Using new technology (such as the iPad) in classrooms is trending in some schools, but does it work?



Back in July, we wrote a blogpost on robots teaching students. While those of you who own iPads probably wouldn’t go so far as to call the iPad a robot, the newest classroom trend is to use iPads as teaching tools. In the United States, 8th grade students (13-14-year olds) in San Francisco are learning algebra with iPads (see A Day in the Life of an iPad Class). The iPad follows a traditional textbook but includes an application so students can watch videos of instructors explaining a problem as many times as they need. Schools across the United States have been piloting similar programmes using iPads, (see Math That Moves: Schools Embrace the iPad), and the trend is growing.

We know from Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” project that young children everywhere can and do figure out how to use technology and then teach other kids.

But assessing the effects of technology in the classroom is no small feat. The OECD has been a pioneer in this field and the recent report Assessing the Effects of ICT in Education: Indicators, Criteria and Benchmarks for International Comparisons provides some helpful benchmarks for how we think about and measure the effects of technology on learning.

The proof will be in the pudding. The San Francisco school mentioned above has not yet had higher test scores as a result of using the iPad, but they have seen more students interested in and engaged with the subject. If, as Bruce Friend observed in his blogpost, Using Technology to Engage Today’s Students, last November is accurate, “Being actively engaged in the learning process is core to [kids’ favourite] courses,” San Francisco may see some success ahead.

With education budgets tight, the $750 iPad might seem like an extraneous extravagance.


More worrying still, expensive technology in classrooms might also exacerbate the divide between more and less advantaged school districts and students. Not to mention, the difficulties that schools and teachers face when trying to digest new technological developments. OECD’s recent Inspired by Technology, Driven by Pedagogy addresses just this issue and takes a close look at the opportunities offered by technology, how technology-based innovations are monitored and assessed, and the role of research in documenting innovations.


What do you think? Will technology such as the iPad improve classroom learning?