The Myth of Classroom Tablets

But what about one-to-one technology? (That’s teacher parlance for tablets.)

As you can imagine, giving every student a tablet (as in one-to-one) is a massive initial investment. At least then you have them. Well, that’s still not “problem solved.” My last section described just how important textbooks are for educators.  At this point, there is no complete replacement for what textbooks offered: one complete program that covers an entire year’s worth of material (even if the standards change… again), along with activities for practice, and assessment materials that follow a clear progression through the academic year. Sorry, there’s just no app for that.

What we have instead are poorly integrated multimedia programs and video games disguised as learning aides disguised as video games (not a typo.) The games are billed as helping with conceptual skills and fundamentals, but any of those that actually do… no one actually plays. The multimedia is usually a long series of videos and reading material that the kids can usually click through in 10 minutes what should take them a few hours to complete. They have clever visuals and a few quizzes but are ultimately inferior because they aren’t made with the same depth and detail as the books, as many are produced at breakneck paces by software startups employing five engineers and zero educators. Add in the fact that one of the last things Oklahoma educators get for programs like this is training in implementation, particularly with advanced programs. Sure, the administrators make sure you know how to check kids in, but as far as actually working with the programs that help you teach… eh.

Where we have successes usually comes from the fact that technology-based learning offers tools older methods don’t. For example, if you’re able to have all your work done on tablets, the grading can be done automatically. For teachers who spend in excess of four hours a week grading worksheets this is a godsend. Also getting instant knowledge of who is understanding the material and who isn’t is an invaluable tool to an educator. Likewise, there also exists excellent communication tools making it easier for parents and teachers to work together. Those are great (Classroom Dojo FTW!), but in all honesty, a teacher can also use Classroom Dojo with just her phone, so the one-to-one isn’t necessarily part of that equation.

So, discounting the communication technology, the grading does very little if it isn’t part of a holistically integrated lesson plan. For most teachers, this is where one-to-one fails.

What this translates to is Mr. Jones or Miss Smith now with access to the power technology, tech that cost the Oklahoma taxpayer one of the few pretty pennies they still had. They have no training in how to use it but had two days during in-service to figure it and design their entire year’s worth of education around along with the other teachers equally as lost as they are. So when you think about the costs of these massive outlays to it shouldn’t surprise you when the lesson ends up being, “Go to this YouTube video then take the quiz in Kahoots I spent an hour making last night.”

Given that most schools don’t have the pull that major school districts do, (such as the Los Angeles Independent School District) they don’t have the resources to court companies willing to tailor education suites just for them. Of course, even with LA, that crashed and burned. This is why for all but a few, one-to-one technology does not replace textbooks unless the teachers build a curriculum from scratch… again… but this time digitally. This means teachers have the burden of not only teaching, but also creating all curriculum, which they may or may not have the resources to act upon, which is already impossible, but whatever. Add into that the need to develop technology skills that would make them way, way more employable in other industries…

Well, at least this time they won’t need paper.

Next up… those godforsaken tests!


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