Tablets can lead to deeper levels of engagement

Posted on Monday, 4/01/2013 11:00 am

In South Dakota, officials at the Sioux Falls School District plan to make a $7.3 million technological investment in students' education, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported. This move will see every student in kindergarten through the 12th grade receive an Apple iPad.

Meanwhile, in New York, the Mamaroneck Union Free School District is considering a similar move that would see every student receive a tablet computer they can use in the classroom and at home, according to the Mamaroneck Daily Voice.

This education trend is not limited to South Dakota and New York, as more schools nationwide are finding ways to integrate tablets and the student software they contain into their classroom lessons, and with good reason. Based on many teachers' observations, students' use of iPads can lead to deeper levels of engagement.

Learning like never before
Today's teachers did not have tablet computers when they were growing up, but many of their students have grown up playing with these and similar electronic gadgets. As a result, they may not find reading textbooks to be the most engaging way to learn. This is where embracing tablets may be able to make a big difference.

This is what Matthew Stoltzfus, a chemistry lecturer at Ohio State University believes. Although he works with students at the collegiate level, his observations on tablets' educational impact could be applied to students in K-12 settings as well.

"When I see a chemical reaction on a piece of paper, I don't see coefficients and symbols, I see a bucket of molecules reacting," Stoltzfus told Wired. "But I don't think our students see that big bucket of molecules. We can give students a better idea of what's happening at a molecular level with animations and interactive elements."

In five years, Stoltzfus believes college students will be expected to know how to use an iPad, which is why it is so important for K-12 students to become familiar with these devices.

Raising interest in education
Students will not always be entirely interested in what they are learning in class. However, the interactive nature of tablets immediately opens doors to new instructional opportunities. From educational apps to software for students, there are many ways in which tablets can take learning to a new level.

"The kids are so excited to come to school and use virtual solar systems, to watch keynote presentations, to consume data that is interactive and rich in multimedia, and to create their own content - some kids are creating a Lego Stop Animation movie using an app," Mike Sammartano, an Earth science teacher at the Mamaroneck Union Free School District, told the Mamaroneck Daily Voice.

Through the use of tablet computers, teachers may be able to find new ways to engage students in subjects they regularly would not be interested in. If kids' level of interest in a specific subject is waning, instructors may want to consider tablets and how they could turn things around for students academically.


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