Friday 24 October, 2014

Smartphones and e-books now replacing pencils and paper in schools

Published On: Sun, Aug 5th, 2012 | Technology | By BioNews

More and more schools are increasing the use of technology in the classroom to improve student learning, according to a Kansas State University education technology expert.

Smartphones, e-books, iPads, Kindles, iPods, etc. have now become the new learning aids for school kids.

“Today it is very common that elementary school classrooms are equipped with SMART boards, which are interactive white boards, as well as a projector and at least one classroom computer with a high-speed Internet connection,” said Lotta Larson, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction who studies how technology can aid learning.

“More traditional technologies, such as audio recorders and players, are also useful and common at the elementary level. Preferably, all students have access to computers several times a week, whether that is through the use of laptops, tablets or stationary desktop computers in a computer lab,” she said.

The use of e-books in the classroom is an increasing trend, particularly at the elementary level, Larson said. She attributes the increase to the significant decrease in the price of digital readers like the Amazon Kindle, making the devices an affordable alternative to iPads and laptops.

“The availability and affordability of e-books for children and young adults have increased rapidly, so teachers and students have endless options for both fiction and nonfiction texts,” she said.

“E-books are generally less expensive than print copies of the same book, and they don’t wear out as quickly as a print copy. Another advantage is the instant access. Generally, an e-book can be downloaded in a matter of minutes,” she noted.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of e-books, Larson said, is the ability to differentiate the reading experience. The devices allow the reader to customize the reading experience by adjusting the font size and page layout, or through the use of tools and features like a built-in dictionary, highlighter, digital notes or text-to-speech capabilities.

“This means all students — even those who struggle or have specific learning needs — can benefit from digital reading,” Larson said.

“As teachers are quickly realizing the possibilities of supporting students’ reading comprehension and motivation, this technology is definitely becoming more popular in all grade levels,” she stated.

Another trend is allowing students to bring electronic devices from home to use in the classroom — even their smartphones.

“In the past, school districts created policies that banned cellphones, but many districts are now beginning to see the advantages of allowing students to use their phones to support learning during the school day,” Larson said.

“And many schools are now allowing students to bring and use their own gadgets and devices from home — iPads, cellphones, Kindles, iPods, etc. — to be used during the school day to support learning,” she continued.

More schools are also engaging in iPad or laptop initiatives where students have access to such technologies throughout the school day, not just during a designated — and often limited — computer lab time, Larson said.

“This approach mimics the way most adults use technology throughout the day — whenever it is needed, and for authentic purposes,” she said.

But Larson cautions it’s not enough to just place laptops, tablets or digital reading devices in the hands of children. She said teachers need to teach and model new literacy skills that are essential for effective use of such technologies. It”s also important for parents and teachers to communicate technology expectations, guidelines and rules.

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