Making Full Use of Technology Means More than Just iPads

Academic outcomes of students won’t improve purely with the introduction of digital gadgets like Apple’s iPad tablet computer into the classroom. Schools that wish to get the most out of the new technology must first do away with a curriculum that is geared towards the 20th century tools — but before jumping feet first into education technology, people in charge must first figure out exactly what they want to achieve from this integration.

Technology continues to play an ever greater part in society, so it’s no wonder that some view the conversion from an analog to digital classroom as a necessary step towards preparing kids for that kind of future. But administrators must think beyond simply replacing a pen with a stylus and try to tease out the problems that could lend themselves well to technological solutions.

The social and economic world of today and tomorrow require people who can critically and creatively work in teams to solve problems. Technology widens the spectrum of how individuals and teams can access, construct and communicate knowledge. Education, for the most part, isn’t creating learners along these lines. Meanwhile, computers are challenging the legitimacy of expert-driven knowledge, i.e., of the teacher at the front of the classroom being the authority. All computing devices — from laptops to tablets to smartphones — are dismantling knowledge silos and are therefore transforming the role of a teacher into something that is more of a facilitator and coach.

The school system designed to accommodate the industrial revolution-era population isn’t serving students growing up today. While the rest of the world moved toward standardization, schools moved in the same direction. Today, however, it is customization that’s driving business: companies make money by giving each of their customers what they specifically need. Technology could give educators a similar ability to tailor their lessons for the skills and interests of each child.

A wholesale technological adoption could overthrow the traditional teaching paradigm, which will probably be a positive in the long run. At the moment, however, moving to fast could mean that the current system is eliminated with nothing coherent to replace it, leaving both teachers and students stranded without guidance.

Because integration and innovation with technology can be so disruptive to established systems, innovation is more likely to take root if it is grown on the margins. The margin can be a small percentage of class time that’s carved out each week for experimentation, or it can be a technology incubator designed to function beyond the conventional boundaries of school systems.