Jewish Journal


June 19, 2013

Technology makes education omnipresent


There was a time when students at Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School took annual fieldtrips to Spanish missions in California and wrapped up the experience with a final product that may seem as old-fashioned as the structures themselves — a written report.

That all changed when teachers permitted students to bring their iPads and other tablet devices. Suddenly, pupils were freed to record interviews, take pictures and create elaborate multimedia presentations

Which is exactly how technology ought to be used, according to Sam Gliksman, author of “iPad in Education for Dummies” and former director of educational technology at New Community Jewish High School.

“The device is irrelevant. It just so happens that today the device is the iPad,” said the Rancho Park resident who grew up in Australia. “But it’s more about what you do with the technology than the technology itself. The focus is always on educational reform rather than just the use of technology.”

A consultant in education and technology for more than 20 years, Gliksman maintains a blog (ipadeducators.ning.com) with about 7,000 readers.

His mantra: Society should start viewing students as content creators and publishers instead of as content absorbers. His book, which came out in January, focuses on how iPads can be used as an educational device, with students using it to generate videos, presentations, graphics and more. 

So why the iPad or other tablet device? One of its most appealing features is the arsenal of affordable applications that are available for use, especially in conjunction with its built-in camera and microphone. 

From a practical perspective, tablets are lighter than laptops — or a stack of heavy textbooks — and provide almost instant access to the Internet, saving students valuable time they otherwise would waste booting up and logging on. It helps that the devices have a long battery life and can hold a charge throughout the school day. 

Plus, they’re fun. 

“iPad in Education for Dummies” also focuses on integrating mobile technology into education so that it can be used outside of the boundaries of school.

At Kadima Day School in West Hills, officials replaced a one-to-one student laptop program with one in which every student was provided with access to an iPad. Students use applications such as iMovie and Keynote to create presentations, and the school cut back on paper use by allowing students to submit their work through an app that can be accessed via the iPad. 

“We had a yearlong discussion on how to prepare our students for the future, and after a recommendation from Apple that tablet technology was the future, we made our decision to switch to iPads,” said Bill Cohen, head of school.

Phil Liff-Grieff, associate director of BJE-Builders of Jewish Education, said a number schools are still working to keep up with the times. 

“We are in a transitional moment in terms of technology in education, and, like many things, some are ahead of the curve [and] some are behind.”

This kind of evolution doesn’t come cheap. The newest, basic model iPad sells for $499 and the iPad mini goes for $329. But Gliksman stresses that a school doesn’t need a large amount of technology to influence progress in the educational system as long as the right technology is available to the students. Even if it’s just one device within a group, even if it’s a couple of tablet devices to a classroom, they can be used very creatively.  

In addition, Gliksman says one must take into account the amount of money schools already spend on technology and that there are government grants available to schools.

“American schools spend more money on education per student than any other country in the world; we just spend it very poorly,” Gliksman said. According to U.S. Census Bureau data released last month, Americans spent $10,560 per pupil in public elementary and secondary education in 2011.

The problem, Gliksman said, is that schools use money on expensive technology that provides limited return. They may purchase a Smart Board to aid in lecturing or buy a projector to display content, but the technology is used primarily by the teachers with a focus on delivering information to the students as opposed to helping students create their own content.

“Both of these devices [Smart Boards and projectors] put the teacher in contact with more technology instead of the students,” Gliksman said, “but the iPads allow for relevant technology to be put in the hands of students in an interactive way.” 

Building learning environments that are centered on the students instead of the teachers is one of Gliksman’s top priorities.

“What a lot of schools do is purchase technology, and practices that have been in place for the last 100 years are just reinforced,” he said. 

“The information is everywhere, and the skills that students need are how to access, how to filter, how to evaluate and how to utilize that information,” he said. “Education should be anywhere, anytime, and iPads can be a tool in creating that type of learning infrastructure where students can access knowledge and information anywhere anytime they want.”

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