Yesterday I blogged about allowing my students to fiddle around with my new iPad. One additional insight I had as I watched them play around with the remarkable device was that, like it or not, seeing the ease with which all of them were able to navigate a tablet computer cemented for me the idea that giving our students tablets trumps outfitting them with printed books for many, many, many reasons.
In fact, to cite the reasons why it makes sense to convert to digital texts in the world of academics strikes me as an argument not even worth making. Remaining anchored to paper, however, is an argument I’d like to hear.
Because I am not sure how, on balance, the comparison is even close.
If money wasn’t the option – or rather, if you looked at the degree of actual savings we’d be able to incur should we measure everything based on a cycle of ten years ROI (return on investment) versus solely the first year’s expenditure of making the initial technological purchase – a tablet that has access to the web which is pre-loaded with class curriculums and software for productivity (i.e. MS Office or another version thereof) seems to be able to dominate the way we currently do things much like the way a high-end laptop computer dominates having twenty filing cabinets full of paper divided by tabs as a system for keeping track of all my work.
From speed to sharing, depth to complexity, multiple perspectives to the latest current thought on a subject matter, what can be done is beyond remarkable with tablets in a student’s hands… and what we can’t do, and what we are not doing, and how we are almost being short-sighted like Wall Street by focusing only on the next quarter instead of our long term growth (can you say year-to-year bubble tests?), well… I may be late to the party/bandwagon but I just got my iPad last Friday so cut me some slack.
The device has let me see the light. Theoretically, I had heard the arguments. But seeing my iPad in the hands of my students really re-shaped my thinking.
And no, printed books are not dead. That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is that we can do school better. (i.e. I am talking about replacing the notebooks, the physical books, the memos, the physical tests, and so on.) We have the tools to do it better.
And we have them now.
But are we willing to pay for it? Impossible, right?
I say we cancel all the bubble tests for the next 3 – 5 years and use all that money to make all our schools one-to-one laptops/tablets.
I am absolutely convinced public education in the United States of America would be immensely better served by this idea. And if we can’t convert all of them, let’s start with 50%.
At some point, we are going to begin. After all, the only way to eat an elephant is to start with a first bite.
One day we will have made the leap. And we’ll be better institutions because of it. Let’s start now by using the money we are virtually peeing away with tests everyone agrees are inferior measurements of students aptitude and instead, go right for the goal of actually improving student achievement by providing them with cutting edge tools for the classroom.
After all that’s the “alleged” purpose of the tests anyway: to help us better educate our kids, right?
Better tools do that better than weak tests.
And the sound the rest of the world would hear would be that of America’s students roaring with excitement about the possibilities of what can happen inside a school house.
Our country must make the leap!