In the last few years, countless school districts have passed initiatives to get iPads in the hands of every student. The rationale is that access to technology will improve learning and shrink achievement gaps between white and non-white students.
But as teacher Launa Hall discovered, iPads in the classroom actually deter learning and other important social and non-cognitive skills. Writing in The Washington Post, Ms. Hall explains the change which came over her 3rd grade students after they were each given an iPad. In a nutshell, communication declined, precious learning time was lost, and enthusiasm for play and imagination dwindled. In the words of Ms. Hall,
“One of my saddest days in my digital classroom was when the children rushed in from the lunchroom one rainy recess and dashed for their iPads. Wait, I implored, we play with Legos on rainy days! I dumped out the huge container of Legos that were pure magic just a couple of weeks ago, that prompted so much collaboration and conversation, but the delight was gone. My students looked at me with disdain, and some crossed their arms and pouted. We aren’t kids who just play anymore, their crossed arms implied. We’re iPad users. We’re tech-savvy. Later, when I allowed their devices to hum to glowing life, conversation shut down altogether.”
Ms. Hall notes that her firsthand observations are underscored by recent research on computer usage in the classroom. The research shows that overexposure to computers actually reduced educational outcomes. Other experts, such as University of Michigan computer science professor Kentaro Toyama agree, suggesting that children benefit more from “high-quality adult guidance” than from screen time.
Ms. Hall’s takeaway from her iPad experience?
“We put tablets in their hands and made their loads that much heavier.”
Is it time we abandoned the idea that an iPad in the hands of every student will cure America’s educational woes?
Image Credit: PCMag
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.