The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 19, 2013

iPads in the classroom: Not a bust, but not yet a boon

(Continued)

Some may take a page from Houston, where teachers received iPads so they could learn how to use them before students get devices in their hands. Los Angeles is considering this strategy for the second phase of its rollout.

That idea makes sense to Scott Himelstein, interim director of University of San Diego’s Mobile Technology Learning Center, which studies how mobile devices in classrooms affect teaching and learning.

“That’s smart because you really need time to plan for this and get staff used to the technology,” Himelstein said.

Advocates for using iPads as teaching tools are quick to point out that they are only effective if teachers are well trained. Otherwise, they may simply be used as replacements for textbooks and worksheets.

“We have decades of historical evidence demonstrating that what people do with technology is to extend existing practices at great cost with very little learning gained,” said Justin Reich, co-founder of EdTechTeacher, which trains teachers in how to use technology in the classroom.

In Miami, assistant superintendent Sylvia Diaz says her district decided to follow San Diego’s example, where it took six years to get a device into the hands of each student.

“We’re going to take baby steps and get this right,” said Diaz.

Miami-Dade has a few small mobile technology programs up and running in the district already. The most recent plan is to hand out devices to seventh- and ninth-graders for use in social studies classes. If the program is a success, it will be expanded to other grades and subjects.

For any new program to work, teachers need professional development and technical support, she said. The district this week announced that it will equip all classrooms with a digital science curriculum and provide training for teachers on how to use it.

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