When the Los Angeles Unified School District suspended a $1-billion-plus program in August 2014 to provide each student with an iPad, the fiasco resonated nationwide. Undeterred, Apple Inc. is supplying each student at 114 schools across the country with its iconic devices (“Apple’s New Classroom Experiment,” The Wall Street Journal, May 13). The difference this time is that the company’s $100 million investment that began in 2014 includes assigning an employee to spend 17 days a year at each school.
Why is this so important? Unless teachers are tech savvy, most need support using technology in their specific fields. These Apple employees not only possess the requisite skills, but they all are also former teachers. As a result, they bring invaluable help even to veteran teachers. They can recommend apps and show teachers how to tailor them to their daily lessons. Nevertheless, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development cautions that schools investing heavily in technology showed “no noticeable improvement” in test scores.
That disappointing outcome may be attributed to the failure of schools in the past to properly prepare teachers for using tablets and computers in the classroom. Let’s not forget that most veteran teachers developed instructional strategies before technology gained a foothold. As a result, they are faced with a paradigm shift that has left them feeling overwhelmed. I certainly know I would be among that group. To this day, I’m amazed at how knowledgeable young people are about new entries in the world of technology. They can teach me.
The appropriate use of technology in the classroom today can make learning highly enjoyable for students, particularly for slower learners. That’s why I think all teachers should welcome its introduction because of its potential. But teachers still need support to make the transition a success. Let’s not skimp on that crucial step.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.