Laptops, tablets and their place in the classroom.

Some of our Australian readers may have caught this opinion piece in The Age/SMH yesterday.  In it, graduate teacher Michael Davidson contends that iPads, laptops and other ‘connected devices’ are a distraction in the classroom and should be removed.  He also questions the importance of ‘digital literacy’.

It won’t surprise you to learn that we respectfully disagree!  Our CEO Byron Scaf replied:

Davidson (“Laptops in schools not so smart”, 21/11) quite rightly contends that laptops and tablets aren’t always being used effectively in the classroom. However, it would be short sighted to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Australia is leading the way in bringing devices such as iPads into the classroom. Unfortunately, in the rush to achieve this, we didn’t consider how to maximally empower all teachers with the skills and tools they need to leverage this new technology. The devices arrived in classrooms across Australia and as one principal has relayed to me, it was a case of “this is great, what on earth do we do with these now?”

On the other hand, I’ve seen cases where supplementing traditional resources (pen, paper, textbook) with this technology, coupled with proper tooling and training, have had a dramatically positive impact on student engagement and overall performance (see these case studies).

Davidson’s attitude towards ‘digital literacy’ is also concerning.

Knowledge is power. In the Internet age, all the knowledge in the world is freely available, but you need to know how to find it, and crucially, how to filter the fact from the fiction. Mastery of this skill – ‘digital literacy’ – is crucially important to a student’s success in the workforce, and in the world. Leaving school today without this competency is akin to graduating without a grasp of mathematics or language.

Bored, distracted students in a classroom is nothing new; the iPad is simply the latest outlet. We owe it to our teachers to give them the tools and training they need to use this technology to engage today’s students – the digital natives – in the connected, always-on world they live in.