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iPads in Schools – A Solution or a Distraction?

Photo by Motionblur for (CC Licensed)

I love technology.  I really do.  In the past I’ve referred to myself as Tech Vader, surrounded by the gadgets and electronic devices that sustain me.  However, I also struggle with finding a balance, learning when to unplug and deciding just how much screen time is too much for me and my kids... she types on her laptop. 

I’m an eBook reader-loving, Android phone-carrying, tablet computer-shopping, heart rate monitor-wearing, Zune playlist-making, Wii-gaming, Microsoft employee-marrying lover of gadgets.

That’s why I’m fascinated to read articles about how technology is entering classrooms around the world.  The big thing in classrooms now – iPads.

From New York City to Singapore, iPads are being heralded as the tools of the future, replacing textbooks and offering innovative applications for learning.  However, the jury’s still out on whether the devices will be used in a way that transforms education for the better.

Cathy Davidson of Duke University points out that the success of the devices depends on exactly how they’re used.  She says, “If you change the technology but not the method of learning, then you are throwing bad money after bad practice.”  

I do think that schools need to teach skills that will help kids adapt to the current and future world reality of a technology-rich society.  But in the back of my head, I can’t shake the thought of 30 fifth graders sitting in a classroom playing Angry Birds and posting pictures of their feet on Facebook.

Laurie David and Susan Stiffelman posted Monday on the Huffington Post that, "The cost of going too far down the digital highway is enormous: Without engaging with the real world, kids' ability to form relationships, sustain focus, and maintain optimal health are all at risk of being compromised." 

In schools that are banning phones from the classroom because they’re a distraction, does adding a tablet computer work against us or for us in teaching kids and preparing them for the future?  In making these decisions, we're shaping that future for them.

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Kathryn Thompson is a mom to two school-aged kids, a toddler, and a deceased betta fish. She can also be found at The Parenting Post, and occasionally the gym.