Recently I noticed an article showing a Dutch education scheme where all students were given ipads in which their lessons were based. The ipads essentially replaced the role of the teacher as the pathway to information. The Netherlands currently has 7 schools like this operating with another 3 planned for development. Similar schemes have also been launched in India and Thailand with varying degrees of success. The idea has created a lot of fear and controversy over the role of the teacher and what the future will be. Well before you start thinking career change and burning all your copies of Brave New World, let’s look at some things they may have forgotten to consider.
Teachers Will Still be Needed
This was actually made quite clear in the Dutch example of their high tech school. Teachers were still present in all the classes. The role of the teacher has chances from information giver to facilitator. Lessons and plans were contained on the Ipad but the teacher was still present helping and assisting. One of the key elements the teacher was involved in was social skills and interaction. Personally I find this part of the scheme quite positive. With 22 years of classroom experience behind me I can say that I was often too busy creating plans, giving the lessons, marking and controlling the students to worry about teaching social skills and interaction. The ipad technology would relieve that burden from the teacher to enable them to concentrate on other things.
In a perfect world, the students will use their ipads for their lessons and nothing more. The schools in the Dutch example states any student that was not doing their lessons and was caught surfing the internet would have their ipad taken. Sounds great but as a teacher I know these ideas seldom go according to plan. Teachers may try and enforce the rules but too often they will be overridden by parents or administrators. I worked in a school where a similar idea was launched and it was a nightmare. In fact by the end of that academic year it was many of the parents wanting the computers removed because they actually disrupted learning.
Technology is Unpredictable
Although the Dutch education system seems to have worked out many of the glitches, have we considered what happens when the internet goes down, or someone’s ipad doesn’t work for what ever reason. What about the instance where the student looses their ipad for the day because they were not doing as instructed. How will they be expected to learn? All of these problems are fixable however you need people to do it. Despite the great advances in technology we will still need people to manage, control and facilitate it.