This month has seen a developing debate around the use of touch screen technology
in schools, after BBC News picked up on one school in Penzance which has spent £100,000
equipping every pupil with an iPad. The Taxpayer’s Alliance argued that this does
not provide value for money: the school replied by saying that money would be saved
on future purchases of text books and that lessons were now ‘much more exciting’.
This makes various assumptions. Firstly, it assumes that books are dispensable. Secondly,
according to the principal, lessons before iPads were less exciting, which is something
of an indictment of the teaching in her school and a sweeping assumption that technology
Apart from the rather tenuous anecdotal argument about preparing children for the
21st century, there is little empirical evidence that tablets (and iPads rather than
androids) are enhancing education. Expensive technology plus poor teaching is still
poor teaching. And outstanding teaching need not use technological tools to be outstanding.
Quest to Learn is a New York digital school which opened in 2006. Instead of bolting
technology onto existing teaching as it evolves, Q2L has completely rethought the
function and purpose of learning, designing a pedagogy to deliver a rigorous and
challenging curriculum for the digital age.
In sharp contrast, a DailyMail article profiles the Waldorf School of the Peninsula,
in Silicon Valley, California, which is popular with executives from Google, Apple,
Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard. There are no computers in the school and children are
not encouraged to go online at home, either. One Google exec said, ‘The idea that
an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous’.
Quadblogging is a rapidly growing example of social networking being used to motivate
and enthuse learners. It involves four schools forming a partnership. Each school
in turn is the focus of attention for a week, during which the other three schools
in the group visit and comment on blogs. This sharpens the focus of pupils, who will
make an extra effort to get their work online ready for the increased visits. During
the following three weeks, they have an opportunity to see what children in other
schools are doing.
The partnerships are worldwide and growing fast. To find our more, read comments
from existing quadbloggers or to sign up, go to http://quadblogging.net