A Tablet Isn’t a Silver Bullet

Posted by Stephen Vaughn on February 22, 2013

NO silver bulletI know lots of people have mobile devices, and I know most of them wonder, “How did I ever live without this thing?”  I have my iPad and I like it, too; it’s a great tool.  Unfortunately, like other great tools, in the hands of the incompetent, it can be nothing more than an expensive toy, even a tool of destruction.

I have firsthand experience with this. Last year, my district deployed iPads to all certificated employees for use in their special and alternative education classes. We had full-day mandatory trainings. We provided access to some online training as well. For most people this level of training appears to have been enough to get them started on using their mobile technology effectively, but not everyone.

Most of the teachers are using their iPads for instruction of small groups, as assistive communication devices, or as individual reinforcement of prior learning.  However, I’m still finding teachers who either lock the iPad away—they say they’re afraid the iPads are going to get broken—or they’re just using them for games to pacify students. In these cases, it would be better if the teachers didn’t have the iPads in first place.  They’re either using them as crutches or not using them at all.

As you can guess, my point is: it’s not the quality of the technology that matters; it’s the quality of the teaching that counts.  We are continuing to work with these teachers to help and encourage them make better use of the technology at their disposal.

My motto: never buy technology at the expense of effective teacher training.  What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “A Tablet Isn’t a Silver Bullet”

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more, Stephen. When I work with educators who want to use mobile devices with their students, I continually emphasize the importance of using them to support and enhance instruction through content creation using the technology. I ask them to review Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, Kathy Schrock’s Bloomin’ Apps site, and other resources designed to help them make intentional decisions about how the technology will be used beyond drill and practice apps.

  2. Stephen, yep, you got it! Without quality PD, the tools will not be used to their fullest. However, what is enough PD? Like you say, what was offered might have been enough for some, but not for others. Should we give technology to ALL TEACHERS in hopes that the PD will be sufficient to get the motivated going and possibly entice others to learn and use the tools appropriately? Or should we give technology only to the teachers who show a conviction to utilize it for student learning and wait for the others to catch up? Seems that there is an equity issue even with the staff at a school site, so all need equal access to the tools, even if it won’t be used. Thanks for the insightful comments.

  3. Totally agree too! Like Tim and Susan both have said, what is enough when it comes to professional development? You almost want to give technology to teachers who show an inkling of excitement for the technology only. Maybe other could see what can really happen and decide it’s time to get aboard or move on. I don’t share drill and kill apps only higher level Bloom’s Taxonomy Applications. Check out Kathy’s site: http://www.schrockguide.net/bloomin-apps.html

  4. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a tablet, a laptop computer, or an interactive whiteboard, if the classroom instruction is not solid to begin with then no amount of technology will change it. The real problem is in the implementation. Most districts think a “one size fits all” strategy is the best when it comes to disseminating technology, but teachers use different strategies and have different styles in the classroom. Maybe teachers should have some buy-in and be allowed to choose the tools they think they need instead of a top down approach. And as far as equitable access goes, I don’t agree that just because all teachers have the same tools means that all students have access to the same great instruction using those tools. Your motto is a good one. Professional development has to be consistent and sustained for a real change to occur, and it should be at least 25% of your total technology budget.

  5. You nailed it and until we get tech literate people in instructional control positions, this will continue. The dispersement of any technology is a common practice in our profession, sadly. The term I use for it , which I cannot take credit for, is “ready, FIRE, aim”.

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