There has been much debate over the use of tablets in the classroom. A good portion of that debate involves the costs involved in and supporting the use of the actual devices themselves.
Yes, tablets are a big investment. But recent research has shown that they are a great equalizer in the classroom. Regardless of a student’s capabilities, there are things that can be done with a tablet that can’t necessarily be done with other technology.
In a recent essay published by Amplify Education, Michael Mills, an assistant professor at the University of Central Arkansas, writes that the investment in tablet devices is well worth it.
“The tablet computer has done more to transform education than any other device in education history,” he writes (http://www.amplify.com/viewpoints/tablets-the-great-equalizer). “We now have the capability, more than any time before, to provide students, all students, with the means to break loose from the confines of their limited background or lack of resources, to share with them the world and to give them the opportunity to discover and analyze and create, all for the cost of what would otherwise be a few textbooks.”
Beth Holland, a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University and instructor at EdTechTeacher, writes that tablets have the ability to create a least restrictive environment in the classroom.
“By leveraging the capabilities of mobile devices, teachers can support their students in creating a personalized learning environment with the least number of barriers,” she writes (http://www.edutopia.org/blog/least-restrictive-environment-mobile-devices-beth-holland).
Here are just a few examples of how tablets can help students — with disabilities or without — learn more effectively.
For students who either have some sort of visual impairment or a movement disorder, reading for long periods of time can be difficult, if not impossible. One of the great things about tablets are they offer a way for students to listen to text instead of reading. Text-to-speech functionality on tablet devices can really change a student’s life.
“Think about the benefit of allowing students to experience text through more than one modality, providing them even more opportunities to connect with the written material,” Holland writes.
In an article on Gizmodo, Matthew Lynch, dean of the School of Education at Virginia Union University, points toward mobile modules as a key aspect of integrating tablet devices into the classroom.
“Within educational apps and games are options for individual student logins,” he writes (http://gizmodo.com/do-tablets-in-the-classroom-really-help-children-learn-1694963939). “This gives students the chance to work at their own pace, taking extra time in the areas where they need it most.”
Mills agrees. “(Tablets) give students the opportunity to personalize their own learning,” Mills writes. “The importance of this personalization cannot be overstated, and it is a critical factor in maintaining interest and engagement in the skills and knowledge students need for success.”
Motivation to learn
But one of the strongest arguments for using tablets int the classroom, especially with students with varying levels of ability, is the motivation they help create for learning.
An article on EdTechReview specifically addresses the importance of motivation and classroom success.
“(Special needs) students like the rest are drawn to technology and it motivates them to learn with the aid of technology,” the article reads (http://edtechreview.in/news/855-integrating-technology-in-a-special-education-classroom). “It allows teachers to work with more students at one time, it equalizes education for special needs students and due to this they are seen as more capable by peers, it helps build confidence and helps these children find academic success.”
So, yes, tablets are an investment. But for students with special needs or a physical disability, tablets can transform their educational experience.