Virginia elementary school teacher Launa Hall wrote a long, thoughtful piece for the Washington Post today on what happened when her district gave all her third graders iPads.
Under the headline "I gave my students iPads — then wished I could take them back," Hall explains, "My lively little kids stopped talking and adopted the bent-neck, plugged-in posture of tap, tap, swipe."
Despite comprehensive training on how to incorporate iPads into daily instruction, Hall said the technical problems -- "bandwidth issues that slowed our lessons to a crawl, username issues followed by password issues followed by hundreds of selfies" -- forced her to write lessons two ways so she always had a backup if the iPads did not work.
Yes, the iPads offered her students new and fun options. "They made faux commercials that aired on our school’s morning news; they recorded themselves explaining math problems; they produced movies about explorers, complete with soundtracks." But Hall questions whether more was lost than gained, noting a decrease in hands-on learning, time outdoors and face-to-face interactions.
Classrooms run by worksheets won’t be magically transformed with tablets, and classrooms where teachers skillfully engage their students don’t need screens — and the extra baggage they introduce — to get great results.
Teachers striving to preserve precious space for conversation are not lazy, or afraid of change, or obstructionist. They believe that if our dining tables should be protected for in-depth discussion and focused attention, so, too, should our classrooms. They know that their young students live in the digital age, but the way children learn has not evolved so very fast. Kids still have to use their five senses, and, most of all, they have to talk to each other.
Her piece in the Post is worth your time. After you read it, let us know what you think. In our zeal to bring computers into every classroom, have we ignored the downside?