This morning on the news they mentioned that Applebee’s is going to place a tablet at every table so that customers can peruse the menu, order additional items and pay bills. This will not replace the server, but act as additional customer service.

Of course this got me thinking about schools and our use of technology in the classroom. I would never propose to replace teachers with tablets, but there is value in students taking more responsibility for their own learning. Montessori schools typically have a list of activities that children are expected to master, but they do so at their own pace. Once mastered, one can move on to the next item.

What if we combined these two ideas? What if we laid out our curriculum on a tablet and had students work more or less at their own pace? Would students take more of an initiative when they were entrusted with their own schooling? And how would the role of a teacher change? Would this be beneficial? Would this be the “silver bullet” in student achievement?
I don’t know about “silver bullets”, but I do know that balance is key. Although kids need to take more responsibility for their learning, having a qualified intelligent teacher in the classroom is what makes the difference. A tablet could act as a reference for students so that they know where they are and where they need to be, but it is the teacher that will help them get there.

A typical class with tablet users could look something like this: students working hard independently, while a teacher walks around and steps in where necessary. At some point, there would need to be a whole group activity where students discuss what they are learning and where a teacher can give a lesson to everyone, regardless of where they are.
As far as workload for the teachers, the curriculum would be already built into the tablet along with assignments and projects for each concept, so planning would be devoted to checking in with students and how to help them get to the next level.

A lot more needs to happen before this can be debated, but it is a good start. Any time we can come up with ways for kids to take more of an initiative in their learning is time well spent. It is always worth exploring!

Tell us what you think! Would you like to have tablets in your classroom?