Do students see a difference in iPad use at home and iPad use at school? Do they not just see the iPad as a recreational gadget to play games or to browse through Facebook? How can we as teachers get them to understand that an iPad can be fun to use at home, but can also be an educational appliance? What would the use of iPads in secondary education be, if children would only see the iPad as a gaming console or a social media bible?
It is important to have a good view on what your students are doing during class. Are they FaceTiming, iMessaging, Facebooking, Twittering, Instagramming or just taking pictures of you, their teachers, to spread over the Internet? Or are they sincerely browsing Google for answers to questions and investigating your lesson topics?
In Sint-Pieterscollege in Blankenberge, pupils are not allowed to put their iPads vertically. They have to place their iPads rather flat on the table, so that a teacher can keep an eye on what they are doing.
But is that enough? Should we not be able to block certain apps or websites during classroom use? It is well known that certain pupils may have issues keeping focussed, so the temptation to check Facebook when you get a notification might be humongous.
A study in The Canadian Press showed that 99 per cent of pupils using iPads in class, admitted to finding the apps and the gadget in general distracting. They admitted to playing games during class, and to check their messages while they should be browsing the web for information.
Using iPads or tablets in general in your classroom, requires a well trained teacher who knows how to deal with technology, and who is well prepared for a radical shift in delivering their lessons and lesson plans to the pupils.
That might be a problem. How well are teachers actually prepared? How do we handle a pupil that is constantly checking Facebook? And how do we treat a pupil who only checks Instagram once a day? Taking their iPads away would be drastic for the last pupil, but perhaps a good idea for the first pupil. So where do you draw the line then?
The study of The Canadian Press also showed that when pupils constantly check their Facebooks and Instagrams during class instead of using the iPad for the right classroom purpose, it is only a result of a teacher who is not prepared to use tablets, and should not be blamed on technology.
Pupils use their iPads at home for fun, 76 per cent of the time. So it might be hard to erase that habit during classroom activities. Good and clear instructions and proper guidelines are key.
The idea that iPads are a big distraction can be dismissed by the fact that if a pupil is bored and only has a pen, he will start drawing doodles with that pen. There are enough stimuli to draw the pupils’ attention away from classroom, you cannot simply take all of these stimuli away, otherwise you would have to teach in a bunker. We do not take away windows because what is happening on the street might be distracting, do we? Then why would we dismiss the iPad? It is a thing about training your pupils, in the real life they will also be allowed to use their smartphones and other devices, they just need to find out on which occasion or situation it is appropriate. It is our task to teach them the different registers, not only in language but also in appropriateness in using mobile devices.