5 Ways Tablets Will Change K-12 Education
by Beth Bacon
Tablet shipments to schools grew 103% in the last year according to research from International Data Corporation (IDC). The report states “that momentum will continue as the 2013 back-to-school season approaches.” This growth in tablets will affect learning and classroom management—but how? Here are five ways tablets will begin to change K-12 education.
Change 1: Personalized learning
Tablets allow a class of 30 students to work on 30 different specific skills at the same time. The educational model in which a teacher stands in front of neat rows of students works when subjects are being introduced, but not so much when skills are being practiced. In the future, teachers will spend more time guiding and coaching students as they work on individual activities on their tablets.
Personalized learning is efficient learning. Interactive question-and-answer quizzes on individual tablets will lighten the teacher’s load of grading and assessing—freeing them up to use their time to work face-to-face with the kids who need their attention.
Change 2: Creative interactivity
Some types of learning are ideal for lecture-and-test models—an overview of a history lesson, for example. Many others, however, are best suited for exploration and creativity. Students need a balance of both. Tables can help teachers introduce more creative, exploratory learning into their classrooms.
Applications on tablets can include drawing boards and writing notebooks that allow children to interact creatively with what they’re learning. Tablets with cameras open up new possibilities for science projects. For example students can record and comment on the growth of a flower or the development of mold over time. Interactive Q&A forms and quizzes in tablets can enhance traditional textbook content. Tablets allow students to self-monitor their learning and interact with narratives.
Change 3: Online learning
Online learning has a place in K-12 education today. We’re not saying to cut human interaction out of K-12 education—classroom, playground, and hallway engagements are of vital importance to children’s education. In-person interactions between kids and teachers, students and other students, administrators and classes help everyone grow. But online learning brings the world to students fingertips and allows schools with low budgets to access a wealth of resources.
Tablets are a great way for children to participate in online learning. Online learning can benefit students who have specific skills to practice or have special needs. They help English language learners hone their skills. Advanced students who finish the regular classroom work before the rest of their peers can use online tools to supplement their learning and avoid boredom. Tablets will bring these opportunities to more kids, more often.
Change 4: Formative assessments
Regular, informal tests that allow teachers and students to know “what they know, and what they don’t know” can be easy to incorporate into the school day using tablets. Formative assessments offer immediate results and allow teachers to quickly offer remediation for students who need more help. The NMC Horizon Report for K-12 Education 2013 states that “assessment is an important driver for educational practice and change, and over the last years we have seen a welcome rise in the use of formative assessment in educational practice.”
Formative assessments don’t have to take time away from learning—used properly, they are a natural part of the learning process, especially if they are offered at flexible times and locations using tablets. These assessments give educators timely, specific information on which students have gained proficiency in which skills. Teachers can use this information focus their attention where it’s most needed and bring more students up to grade level. Formative assessments can also help students take responsibility for their own learning. If they know what they need to practice, they can focus on those areas during study time.
Change 5: Change
This isn’t a trick answer. “Change” is one of the changes that we need to be prepared for in K-12 education. The history of technology is the history of change. When we add technology to schools we add the spirit of change. Educators need to change the mindset that next year will be the same as last—because it won’t. We don’t know what innovative, effective applications will be created for tablets and sweep schools in three or five years—but we do know new ones will be created.
Schools will be adapting as they include them in their lesson plans. Teachers will continue to log hours in professional development seminars. What apps, add-on features, and accessories will enhance tablets? Perhaps a plug-in camera that functions as a microscope or crowdsourcing survey tools that allow students to perform real-time reports. Who knows? What we do know new technologies will come. Schools are going to need to experiment with using those new technologies in the classroom. In the future, the status quo is going to be…more change.
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