible match for the lesson being taught.
I was fortunate to teach in Singapore, a highly technologically advanced nation where seemingly everything is computerised, everyone owns at least 1 iPhone and having an iPad is the norm. Imagine my surprise when I started teaching there. The only computers on the premises were in the staff room and in administration. The reasoning? Children came to us to be taught by a person. If parents wanted a computer lesson then they would do it themselves at home. Totally the opposite of what I was expecting. I remember the time I was reprimanded by the executive staff for showing a YouTube clip of a kookaburra laughing. Obviously, not many Singaporean children had heard a kookaburra before. The reason? They can look it up at home after class! I had 4 years of that. Also 2 years of much the same in Jakarta, where technology in the classroom was actively discouraged. I imagine that this caused a stagnation in my own learning about technology as well.
It wasn’t until I moved to Kuala Lumpur that things changed. Lessons were expected to have an internet/technology component. Not just research, but constructing reports and using various programmes according to the MoE syllabus. We also had 2 interactive whiteboards, however, no-one actually knew much about them, so they were used mostly as wide-screen tv’s. But the potential was there.
Suddenly, I was ‘behind the 8 ball’ with so little technological expertise. But funnily, I was far ahead of the majority of staff in my knowledge. Whenever something went ‘wrong’ with a compute I was the one called upon to help!
I read of schools where every child has an iPad to use in class, or a laptop. How do we ensure that the iPad is used effectively as a teaching tool when there are so few truly educational apps? Yes, we can have students researching on them, yes, there are some worthwhile activities, but where is the true learning, with something being taught in a responsive and interactive manner. We must be careful that we don’t allow the iPad to become a babysitter, or a filler in class.
Something to think about at least, especially with UNESCO proposing to use electronic devices as a means of providing access to education for the masses of people who may otherwise not have the chance to access education in the historic sense. The world of information is incredibly mobile, and today so many people have access to information through smart phones and other hand held devices. I brings a sense of egalitarianism to education for all people, everywhere.
Murray, O., & Olcese, N. (2011). Teaching and Learning with iPads, Ready or Not? TechTrends, 55(6), 42-48
UNESCO. (2012). Turning on Mobile Learning: Global Themes. France: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.