Consider a hypothetical situation where every student in the class gets an iPad. It could even be built into a desk so that it doesn’t get misplaced in between batches of students. The teacher would have his or her own iPad at the front of the room and could “push out” content to the students’ tablets as the lesson progresses.
Here’s a scenario for a hypothetical high school class: The teacher pushes out the first chapter of an e-book version of The Great Gatsby onto every student’s tablet and instructs them to read it. After everyone finishes, it’s time to discuss what was just read. A boy raises his hand to ask a question, and the teacher uses his or her master profile on the application to select that boy’s profile, enabling him to temporarily take control of the lesson. The student flips everyone’s e-book to a certain page and then highlights a passage of Fitzgerald’s that supports his example so everyone can follow along. A girl then raises her hand, and now the teacher gives her control of the discussion. The girl then posts a note on the page linking to any kind of relevant website; a photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald, a Wikipedia entry on the “Roaring Twenties”, the IMDB page for the film with Robert Redford, a YouTube link to the trailer of the upcoming Leonardo DiCaprio film, an artist’s depiction of the “Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg”, or whatever else she found interesting. The lesson can exist in the physical space of the classroom or the digital space of the internet, and the students are limited only by their own imaginations.
At any time the teacher can wipe the slate clean—a cliche I think can be forgiven in this context—and introduce new concepts of his or her own. In this method, the teacher has constant control of the class while always enabling students to make contributions in a unique way. The entire time he or she is a moderator, a guide, and an encourager.
The possibilities for tablet integration extend far beyond a discussion of classic literature. With a program like Nearpod, an application developed by Panarea Digital, teachers can engage and assess their students using mobile devices. The application is split in two—the teacher version and the student version—and is designed for all ages and subjects. Teachers create multimedia presentations using the cloud-based Nearpod Content Tool, and then use the iPad app to push out the content to their students tablets in the same way described in the previous hypothetical. Students then submit their responses using the student version of the app and the teacher then evaluates their work.
This kind of synchronicity is essential for classroom interaction. Teachers have long struggled to wrangle their students into cohesive discussions and keep their attentions long enough to get a concept across. By using tablets, it’s entirely possible that students’ engagement in a subject may improve. Everyone likes to play with the newest gadget, especially kids.
Funding will always be an obstacle to this kind of development. Very few schools are able to afford to put an iPad in the hands of each student that passes through their halls. But historically, tech trends have shown us that that as a form of technology grows in popularity, its accessibility and affordability grows as well.
Edutech startups and app developers like Panarea Digital are counting on this trend to share their products with the world and introduce innovation and mobile solutions in the classroom. At one point, computer usage was minimal in public schools, but now we have entire computer labs dedicated to developing 21st century skills. Widespread tablet computer usage may be the newest development in American public schools.