The Bumpy Road to a REAL Paradigm Shift in K-12, part 1

Why tablets? Why not?

I’ve written and spoken a great deal about the REAL paradigm shift that is now underway in K12; the end of the PC era and the arrival of real one-to-one via wireless mobile devices. I don’t keep it a secret; I’d love to see a tablet device in the hands of every student. Let me explain why and talk about the bumby road we all face to make it happen.

Why I Love Tablets for K-12

Imagine, for a moment, you are back in high-school. Maybe you were lucky enough to be in a great school, with great teachers, and a home environment that encouraged exploration and learning. If so, you were one of a very small minority – you occupied the upper end of bell curve that, in the lower standard deviations, represents a whole lot of students in lesser situations. Many of those “lesser” students, if they graduate, will go on to low-income, bleak, low-prospects futures. For those students, particularly in bad schools or with bad teachers, can you not imagine they would be better off with a tablet device in hand?

At least with a tablet, there is a chance that a students future can be salvaged – if they are motivated enough to take responsibility for their own learning and seek out education resources via their tablet. (Ahhh, a new role for teachers!) Between apps for every imaginable topic and great web resources like kahnacademy, iTunesU, infoplease, virtual schools, etc. it IS possible for a student, even in a tough situation, to succeed.

I recently attended a conference at which I polled teachers to see which knew about the web resources I mentioned above – to recommend to their students as resources for help. Most had no idea what those things are. How is that possible?

You mean we have bad schools and bad teachers that are permanently damaging students? Please.

Tablets are not a magic bullet – they will not be used to the best advantage by all students – but at least some of the souls that would fall by the wayside will avoid a predictable future of mediocrity. Key to success in the above scenario are teachers and others (parents, preachers, coaches) who can be cheerleaders for education; anyone who can convince a child that THEY are responsible for their own future and what they will have.

The Bumpy Road

I’ll write in more detail about the bumps in my next post. But suffice it to say, many things must come together well in order for students to receive tablet devices and for there to be real benefit.
Those “things” include money to buy tablets, infrastructure upgrades, changes in policy, serious teacher retraining, and much more.

Let’s face it. What we have done with technology in K-12 in the last 20 years has not worked very well. Don’t agree? Take time to research test scores, retention, crime rates, poverty rates, etc. over the last 20 years and try to convince yourself that technology in schools made things better. Why has classroom technology failed us? The reasons are many, including ineffective technology, immature technology, picking the wrong technology, not having enough of it, not training teachers well, etc.

Finally, time and circumstances have now conspired to, for the first time, give us the possibility of putting a device into hands of every child that could really change their future. The best we can do is to offer them the opportunity and encouragement to learn. It will take leadership, guts, innovation, energy, and (probably) years to make it happen – so let’s get started!

FYI: This and most of my blog posts are written and edited on a tablet device using the on-screen keyboard. It’s easy.

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