Tablets and iPads in School Classrooms

Lots of folks have kicked around the idea of iPads replacing textbooks or laptops in school classrooms, but I think both discussions are missing the real value of an iPad or tablet in a classroom—the input.  The key stumbling block for software instruction is input.  Humans are vastly better at understanding what children know and what they don’t know than computers are.  Humans can gauge student mastery by listening to what they say, by reading what they write, or simply by looking at the expression on their face.

Well, throw in a little voice-command, some handwriting recognition, and add a camera with “confusion detection” rather than “smile detection” and you’ve made digital education vastly more realistic.  A little too Buck Rogers?  Today, maybe.  But give it a few more years.

In the short-term, I’m most excited about the immediate benefits for math.  If a student does their math homework on an iPad, an awesome algebra app could follow along with HOW they’re solving the problem and show them exactly where in the process they may have messed up and instantly link them to the correction and instruction they need to keep working towards mastery.  I think iPads and tablets open the door for us to teach complex math subjects, like algebra, as effectively as games like Timez Attack teach multiplication.

What do you think—doable?

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16 Responses to Tablets and iPads in School Classrooms

  1. Kim says:

    I think it’s very “doable.” My boys are currently using Teaching Textbooks for math which is computer based and they love it. I’m planning to get an iPad for Christmas and my 4yo loves an app that helps him with writing his letters and spelling. I think that anything can inspire learning and anything can dampen the child’s learning experience. The wisdom comes from the teacher’s response to the student and the learning tools used for that child. Home education makes it possible for me to monitor my children’s learning environment and tools on a daily basis and to make tweaks or massive changes at the drop of a hat.

    As different children learning differently, different tools can be used. Not every child is going to love learning on a computer or an iPad. But for the ones who do, it offers an ever-increasing incentive to gain information in a way that is relevant to the child.

    Peace, Kim

  2. It’s our goal to get ipads in MARTINIAMINC School For entrepreneurship.

  3. M@ says:

    Wait, Wait: Algebra’s complex??? I think that when it comes to math, the technology isn’t as important as the methodology chosen by the teacher. For instance, Algebra is simply the search for the unknown: you’re an insect, you get to insect school and you see 24 antennae looking at you. How many legs are there? A lot of the difficulty comes when we separate “the math” from “the real world” way too soon. That insect problem (and variations on it) my daughter was able to solve when she was around 5. Why? Because when she got to school there would be shoes on the rug of all the other students, and we started with human school before we spiced it up with make-believe school. Making the math relevant to the kiddo’s world is *important*. Keeping manipulatives — not going to worksheets — either virtual/computer is key. I used a toddler’s wooden ABC blocks to teach area, perimeter and volume, again around 5 or 6. Fractions are yummy when taught with hershey bars and pizza!

    That being said, the kiddo was home sick with me one day, and while she wasn’t well enough to go to school, her head worked just fine (hacking and coughing). So I used the iPad to teach her how to graph a function by hand — we didn’t have graph paper handy, and Sketchpad HD on the iPad did!

    You can make boring or fun worksheets. You can also make mind-numbingly boring computer lessons as well. The key is to make it fun, and curriculum-wise to make sure that a kiddo doesn’t waste their time going over things they already *know*. This is the true strength of a computer — the ability to do diagnostic pre-testing and then eliminate portions of a unit of study that the student already knows.

    In this genre, I find “The Race to Spectacle City K-2 and 3-5grade” and “The Number Devil” (book and CD-ROM game) to be on par with the educational soundness AND fun as Timez Attack. These games are long-in-the-tooth but I’d love to see them turned into iPad games — especially since you could read both the book and play the Number Devil game on the iPad! These games teach higher level math concepts in ways palatable to middle schoolers and advanced elementary.

    Just don’t ever do boring math — I’ve seen worksheets that suck the joy out of Fractals — one of the artsiest forms of math there is!

  4. Traci says:

    So, does this mean you are putting out an ipad version of Timez Attack? Looking forward to that one!! We are one of those homeschool families that are moving in that ipad direction. We use it for most things now.

  5. Anne Yates says:

    I would give ANYTHING to have your program on an iPad for my kid! He is a special needs child with autism and LOVES your program! Is this EVER going to come out on the iPad?

  6. Very hopeful parent says:

    Definitley hoping to see an iPad version!! And soon!!! Would buy it in an instant.

  7. Delia Thomas says:

    Speaking as a parent of two special needs kids – the concept of doing math without a person hanging over them putting on the pressure is amazing! My daughter can simply not do math but TimezATtack has really helped and now she is 3 grades ahead in multiplication over her addition and subtraction (so I can’t wait for those to come out!) My son started doing Timezattack (he is 7) and it really helped him jump way ahead in his addition and subtraction… For some reason kids with special needs really do learn better on computers and with technology. It takes away the whole anxiety component which is so destructive to learning– the more technology the better as far as I am concerned.

  8. Kathy Fowler says:

    We would really love to see an app in the itunes store and the Android Marketplace for students. Can you give us a hint at the timeline for development? I have several teachers requesting it.

    • Shanan says:

      Yes, we do hope you will make an Android version for tablets. We have loved Timez Attack for a long time, and are loving the new division and add/sub versions too. You guys are amazing, and we are so grateful for all your hard work.
      We look forward to one day using your programs on our android tablets.

  9. Ben Harrison says:

    We don’t have a timeline for iPad yet–but it’s not very likely this year, somewhat likely for next year and highly likely for the following year. We’ll hurry!

  10. kloftin says:

    Would love to get my class iPads loaded with your program. In the meantime, ……. searching for something similar.

  11. Superb read! I just explored your site and will unquestionably become a daily lurker now. Keep up the first-class work.

  12. uksuperiorpapers says:

    As always it is the parents and teachers who should make education relevant to students. Technology should become an inclusive tool. Where all are able to obtain access to hardware and applicationsif needed.Laptops, iPads, and laptop computers — paid for with the help of state dollars — are becoming an increasingly common sight in classrooms.

  13. Sharon willeford says:

    Plez let me know when iPad app. Is ready.

  14. Lee says:

    I would really like to see an Android version out there. So many Droid phones with big screens could use it – portable teaching. Plus, you could get it onto the Fire and Nook as well.