At least in schools where we have been working, the teachers themselves will tell you that this really enhances what they are doing. What we want to do is really make sure that the teacher’s time is maximally impactful and effective. Right now, I think too often we expect teachers to do everything, and we don’t give them the tools to succeed. Now we are giving them the tools that will enable them to improve the things that they care about. By the same token, in the end, the human dimension of learning is always a critical dimension, and we are going to need to make sure that that is enhanced not undermined.
I think there are times when these things should be shut off. When the teacher says, right now I need your undivided attention, and here is what we are going to be doing, one click and she’s got it, whereas if she says to kids, right now shut off your cell phones, sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Teachers are wary of “tech for tech’s sake,” or the pressure to use technology that does not actually enhance learning. So, what are the proven benefits?
Tech for tech’s sake—you can’t do this. Teachers are right to say that if they don’t think this enhances the teaching and the learning experiences then it is not going to work. What I know from the pilots is that we are getting very, very positive feedback.
We have gotten little tiny things that measure things like the amount of time kids are spending writing and reading. Those things have been positive. But in terms of actually trying to correlate to test scores it is still too early, because we are working through the pilots right now.
Are you seeing the tablet change the typical class period? We are so used to seeing a teacher standing at a white board leading students in a lesson. How does it look now?
It is not a teacher and the chalk and talk. It’s a much more engaging experience. Kids are no longer passive. We did a pilot in Putnam County, Georgia, and I was just blown away by the fact that the kids themselves will say how much more empowering the experience is. They talk about how they can do much more creation on this tablet. They feel like they are participating more in the classroom.
Clearly, for the kids it is such an instinctive and normal way to engage. One kid said, in the evening when he goes home, if he is having trouble with his homework, he just clicks on his machine, and there is going to be several other kids on there working. He can ask them for help. It becomes a community device. It extends the day and it extends the year. All of that is changing the education experience.