photo © 2009 Tony McNeill | more info (via: Wylio)
I love my new Xoom, and have yet to not find an app that I need. The saying, “there is an app for that” is true for most people. The question is, are there quality educational apps ? Most of the millions of apps are games or simple consumable tools. Don’t get me wrong, there are some that give you access to web tools that allow you to interact and create projects. My biggest concern is that many educational apps simply replace the worksheet in that they are simple drill/kill practice. Many lack the problem solving and critical thinking skills that project-based learning provides students. Some apps are simpler versions of software programs that allow you to create projects as well.
That is why when some say that tablets will replace all other pieces of technology I have to worry. There are many things I love about my Xoom, including its portability, ease of use, great web-browsing, super graphics, games that keep my mind sharp, and access to all my organizational tools (dropbox, evernote, google…). I’m not debating the coolness of the tablet, or the great ability to be mobile. I can also see some uses in the classroom for students, including targeted interventions during center time or otherwise unstructured time. The novelty is new so I can see students liking the educational apps better than a worksheet so for now I see it as being engaging. I just worry that if all we do with it is ‘worksheet’ like activities then we will just replace a bad old technique with a new bad technique. It can’t just be about simple consumable apps for kids. It has to be about creative creation, unabated exploration, critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration.
With that said, I don’t see the end of the pc in schools. I would hate to see the great digital stories, documentaries, PSAs, podcasts, and other authentic performance tasks be watered down to fit to the tablet. As I’ve said before, educators need to think about the educational purpose and choose the tools to fit that purpose. (see my post ‘Will tablets be the next educational innovation?‘)
We simply can’t lose sight of good quality educational practices because of a new technology tool that is cool. There has to be more ‘meat’ to the learning. So, yes if the purpose fits the functionality of a tablet by all means use it. If it doesn’t, force fitting it to the tablet will just end in frustration for both you and the student.
Of course as technology evolves and apps advance, you never know where we’ll end up. Until then we need to allow students with access to a variety of hardware, software, and apps to fulfill the diverse educational needs they face.