Technology requires an investment in people.

Today while I was at an iPad training, this article popped up in my Tweetdeck. Read the article, but here’s the headline:

Even Apple is acknowledging that the “iPads in education” fad is coming to an end.

I held back a giggle–I was in a room with 60 educators who teach with iPads, all of us collaborating about how to use them best in our classrooms, who had just listened to our district tech facilitators talk about future directions of district technology. I was in the middle of developing a lesson in which students would use their iPads to answer an essential question in my curriculum–and I was reading an article about how iPads are a fad and on the way out education’s door.

But the article highlights a major problem that education has had with technology dating all the way back the Apple IIe: throwing tech at teachers without any training whatsoever.

When I first started teaching with the iPads, I was terrified. I’ve blogged about the triumphs and failures of the past four years (just look to the left and click on the word “iPads” and you can read all about it), as I’ve tried to figure out how to best use the iPads in my classes. And one thing is certain: without adequate training and time, any technology will fail in a classroom.

Last spring, I wrote about how Bellevue Public Schools prepares teachers to teach with iPads. As our district’s Director of Technology reminded us today, we began introducing iPads in our district with six teachers (I was one of those six). Then we expanded to a few more, and a few more, each time bringing in more grade levels and content areas and each time, the district provided all of us with training and time and freedom to take risks and fail and try and succeed. It takes a special kind of leadership to accept and implement a slow-burn approach with such a high-ticket item as the iPad, but our district leadership was willing to do that instead of the alternative that I read about in so many districts across the country.

What bothers me most about the article’s attempt to spell doom for the iPads, is this:

According to one of the teachers surveyed, tablets provided “no educational function in the classroom.”

I would like to sit down with that teacher and listen to what s/he tried to do to use the iPads to improve student learning. I would like to know what kind of training s/he received prior to using the iPads.

I would like to talk with the teacher from Virginia about how the iPad “undermined her pupils’ conversation and communication skills” and ask if she ever used GarageBand to record her students’ reading fluency, or had her students interview each other using the Camera app and make an iMovie to introduce students to the class.

I would like to ask these teachers who declare the iPad such an utter failure how they manage other behaviors like writing notes, texting, daydreaming, reading books, or doodling, when students should be listening or engaged in learning activities. Because blaming the iPads for behaviors that have been around since the dawn of time is unfair.

iPads in education is no more a fad than SmartBoards were ten years ago, than the Internet was twenty years ago, than typewriters were fifty years ago. If districts continue to throw new technologies at their teachers and students without proper supports, if teachers continue to believe that technologies are to blame for behaviors–thinking that the technology supplants classroom management–headlines that blame the technology will persist.

Once again, I find myself incredibly grateful to be teaching in a district that values training teachers how to use technology in the best way possible. Where I’m expected to take risks and fail. Where I’m encouraged to learn constantly so I can improve my skills and teach not only my students, but also my colleagues.

So I offer my sympathy to the teachers in Maine, California, Texas, North Carolina, or any district where the promise of how an iPad could transform a classroom never quite materialized. It is possible for technology to thrive, but it requires an investment in teachers, an investment that I’m afraid too many districts are unwilling to make.

I’m glad that my district invests in its teachers.

 

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