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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tablets, IWBs, Document Cameras and Other Misguided Technology Implementations

I've been pontificating for a while about the idea that if schools are not careful, iPads may become the SmartBoards of the future. Don't get me wrong, SmartBoards and Promethean IWBs are amazing tools. Its just that it has been a rare occasion that I've seen them used with good pedagogy. Most of the time they sit at the front of the room and no one but the teacher ever touches them. The teacher is still stuck in the front of the room with his or her back to the classroom. At some $5000-$7000 per installation, that's a very expensive chalkboard - and the pedagogy utilized is no different than that of the 19th Century. In worst case scenarios, I've seen them used as nothing more than a screen for an overhead projector, or even a place to tape posters. I'm all for putting technology in the hands of teachers, but I'm even more in favor of putting technology in the hands of students because the person doing the work is doing the learning. When a teacher is doing all the work...

Instead of spending $7000, how about spending about $1000 for a projector and a wireless slate and downloading free annotation tools? It frees the teacher from the front of the classroom, and allows digital lessons and teaching materials to be displayed for students leaving $6000 for student devices. That's a lot of Chromebooks, just saying.

And don't get me started on document cameras. Once again, here is an amazing tool that can be used for stop motion, time lapse, webcasting, modeling with manipulatives... and how is it used? As a very expensive overhead projector with the teacher filling out a worksheet for students to copy down. I'll address this in future posts.

So now the current craze leading the way in technology implementation is iPads. Sometimes as a 1:1, sometimes as a teacher only device. But how are they really being used? What is the pedagogy of instruction behind their implementation? If they are just going to be used to fill out digital worksheets, or play math games, then what's the point? We're taking 21st Century technology and beating it down into a 20th Century model. Instead of looking for content area apps, we should be looking at content creation apps. As I have said so often, students should be creators of content, not mere consumers.

I have more to say on the topic, but that will remain for another day.