Many educators and authors are anxious to see if Apple’s new iBook2 will be the technology that revolutionizes the way a new generation learns. The iBook2 is a free app for the iPad that allows anyone to author a textbook and hopes to make textbooks more available to students with the maximum textbook price set at $14.99.
As exciting as the idea of education being revolutionized by the affordable tablet-based textbook is, some believe the new format won’t make as large an impact on learning as hyped. Consider the introduction of the computer in the classroom. “Computers were supposed to be an educationally revolutionary technology, but actual research on computer-aided learning paints a surprisingly complicated picture,” writes Brandon Keim in the Wired article “iPad Textbooks: Reality Less Revolutionary Than Hardware.” We can see this uncertainty in many of today’s classrooms. Some schools ban computer use in school, while others rely heavily on it. Some schools have more gadgets than they know what to do with, while other schools can’t afford enough computers for all their students to do their homework.
Research shows that for some students technology increased student performance, while in other studies, technology didn’t make any improvements. However uncertain the results of computer use in the classroom may be, one thing is clear, says Keim: the environment in which computers are used seems to impact school improvement the most. What can studies already done on computer use tell us about the future of the iPad in the classroom? It can work, it can even improve student performance, but it must be seen for what it is: a learning tool.
Just like any new teaching methodology, teachers must be trained in how to use it, students must be engaged, and parents must be supportive. Computers and iPads don’t have the power to revolutionize education, but the learning community does. How can teacher training help move a technological revolution in education? How can parents support this movement? How could changing the way your school values technology (whether more or less) help student achievement?
“Technology makes good schools better, but it doesn’t make a bad school good. If you have a place with bad teachers and poor instruction, it’s a great way for both teachers and students to waste time. Between the two, having good teachers is much more important than having digital media,” said Mark Warschauer, an education expert at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in educational technology development.