, Deborah Lambert, Leave a comment

Forget America’s spending crisis. Ignore America’s education crisis. The latest teaching tool to show up in America’s classrooms is the Apple iPad, a product that many educators seem to view as the magic potion that will ignite a lifetime of learning for our nation’s students.
At Roslyn High School on Long Island where the first 47 iPads were handed out to students several weeks ago, the school district apparently aims to provide iPads to all 1,100 students, according to the New York Times.

“It allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls,” noted English teach Larry Reiff, who “posts all his course materials online.”

More and more schools are embracing this new technology as “the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through ‘Jeopardy’-like games, and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.” The goal in many cases is for iPads to replace textbooks. While it’s fine to embrace technology as a teaching tool, there are some aspects of this decision that defy logic.

Despite the fact that computers and laptops in schools made no appreciable difference in students’ test scores, cash strapped school districts appear to have no problem providing $750 iPads to kids, before any research has indicated that they are useful.

“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” said Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, adding that he believes the money could be spent more wisely to “recruit, train and retain teachers.”  Noting that iPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, he added that when the novelty wears off, “you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.”

Not to worry. The New York Public School system has ordered more than 2,000 iPads, for $1.3 million; 300 went to Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, or enough for all 23 teachers and half of the students to use at the same time.”

IPad teaching tools – er – toys have even caught on in a Scottsdale, AZ kindergarten where the principal noted that “of all the devices out there, the iPad has the most star power with kids.”

Deborah Lambert writes the Squeaky Chalk column for Accuracy in Academia.