At the root of this change for schools is the idea of a 1:1 program. I would take that one step further and state that if any school considers a 1:1 program the iPad should be the device of choice. The argument for iPad over other personal devices will be saved for a later article. The reasons for insisting that a 1:1 program is critical are many, but perhaps the strongest rationale is the reality of this picture.
The sad reality is that most schools still believe that they are “teaching with technology” because they have a computer lab where they teach students important skills like word processing and how to create Power Point presentations. Look around you, do our youth really need to be taught how to do that? This may have been a worthwhile skill to teach 15 years ago, but the fact that we haven’t adapted as technology has is a clear example of how slow schools are to respond to the changing needs of our students. Today’s technology provides the opportunity for students to access endless amounts of information on any topic taught in our schools. It’s no longer about who has the most information in their heads, it’s about who can find that information the fastest and who can do something with the information that they find. If we truly want to prepare our students for the future they will live in, we need to teach them how to find information and more importantly what to do with the information that they find. The only way to do this is to make the fundamental change from teaching how to use technology to using technology to learn.
If schools see the importance of using technology to learn, then the only real way to accomplish this goal is to provide that technology to all students all the time. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that we can accomplish this goal by sending students to a computer lab a couple days each week or an hour each day for that matter. In this traditional model, technology is seen as something we do in computer class and not as a key component to learning. More importantly, until we place technology in the hands of each student, our teaching models won’t change.
Our schools still function under the belief that the teacher or the textbook is the keeper of all knowledge and that the teacher’s role is to disseminate that knowledge to their students. This model is fundamentally flawed because it teaches our students to be passive participants in the learning process. Under this traditional model, students sit and wait for the teacher to provide them with their great knowledge. Our students learn quickly that they don’t really have a role to play in this process other than to wait for someone else to give them information. If they don’t get it, they just wait a little while longer and they will get more information, help, clues, whatever it takes. I believe that this is one of the fundamental flaws of our educational system today. We teach our students early on that they don’t really have a role to play in the learning process and that they don’t really have to work that hard to get by. Our teachers on the other hand are working incredibly hard under this model. The teachers I know break their backs each and every day spinning plates in an attempt to help their students learn. They are all concerned about the fact that our students don’t try hard, appear disengaged, and don’t seem to care. I believe one of the greatest changes we could/should make would be to hand over some of the responsibility of learning to our students. With the advent of personal technology devices, we have the best opportunity of our careers to help students become more active participants in the learning process.
This is a defining time for education. With the advent of wireless technology and individual devices like the iPad educators are given the best opportunity of our careers to re-define the way we teach and students learn. The time is now! Schools are famous for being slow to change. This revolution is still in the early stages and if schools jump in now, they will be better able to shape the way this technology can change the landscape of education. If we wait to see what happens, we will miss a golden opportunity and will continue to frustrate and disengage our youth. The current model of education forces our students to shut down, slow down and get through the school day. We need to capitalize on their need and desire to be plugged in, engaged, and active participants in the learning process. We have the opportunity to allow that to occur, and it is our responsibility to see that it does.
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI