Daily Herald discusses appropriate tablet use in school but misses bigger point: do new tablets help students learn more?

The Daily Herald had an editorial yesterday that argued tablets used by students at school and home need to be used appropriately:

Other districts also have committed to the devices’ use, though some taxpayers might see them as an extravagance. Educators get just as starry-eyed over new technology as the rest of us, and why shouldn’t they? Kids are growing up with lightning-fast change in the electronic tools we use every day. This is the world they know and will need to keep knowing, and schools are adapting.

But how they adapt is key. Without good policies and solid technology plan that includes training and evaluation, the tablet revolution — called “one-to-one” programs by educators — could amount to little more than handing kids high-tech notebooks at best or, worse, free video gaming.

Gurnee Elementary District 56, for one, is rolling out its iPad initiative for middle-schoolers this week and appears to be doing things right by involving parents in a checkout night with consent forms, user agreements, guidelines and a downloadable instruction manual. It cannot stop there, however, nor can administrators be certain those 46-page manuals will be read.

Perhaps the most important way to make these devices as cost-effective as possible is to ensure teachers on the front lines have the training to use them to their fullest and to focus the instruction on learning, not the device.

The rest of the article goes on to talk about the appropriate use of tablets but the key is here in the last sentence of the quote above. Do the tablets and iPads contribute to student learning? It is one thing to suggest students need to learn about new technology. This is helpful in itself, particularly for kids who may not have consistent access at home. And tablets may help students to be more engaged in the classroom. But, there is a bigger question that should be asked here: does using a tablet help students learn math or reading or science or social studies or other subjects better?

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