Will the iPad bring about the paperless classroom?

The paperless office has been predicted for a long time, but has yet to materialize.

But what about the paperless classroom?

By 2017 the FCC and U.S. Department of Education would like the education industry to replace paper textbooks with digital editions. That’s less than five years away.

The biggest factor in making this goal a reality is the iPad. Its intuitive interface, multimedia capabilities, large app development community, mainstream adoption and other factors have helped administrators, educators, kids and parents see the viability of the paperless classroom.

In truth, this is about more than just shifting from paper to digital.

“For technology to make a real difference in student learning, it can’t just be an add-on,” wrote Justin Reich, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the director of online community, practice, and research at Facing History, and co-Director of EdTechTeacher.

the Paperless Classroom Photo courtesy of Stanford EdTech
Photo courtesy of Stanford EdTech

It needs to be accompanied by a fundamental shift in the entire education system, from curriculum to infrastructure to feedback systems, and especially to teacher know-how.

Teachers weren’t necessarily trained in high tech environments. Shifting to new technological standards needs be a slow and steady process with constant training, according to a blog post from Sam Gliksman, author of iPad in Education for Dummies.

He said this training needs to be an ongoing process throughout the year, and that it’s important to “[…] develop teacher support groups within your school and with other schools, where teachers can exchange experiences, share their successes, and learn from each other”.

There are plenty of questions that schools, educators and parents need to be able to answer before jumping on the iPad train. The SimpleK12 blog recently outlined 10 Steps to a Successful School iPad Program, and it’s clear there’s a significant amount of work required to make it work.

“Don’t even consider purchasing iPads if you haven’t setup the appropriate technical infrastructure to manage and deploy them,” they advise, and go on to list basic questions to consider such as, “Do your classrooms have safe, secure locations to store the iPads?” and “Have you discussed and set policies for appropriate technology use? Do you have the tools and means to monitor those policies?”

There’s also what they call the “there’s an app for that syndrome”.

The amazing size of the education industry (“second only to health care” according to one source) has gone so far as creating a potential bubble, that could possibly ”drag teachers and students who depend on the latest products down with the overheated companies should it pop”.

Choose the wrong app as core to your curriculum and you may be left stranded when it stops being developed, or if it doesn’t push updates fast enough. The flipside is that there are some exceptional apps that can do just about whatever you can imagine.

Of course, an initial struggle is to evaluate all the app candidates for your various needs. This can be time consuming, to say the least.

For example, educators have a bevy of app options to consider for something as basic as recording the visual and audio components of whiteboard lessons on an iPad: “…Replay Note, ScreenChomp, ShowMe, DoodleCast Pro, Knowmia, Explain Everything and Educreations…”

Could the digitization of education also inspire the end of the physical school, or at least a transition away from it? Massive Online Open Courses (also known as MOOCs) are a big area of growth right now, and the virtual classroom will continue to evolve.

However, for now, the idea of “blended learning” seems to be the focus for many experts, “using technology to enhance traditional learning environments“. The brick and mortar space still offers serendipity and face-to-face interaction that hasn’t been replicated. But as a first phase, expect the physical and digital to have a much greater interconnectedness. Kids will still need to get up in front of the class and deliver their presentations — only they’ll be doing it using their iPads.

For now…

This post was written using content curated by Jim Rudy in the Spundge Notebook: iPads in language teaching. We’ve embedded it below the references to show the three most recently curated items. Thanks Jim!

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