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Are iPads good or bad in classroom?

Whenever I see an iPad in a classroom, I am reminded of what my high school math teacher said about technology.

“It’s just pure laziness,” he would say.

Thirty years ago we didn’t have electronic tablets, lap top computers or smartphones. We didn’t even have calculators, but that is not because they weren’t available.

The latest technology available to high school students in the 1980s was the TI- 30 SLR or the Casio FX-370. Both were a trigonometry and pre-calculus student’s dream.

If you were geeky enough and your parents would shell out a few hundred bucks, you might have the world’s first graphing calculator, the Casio FX-7000G.

Even though you could take a calculator to the ACT exam, those handheld devices were never allowed in Mr. Latham’s classroom.

“Why would you use a device that can do what your brain can do?” Latham would ask.

It didn’t make much sense to me back then and I am sure that kind of thinking would meet with even more resistance from students today. Even some of today’s teachers might not agree with Mr. Latham’s thinking.

With the ability to talk face- to-face with people thousands of miles away and have access to almost any information at the touch of the screen, why would you not take advantage of what technology has to offer?

The more and more I see the devices in the classroom, the more and more I tend to agree with my past teacher.

Of course, many teachers will tell you iPads and other forms of technology are crucial in today’s world when children are surrounded by computers everyday. The latest technology is the only way to capture the attention of today’s high-energy students. It makes learning fun.

It must make teaching fun, too, when you can access entertaining and interactive video teaching tools and games for your students.

I don’t have a problem with fun. My concern is that all of this technology may be teaching us the wrong things — that everything we do must be fun and must be interactive — that hard work and hard learning is not necessary and should be avoided.

School is not about learning facts in my opinion. It is about learning how to think and how to act in society.

I may have learned the quadratic equation in high school, but I can’t remember a time in adulthood when I have used it outside of a trivia game. But I do remember Mr. Latham teaching me how to analyze a problem, determine a method, devise a solution and calculate an answer.

In a recent news article, one teacher extolled the virtues of the iPad, saying it allowed students who were reluctant to get up and go to the board to use the tablet at their desk instead.

Are we now teaching children that it is OK to give in to your fears and refuse to stand in front of the class?

As one colleague pointed out, it is bad enough that Facebook, iPhones and texting have made us less social. All too often we see teenagers sitting next to each other with their heads in their phones and not talking to each other.

Using the iPad as an excuse for not getting up in front of the class takes the problem one step further by validating their apprehensions of being in front of a group.

It is just another life lesson gone by the wayside in this technology age.


Ben Hillyer is design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.