Educators agree that technology can greatly enhance the learning environment. Kids seem to have an intuitive grasp of new technology and easily start using these new tools, especially when the goal is games or interactions with friends. The challenge for educators is to integrate kids’ familiarity with and acceptance of new technology with learning initiatives. One way to do that is the one-to-one iPad Initiative.
The one-to-one iPad Initiative is a movement that is gaining traction in schools around the country. It involves providing each kid with his or her own iPad for educational purposes. Incorporating a device like an iPad as a teaching tool into the educational environment immediately raises the level of kids’ interest and engagement, resulting in improved attendance and cooperation levels. Improved engagement has been shown to lead directly to increased learning. In addition, since all kids will be provided with the same technology, the playing field is leveled and all students have access to the same resources, no matter their socio-economic backgrounds, or physical or mental ability. The benefits of the one-to-one iPad Initiative seem boundless.
However, the cost and security issues alone have given educators pause, including the cost of acquisition of hundreds of iPads, re-evaluation of access to the school’s network, and enhanced security measures to prevent breaches. These issues have slowed the initiative to a crawl in school districts across the country, but there are positive signs that these barriers will be overcome
From the teacher’s perspective, there is another drawback – the need to completely revamp their teaching methodology in order to tailor them to the new technology. This requires that teachers educate themselves on the technical aspects of various programs, have access to technology themselves, and develop the expertise to create visually rich programs to engage their students and utilize the iPad to its full potential.
One solution to overcome the last barrier to adoption of a one-to-one iPad initiative is to look to existing content that has already been created. The Internet is bursting with content, not all of it of high caliber. But it is possible to find quality programs that might lend themselves to incorporation into a lesson plan or curriculum. Our company, Sprout Labs, offers a series of game-like iPad apps on a variety of topics in the Life Sciences, Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Chemistry. With rich visuals and engaging content, these programs can offer teachers the opportunity to deliver material to kids in a format that is familiar and fun and is therefore likely to retain their interest. The apps offer strong science content in a variety of formats (text that has the option of being read aloud, pictures relevant to the topic, and “Did You Know” snippets of interesting factoids). A teacher might ask students to “play” with the Water Cycle HD iPad app, for example, either in class or as homework and then use class time to engage students in discussions about the different types of cloud formations, air pollution, fog, condensation and other topics.
Learning has changed dramatically with the development of new technology and the iPad is at the forefront of this change. It is only a matter of time before every kid has access to an iPad as a vital educational tool.