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Is it too much to ask that children should experience delight in school? Delight and learning don’t need to be polar opposites. Educator Maria Montessori once said, “One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”
But in most K-12 educational institutions, student happiness seems to be pretty low on the priority list.
It’s easy to see why. If every student is pursuing his or her own delight, a teacher cannot guide a lesson. But must every moment in the school day be guided by a teacher standing in the front of neat rows of chairs?
Is there time in a school day for individual students to pursue their own curiosity? Do we value the idea that students who experience the thrill of discovery and pursue their own passions tend to be more successful? If there is time for it, and we value the joy of learning, we now have the tool for it—the tablet.
Ebooks bring delight to early readers
When students read ebooks on tablets, they can interact as they learn. Even with the most simple ebooks—static paper books transferred to digital—students can add highlights and make notes in the text. That kind of participation, at the moment of reading, is simply not allowed in school-owned textbooks or readers.
When students can change the font size, a whole new joy comes to reading for many children. New readers, in Kindergarten and first grade, need larger type. More advanced readers in those same classrooms, though, might be comfortable with more words per page. Students now can find the right font size themselves, and continue to adjust it as their reading improves.
Ebooks reduce the intimidation factor
For many children, there’s something intimidating about the look and feel of a heavy, dense book. My friend Sebastian, now in his 30’s, remembers avoiding “big books with small print” as a child. He never picked up books he probably would have enjoyed just because their size made them seem too difficult to get through. “Now all books are the same thickness, the thickness of a tablet,” Sebastian said, “If every page was just a screen I would have read so much more.”
Thick books may be daunting, but tablets are captivating. Put a tablet in front of a child, and her eyes light up. As ebooks become more interactive, involving videos, demonstrations, three-dimensional models, and quizzes, students can participate and guide their own learning even more.
A special tool for special needs
Special needs educators have already found tablets to be valuable tools. The Morrison Center in Maine, an educational facility for people with disabilities, uses tablets to help children gain a range of skills. In an article in The Forecaster, a Portland-area journal, David Harry wrote about the ways tablets allow special needs children to work on stepping-stone activities that build into larger skills.
For those who have issues with speech, tablets provide a vehicle for communication.Touch screens provide faster, more direct input than keyboards. “I see the impact it has made. It opens a whole new world for them.” said Lynn Gierie, whose nonprofit, The Robbie Foundation, helped provide funding for 24 iPads at Morrison. Her son, Robbie, is also a student.
The appeal of tablets
Just as important as useful skill-building tools, tablets at Morrison are just plain fun. They’re “dynamic” and “exciting” for kids. Children want to use them. Tablets reach students in ways other tools cannot. Their bright screens and direct interactivity are irresistible.
Tablets are delightful. They’re also educational. Perhaps now is the perfect time to begin introducing a little more joy into K-12 education.