By Jessica Oaks
While most of us grew up in a generation where textbooks, notepads and No.2 pencils were classroom necessities, the digital age is quickly changing the landscape of schools across the country. What students used to get in half a dozen textbooks is now available in the palm of their hand, in the form of a tablet.
Though some worry that the introduction of tablets into the classroom will only increase a student’s digital dependence and cripple them for “real world” experiences, the truth is that the use of tablets introduces a whole new set of tools to the classroom, and can benefit students in many ways. Tablets are bringing both an environmental and an educational impact to the classroom.
1. A new way to communicate
For years, students and parents have complained about the use of standardized testing, arguing that it leads to standardized teaching and leaves many students in the dust, particularly those with learning disabilities. Tablets change all that by arming teachers with an array of teaching tools, including interactive games, video presentations and more. Now, teachers have a new way to reach students who have had difficulty engaging with plain text on a page.
And people are rallying around this cause, creating and sharing applications that appeal specifically to students with learning disabilities or those on the autism spectrum. For example, Bridging Apps is a community of parents, teachers, therapists and doctors who share information on how they are using touch-based devices and apps with people who have special needs. The Leo’s Pad app, for example, uses games and story-telling to help children learn and has proven particularly helpful among children with developmental disabilities.
Tablets are capable of holding upwards of 1,000 books, depending on their individual storage space. Items such as the newest Google tablet come in a 16GB and 32GB option for schools to choose from. Housing all of this information in one piece of technology is groundbreaking for students. Not only are all of their notes, handouts and readings available to them immediately, but the tablet also holds other tools, such as tutorials, learning games and more to help them better comprehend what they’re actually learning.
3. Introducing new tools
Tablets are versatile and allow students and teachers to explore concepts in ways that were never previously possible in the classroom. For example, apps like Edmodo provide a learning social network where students can share ideas, ask questions and encourage each other — bringing more collaboration to the classroom. Teachers can also use tablets to screencast lessons, bringing the information directly to students, rather than using a chalkboard. In addition, programs like YouTube for Schools offer exciting videos to explain complex concepts.
4. No more pencils, no more books
Back-to-school shopping used to involve purchasing dozens of spiral notebooks, most of which were later used for doodling rather than note-taking. Tablets take the place of all of that by allowing students to record and type their notes digitally. This means less wasted paper and fewer downed trees. This is a big win on the environmental front.
5. The end of the textbook
Tablets can also replace textbooks. According to Conservatree, it takes 12 trees to make one ton of paper, meaning that one tree produces 34 average-size textbooks – not enough for one student in their lifetime, let alone all students. Converting to the digital route can help save millions of trees each year.
6. No reprints needed
Tablets don’t just save paper the first time around, they have a resounding effect on the number of textbooks printed each year. The problem with textbooks is that the information can quickly become outdated. Publishing houses then have to push out thousands of new, updated versions, which means millions of printed pages. With tablets, these updates are delivered through a software or program update, all in the click of a button. Allowing updates to be made quickly and consistently ensures that students have the most accurate and detailed information, so they can be prepared for what lies ahead.
Image credit: Flickr/Intel Free Press
Jessica Oaks is a freelance journalist who loves to cover technology news and the ways that technology makes life easier. She also blogs at FreshlyTechy.com. Check her out on Twitter @TechyJessy.