MIT Students Debate the Value of iPads in the Classroom

Justin Reich:

This is the time of year where I have the great pleasure of teaching an education class to undergraduates at MIT. We address two questions during the semester: “What’s worth learning?” and “How do we know that students are learning what’s worth learning?”
Most weeks, we have an online discussion about current events in education. This week, students chose to examine an article on a school district that just committed to a district-wide 1-1 iPad program. Their responses are characteristically thoughtful, and here are a few of their perspectives. We’ll be discussing this during our class meeting Wednesday at 2:30, so leave a comment or tweet a response (@bjfr) by then, and I’ll make sure the students get it.
For Individuals not Groups
As I said above, individual iPads for each student create barriers in the classroom. It’s hard for me to see how doing something on an iPad is better than doing without it. The best way to teach is to engage and motivate, and if throwing expensive technology is the school district’s plan, in my opinion they are wasting a lot of money. If everyone has an individual tablet, then it’s hard to make the argument that these iPads will bring the classroom together. Whenever we worked with laptops in my high school, the classroom felt empty when everyone quietly labored away on their keyboards. Even if the classroom is brought together through this technology, what is preventing them from working together without any Apple products? Ideally, it sounds nice to present every student with the best technology out there to do their work, but not at the expense of deteriorating classroom cohesiveness.
While I’m against the idea of having iPads in the classroom, I’m not opposed to using them outside the classroom. Great teaching is done with groups and collaboration, but reinforcement of material could be greatly improved with interactivity, social aspects and new technology. These are all areas where I think the iPad could be beneficial to learning.