Teachers around the world are catching onto new learning technology, primarily focusing on tablets. It’s clear from our recent posts: The United Arab Emirates distributed iPads to their federal universities, library tablet programs are on the rise and Stanford continues giving free classes via the app store. And with every rising trend comes a familiar, lifesaving manual: The Dummy’s Guide.
Sam Gliksman has written the black-and-yellow handbook to help simplify the iPad in Education. In addition to highlighting innovative lesson plans and informative anecdotes, Gliksman aims to promote an overall educational philosophy, one that integrates new technology rather than forcing it. The book will be out in January, but TabAdapt got a first look at what’s inside.
ERA: Are tablets the future of education?
SG: I don’t think any technology is “the future” of education. The dilemma I had in writing the book is that it’s a dummy’s book, and if you’re familiar with the dummy series, it’s really a how-to series: ‘tap here,’ ‘use this.’ As far as possible I’ve tried to integrate education into the book and principles of education as much if not more than the technology itself. That’s really what it’s more about. I don’t see the future of education tied to a particular technology as much as I do see it tied to more of a philosophy of education that’s more student-centered, more experiential, discovery learning, less frontal content delivery. Any technology can be used in a multitude of ways, and I don’t think using technology to support the old frontal content delivery systems is a successful model. I don’t think it’s necessarily the future of education; it could be.
ERA: Is there any country or school that you think is really setting an example or leading the way in terms of this kind of integration?
SG: There’s a lot of schools that are leading the way. I would not go so far to say any particular country, but there are a lot of schools that have adopted iPads and other technologies–again, I don’t think it’s necessarily about iPads per se, but a lot of schools are starting to adopt technology–and they’re using them in very innovative ways where they’re used to empower the students.
The old model of using technology in schools was to find big, expensive smart boards and put them in the front of the room and use them to deliver content. That’s trying to put new technology on an old model. That’s changing, and there are a lot of very innovative schools out there that are using it in new and more student-centered, experiential ways.
ERA: What do you think is the biggest roadblock to tablet integration?
SG: There’s still a significant organizational headache in trying to get tablets in schools. They’re not really designed to be monitored or administered in a central way within an organization. They’re very much personal tools. And I don’t have a problem with that; I think it’s fine, especially with older kids, to have them be personal tools. But schools, being what they are, like to have central administration over apps, control over their use and restrictions on their use. That can be a little bit of a problem still. It’s a lot better than it was a year or two ago, but it’s still difficult for us to manage with that.
ERA: Do you have any examples of exciting, inventive uses of the iPad in education?
SG: Oh, tons. The book itself, actually, has a couple of chapters where I’m lucky enough to have contacted a whole bunch of teachers and they submitted their innovative ways of using iPads in class, things they’ve done. There’s some really exciting examples in the book.
There’s one teacher for example that used technology to have kids design something like a Mars Rover to explore another planet. They had to go and they researched the planet that they were going to travel to, they had to discover more about the terrain and what was required of the vehicle. They had to look at the different materials to use for things like tires and the vehicle itself. They actually spoke to somebody who worked at NASA to try and get more information about it. This is, by the way, I think they were fifth or sixth graders.
Other examples going from even the simple level of teachers using iPads to have kids not just write stories but to have them accompanied by vocal narration, to have them accompanied by images they may have drawn. So you’ll find quite a few of those examples in the book, where traditional concepts and traditional teaching have been turned around by technology use.
ERA: I’ve read some studies that wonder if touchscreens are detrimental for young children. Do you think there’s an age limit to using iPads in education?
SG: I think they can be used effectively at any age. I think, like with anything else, there’s a time to use it, and there’s a time to put it away. I see tremendous value in kids drawing with crayons and paints, and doing all the things they’ve been doing for eons. I don’t really see a need for that to be replaced by digital drawing, for example. So again, the whole concept behind using technology in education is to have the technology integrated into the overall objective of the school. There will be times that makes sense, and there will be times that the teachers will be forcing it and that is when you want to put it away and just do it a different way.
ERA: How did you get into this job?
SG: My background was initially in education and then I had a software company for many years. I got back into educational technology about 10-12 years ago. I just saw a huge opportunity.
There have been a lot of hurdles in integrating technology in schools. With the advent of tablets, there was an opportunity to have this new, easy-to-implement, easy-to-use technology and there’s a certain advantage to tablets that you don’t have with traditional laptops and desktops. You don’t have the log-in, you don’t have the issues with passwords and network integration. You press a button, and you’re in. You’re on, it’s automatic, the battery lasts all day. I jumped on it, saw it was a real opportunity to do something that could have a real impact, and it has worked out really well.
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