iPad Helps Kindergarten Literacy

iPad Learning

There is a story circulating that the iPad improves Kindergartners literacy scores. This title implies the hardware device or iOS is responsible for the improvements when much more likely there are specific applications responsible. After all, putting an Mac in a classroom with software designed to help literacy is more likely to improve literacy than an out of the box one.

A quote in the article confirms that the apps are the critically important factor over the hardware:

“The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there,” said Muir. “We are paying attention to app selection and focused on continuous improvement — we aren’t just handing equipment to teachers.”

Yet, it does not go into what are those apps. Or the efficacy of certain apps over others. Otherwise, we will head down the rabbit holes of the past of buying technology that is supposed to improve learning, but not seeing good results because people bought hardware and random software.

Back in February, President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams of the Georgia General Assembly wanted every middle schooler to have an iPad to replace textbooks. His Senate just passed a bill to mandate high school students take at least one online class. An online class could be good for students, if it is the right class for the student in the right format by the right teacher. The wrong class could turn off the student to online classes forever. These are interesting mandates to push technology into the classroom. They just ignore that content quality is what is important (and expensive).

Photo credit: iPad Learning on Flickr by Aaron Hufnagel

iPads for Georgia Middle Schoolers

The new buzz is a possible deal between legislators and Apple where Georgia middle school students may get iPads instead of textbooks. It is an interesting move. This sounded like it was about state money.  So I was curious about the math.

  • Assuming the $40 million a year for text books applies for all 1.3 million Georgia public school students, that works out to $31 a student per year.
  • Assuming the $40 million a year for text books applies to just the 311 thousand 6th-8th grade students (1.346 million / 13 * 3), that works out to $129 a student per year.
  • This plan would spend $500 per student per year for a total of $75.3 million a year + whatever the cost of textbooks for other grades.

Obviously this is not about saving the state money. So hopefully it is about improving education. Of course, Apple’s salespeople saying students improve learning is like trusting a tobacco company to say cigarettes improve one’s health. The Use of iPad as a Learning Tool: Final Report by Anders Evenstuen, Jon Torstein Dalen and Øyvind Hoff Midtbø seemed like a decent study though it involved university students not middle school students. They found students experienced difficulty using it to take notes though marking up a text worked better. Not having wireless access at home (like many Georgia students) destroyed the workflow. The time it took to change pages was distracting to them.

I’m curious what studies Apple has done to claim school provided iPads would improve education. This smells like the initiatives to give students laptops to improve education. Those went nowhere because technology for technology’s sake does not improve education. Teacher’s adopting the tools which fit well with what ought to be taught improve education.

Before one can get to improving education, one ought to consider the requirements needed to achieve it. Naturally people who have been through this with iPads in education have composed a list. Some interesting items include whether the school’s network and uplink are capable of handling the students use.

Point. Click. Think?

The wild, wild, web is a dangerous place to be if you want to think critically. C’mon, really now… who expects students to think while doing an assignment for a class in which they are not engaged. School has become an endeavor to do what is minimally necessary to get the grade desired. Maybe it is backlash against too much homework, but let’s get real. Were student really thinking when they had to use books to do their papers? NO! Editors did the thinking for the students. Now we have the Internet and editors are out of the loop. People must be taught to adjust their thinking… teachers included. Point. Click. Think? (washingtonpost.com)