Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
by Beth Bacon
As the 2013 school year begins, some of the newest members of the classroom are digital. Tablets are now part of the instructional landscape in more schools than ever across the United States. One-third of K-12 students said they used a tablet for school during the 2012-13 academic year. This fall, the number is rising.
How well these new electronic classroom buddies will be integrated into the learning process rests mostly on the shoulders of individual classroom teachers. Today, more than ever, professional development for teachers is vital for K-12 schools.
Tablets are much more than glowing textbooks. The new digital classroom apps are interactive and individual. They’re windows into worlds of exploration, creativity, and inquiry. A classroom of thirty kids with thirty tablets is fundamentally different from a classroom of thirty kids sitting at their desks facing a teacher.
Teaching is more like guiding when tablets are involved
In a classroom without tablets, a lecture is an effective form of conveying information. With tablets, teachers are most effective when they guide digital reading, exploration, and small group discussions.
When tablets, whether they’re iPads or Androids, enter the learning environment, the instructor’s role is fundamentally different. They coach and support more. They dictate less. Teachers are no longer data presenters but data synthesizers.
Non-tablet learning is about absorbing knowledge. Learning with tablets is about discovering and using knowledge.
Without tablets, when there’s one teacher in the classroom, the students have one source of answers—the teacher. If they have questions, students often have to wait till the end of a lesson to ask questions. (Even then, because they have to ask in front of their peers, not all students dare to pose questions).
With tablets, students can type queries into their digital books as the questions come to mind, then sift through the answers themselves. And there’s a whole lot less peer pressure involved in entering a query into a search form, so hesitant students are more apt to ask questions in the first place.
Some tablet time, some no-tech time
Many parents and educators are wary of the potential for digital screens to isolate kids and reduce the valuable social learning that happens in no-tech classrooms. Other parents think we need to prepare out kids for a high-tech, search-engine-driven job market.
We are living in a transitional time. Our schools need to reflect that transition. In school, as in life, there are appropriate times to use technology and times that are more suited to traditional, human-only interactions. Classrooms need to spend time in both modes.
That means teachers need to flex in and out of the traditional teaching mode.
Number one need: Technical professional development for teachers
So how do classroom instructors know when to use tablets and when to teach the old fashioned way? How do they know the best techniques for teaching with tablets when it is time for digital learning? It’s a mistake to assume teachers will integrate these new digital tools smoothly, effortlessly, and successfully into their daily routines.
“When it comes to integrating digital tools into the schools, the number one need is professional development,” said John Halpin, VP of Education Strategies and Programs at The Center for Digital Education www.centerdigitaled.com. The districts that use their new tablets most successfully will be those that promote teacher training.
Let us know your experience teaching with tablets
If you’re a teacher in a school who’s integrating tablets into your school day, we want to hear from you. What new classroom strategies are you using to get the most out of your tablets? How has your teaching changed? How has your professional development program helped? Share your experiences in the comment forms below.
Classroom image via Shutterstock.