iPads in Schools: Pros and Cons
How much technology is too much?
Some things about the back to school days never change. Teachers are still asking for #2 pencils and composition notebooks. Parents are still taking photos of their kids as they get on the bus for the first day.
But some things have changed: as schools become more technologically advanced, they’re also becoming more technologically dependent. Smart boards and rented Chromebooks and iPads are now commonplace installations in classrooms. As with almost any situation, this one brings its own trials and benefits. The important thing is to be sure parents and teachers are kept informed of what types of — and how much — technology is best for a child’s learning and development.
What type of technology is best for your purposes?
Out of all the options available for school technology, there seem to be three that dominate the market: SmartBoards, Chromebooks and iPads. It can be a little (or a lot) daunting at first to decide what technology, if any, is best for your students, but a little bit of research goes a long way. Here are a couple common advantages and disadvantages to the popular tech items:
SmartBoards allow teachers to retain control over the device the entire time it is in use. Students can engage with the board and also play a variety of educational games on it (think Jeopardy with trivia from recent lessons or a two-sided race to click all the prime numbers). This is a big advantage over personal devices for students because it greatly reduces the chance of off-task multi-tasking.
In the average sized grade school classroom, these distracting activities aren’t usually an issue anyways. School-owned devices can be programmed to block non-educational sites, and there’s often a teacher or aide walking through the desks to help students and ensure they’re doing what they should be. But it is important to stop bad technology habits early, before students go into college or the workplace. A 2012 study found that university students who didn’t text, email, use social media during lectures significantly outperformed those who did. The study concluded that “attempting to attend to lectures and engage digital technologies for off-task activities can have a detrimental impact on learning.”
The fact that it’s not a personal device, however, also limits a SmartBoard’s capability. They can really only be used for group activities and lectures. Students can’t work independently with it, which means the activities can’t be tailored to their individual needs. Students can do the same educational activity on a personal device, and be able to go at their own pace, track their progress, and repeat parts they had difficulty in.
Technology should always be used for a purpose — not as a substitute for natural play and family interaction. Click to Tweet
With all this technology, how much is too much?
There have been multiple studies over the last five years on the impact iPads and other personal devices have on learning, and all have shown some positive benefit.
In 2014, the International Machine Learning Society published data that said the biggest educational advantage that mobile devices have (compared to traditional print materials) is not a better teaching strategy, but simply more motivation factors for the students. Those factors include control over the students’ own goals, a sense of ownership, an entertaining platform, and continuity between contexts afforded by the devices’ portability.
All benefits have their limits, however. The Pediatrics Societies Meeting analyzed parent-reported screen times of 900-plus children aged 18 months, and gave preliminary results in 2017. One out of every five children had about 30 minutes of screen time a day, and as screen time increased, so did the likelihood of up to 50 percent of the children developing a speech delay.It is suggested that children only start using educational technology sparingly, and only after their basic speech patterns have already developed. For most children, this means don’t worry about iPad games and educational television shows until the child is at least two years old.
Then, once you do start introducing technology, ensure that it has set goals, start times, and end times. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that smartphone or tablet use during “family times” such as meals, outings and game times — by parents or children alike — could foster feelings of abandonment and encourage bad behavior by children in attempts to get more attention, and increase distracted thinking (and therefore fatigue) in parents.