The Smart Way to Use iPads in the Classroom
It’s not about the games or educational apps.
By Lisa Guernsey
Touch-screen tablets for young students have become all the rage. Some districts are even buying iPads for every kindergartner, a move sparking both celebration and consternation. Do we really want to give $500 devices to kids who can’t even tie their shoes? What are these schools doing with these devices, anyway?
Last month, I had a rare opportunity to ask those questions at a school in Zurich, Switzerland. As part of a tour to talk about my book, Screen Time, I was treated to three days of visits to nearly a dozen classrooms at the Zurich International School, a private school that caters to English-speaking immigrants and expats whose companies have brought them to this exquisite city near the Alps.
ZIS, as the school is called, has distributed 600 iPads—one to every student in first through eighth grades, plus a set for teachers in preschool and kindergarten to use with children in small groups. And I had only one thought when I arrived: This is a school with money. In my first few minutes of walking through its colorful, light-filled hallways and well-stocked libraries, I figured I would be leaving Switzerland rich in chocolate but poor in insights that could have any bearing on public education in the United States.
I was wrong. Not about the money—ZIS has resources public-school teachers could scarcely dream of—but about the lessons I might bring home to generate smarter conversations about using tablets in the classroom.