iPads and tablet devices are becoming more and more popular in the classroom. In fact, schools nationwide are allocating funds to expand their offering of hands-on learning through digital education devices.
While this technology can be costly for districts to implement, digital learning meets students on a level they are quite comfortable with. Using digital technology and learning aids facilitates student engagement and holds their attention better and longer than less tech-savvy methods.
As Mike Holland paced the front of his seventh-grade math class at La Center Middle School, his students settled into their seats, touch screens in hand.
There was no click-a-tat of three-ring binders opening or the rustling of glossy textbook pages turning. There was just the silent unsheathing of tablet computers from their cloth vessels and the chatter of excited voices.
This is the new classroom.
As touch-screen gizmos become ubiquitous tools for everyday life, they’re also becoming mainstays of Clark County classrooms. Districts as far afield as La Center, Battle Ground, Vancouver and Washougal use, or have used, iPads at one time or another. This school year, school districts are expanding their iPad programs. In La Center, the program started as a pilot program in 2012.
Holland, 63, is in his first week of incorporating the tablets into his daily lessons, and he’s enthusiastic about what he’s seen. He supplements the traditional math curriculum with interactive lesson plans from a website called Khan Academy that was recently featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
Khan Academy provides interactive tutorials, while Holland provides the hands-on teaching, which involves roaming the room and answering questions. What this means is a more fragmented form of learning, he said, but one that’s based on doing rather than listening to teacher lectures.
The dreaded worksheet is becoming a mere memory, he said.
“One of the things that has always bothered me about the way we teach is that life doesn’t present a page of fractions,” Holland said. “The whole day is not one kind of problem. Everything is a different kind of problem. (Khan Academy) has a variety of problems, and that’s more real.”
So far, students have been responsive to the tablets. After all, they’ve been using the devices for years at home.
While some students grumbled that there were kinks in the tablets — they have a tendency to crash, a couple of students said — they’ve embraced the new tools.
“I think the whole electronic use thing gives kids more of a feeling that it’s going to help them,” said Camron Rowen, 12, as he logged on to his tablet in Holland’s class.
Technology in the classroom is the natural evolution of education, Holland said.
This year’s program in La Center will provide not just tablet devices to younger students, but Google Chromebooks — tablets with a detachable keyboard — to older students, so they can practice typing. The devices are strictly for in-class work.
In Washougal, where a similar pilot program became permanent this year, district officials tout technology’s ability to enhance the district’s curriculum.
There are other benefits, the district says.
Since rolling out the program last year, excused absences have been 34 percent lower, while tardies have been down by about 30 percent.
“Based on what we’ve seen, the program is being expanded beyond the pilot,” Superintendent Dawn Tarzian said.
Cost to education
While putting new technology into classrooms comes with costs, educators say there will be savings, too.