I attended the Digital Futures Conference at TRU last Tuesday, which was all about online education and how technology is influencing education. It was all very interesting, and I’ll post a link to the presentations when they’re available.
But there was one point I don’t think was fully addressed, and as it happens to be a point that bugs me, I thought it was worth raising here. My bugaboo is that when people are speculating about the potential impact of the iPad and other tablets, they seem to expect students to take to them like young teens took to Justin Bieber.
It’s a bugaboo because lately I’ve come across several stories of iPads and other tablets being placed in classrooms, and no one has mentioned how much this will cost students if it becomes expected. The Wall Street Journal blogged about a Notre Dame experiment replacing textbooks with iPads; the Globe and Mail explored the topic further; and if you want more examples, just search for “iPad” and “education.”
It’s not that I’m a Luddite: I have an eReader, a CrackBerry and three computers in my house (I’m actually a little embarrassed about that). But in most of these tablet experiments, the students are given – as in, receive for free – these devices. This makes sense: students are usually broke. When I was in university, a student in my web design class found and generously distributed pirated software so that we wouldn’t have to pay the $120 student license fee. Sure, everything was in Arabic and it gave us all viruses (our computers, that is, not us personally), but we didn’t care, because it was free.
So what student wants to shell out over $600 for a device that may be really cool to use in class and surf the internet with and maybe tweet their prof a question they’re too embarrassed to say out loud, but makes for one heck of a clunky way to type out a term paper?
At one point, a speaker pointed out that he had used twitter to communicate with students, and the man seated in front of me (who had an iPad and had been tweeting all day, incidentally), turned and muttered to his neighbour, “Our mobile service providers would love it if all teachers started doing that.”
Which is the concise way of summing up my issue with technology in the classroom. So far, most examples of it seem to require students to pay more, not less. Until that changes, I think technology in the classroom is ليست جيدة. (That’s Arabic, by the way. Can’t read it? I know. Now try learning new software with it.)