Throw Out the Notebooks and Bring in the iPads

Evolving technologies strain established norms, propelling people to challenge boundaries. From 2010 – 2013, I taught high school history to students armed with iPads. These technological marvels in education are like the pencil and paper of the past but increase educational outcomes and enhance the classroom experience.

iPad Deniers

Many of my colleagues were apprehensive when our school decided to deploy the iPad to the entire faculty and student body. Criticisms emerged, like the fear that students would only use the devices for games and Twitter. Others warned that academic standards would decline. I was not as apocalyptic.

While there are issues that teachers need to be aware of, the iPad offers a multitude of unique and thrilling educational possibilities. I have even written about this in my ebook, The iStudent and iTeacher: A Revolution Unfolding.

My teaching experience revealed how this wonderfully simple device can expand horizons, activate higher learning, and get students excited about the learning process.

Still, I am aware that there are teachers who resist this new technological wave. They do so with great risk. For better or worse, society has embraced this and other new technologies. It is up to educators to find innovative ways to harness this new technological firepower for our students’ benefit.

iPad’s many blessings

Being a former history teacher, I was enthralled with the many possibilities the iPad offered to stimulate the minds of my students. Video clips, primary source websites, instant feedback, rapid research, and deeper discussions were the product of the device’s implementation.

Technology cannot replace the teacher. Our skills are required for the best possible outcome. Yet, smart uses of the iPad can open educational windows. For example, I learned to utilize the iPad for different purposes. I learned that relying on it solely as a digital note-taking device was foolish.

I had to reinvent lessons to seize the opportunities provided by the iPad. When I taught my AP US History class about the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I decided to revamp my old lesson. Over the course of a week, I lectured some, assigned primary and secondary readings (all digitally provided), and began a class discussion on the constitutionality of FDR’s New Deal. At the culmination of our topic discussion, students had to develop and submit an original presentation (completed on the iPad) taking a position on the issue. I selected random samples and had the students share with the class.

I found this lesson to be extremely rewarding. Students were engaged and thoughtful. The projects were well done, creative, and gave a reasoned opinion answering the lesson’s prompt. Moreover, when I tested the students, every single one had a position and could cite historical evidence to support their assertions.

The Future is here and we should embrace it

Was every lesson I taught as well designed as this journey into the world of FDR? I would be foolish to say so. These lessons using the iPad take a great deal of time, research, and planning.

Still, isn’t this the journey of education? We evolve, we learn, and we adapt. Administrators, educators, parents, and students must adapt to this new fast-paced era of learning.

Students will always need to know facts, figures, and formulas. But what they construct from that knowledge will be ever the more impressive due to technological tools like the iPad.

This is an educational journey we should all embrace for the sake of our students and the betterment of our nation.

From 2006-2013, Daniel was a high school educator in Brooklyn, NY. Daniel taught history and law.

‘The iStudent and iTeacher: A Revolution Unfolding’ — Daniel Paul D’Aniello
‘The iPad Goes to School’ — Bloomberg Businessweek
‘Math that Moves – Students Embrace the iPad’ — NYTimes

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