College campuses around the country are being inundated with the latest high-tech devices to “make an impact” in education. The tablet culture is upon us in full force. In a December article on Campus Technology’s website, it turns out that the new Kno is making an appearance in a classroom near you. These tablets are to take over traditional textbooks, allow for video streaming and work within “the cloud” of Web 2.0. And, as you may recall, Amazon’s Kindle was THE hot gift to give this year for college, high school and life-long learners alike.
So what’s the appeal to the digital tablet? Well, for one, it’s cool. Seriously – you can pack all this information and capabilities into one tiny little item that you can throw in a bag and take with you anywhere. And it’s not like a laptop – it’s light, small, and most have super long battery lives. Second, they’re really easy to use and to read. I received the Kindle this Christmas from my wonderful husband and I had some mixed feelings before I turned it on. I love the feel of books in my hand and the look of them lined up on bookshelves around my house once I’ve read them. But once I turned on the Kindle and started downloading, reading and using the nice highlighting and clippings features, I was hooked. Everything was organized and stored right there and I could access it any time. Which brings me to number three – immediate access to EVERYTHING. Being able to do some much with something so small is an immediate plus. If I have a question about something and need to visually see it done, I can do so by just bringing up a video segment and then going right back to my text. All of these powerful tools converge into one singular intuitive invention – beautiful.
So what’s this have to do with education? Personally, I think it’s going to bring another round of revolution to our schools. I was just at a meeting learning about the School Improvement Network’s PD360 tool and found out that they have an observation tool for administrators. If the administrator has an iPad, they can download the observation app, write the observation on the iPad and then provide the teacher with links to professional development videos and articles directly within the observation form. The administrator can then email it to the teacher and the teacher can get immediate PD within their feedback. No more waiting around for a week to get your observation form and then having to research the web to learn new techniques. All of that time is now able to be devoted to actual learning and a change in teaching. Think about what this type of change could mean to our students? Faster feedback, more synapse connections, linking and thinking and inking all in one space and time. Amazing.
Obviously, there are the pitfalls to this type of movement. Lack of personal connections could be a problem, as well as making sure that we don’t just get caught up in the technology without evaluating what goes IN to the technology. As one commenter on the Campus Technology website put it, we’ll never get ahead in education if we don’t fix the content of the textbooks that we’re downloading to the tablets. But the sheer possibilities for engagement, learning, and questioning with this type of technology gives me hope that we’re not as far behind as we’ve been told.