Are kids ready for a digital blackboard?

Updated: 2011-10-01 07:59

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

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Shanghai - When students of Shanghai Luwan No 1 Central Primary School come to school in November, some will no longer have to watch the blackboard. Instead, their eyes will be directed toward brand-new Apple iPads given by the school.

A trial class of 24 pupils in the fourth grade will use the iPads starting from November if everything goes according to plan, said Hou Yanjun from the school's teaching affairs office.

"We bought iPads for the 24 students and their teachers last year for the trial class and the original idea was to use iPads as a digital tool in almost each class," said Hou, who is in charge of the project.

"Game and entertainment applications will be banned on those iPads," she said. "We're now waiting for an IT company to design us a specific application, which will enable every student in the class to access their own account."

Teaching plans and exercises, together with course material such as interactive games will be used, said Wu Rongjin, principal of the primary school.

"With a tablet computer in their hands, students will be able to choose their own exercises from various difficulty levels. The system is able to automatically correct their mistakes and then report to the teacher."

However, some of Wu's counterparts said they could not endorse the idea of digitalizing the classroom.

"Face to face (between students and teachers) is the most effective way of teaching and learning from my viewpoint," said Wu Jian, deputy principal of the High School Affiliated to Fudan University.

"Teachers can respond differently and immediately to varied individuals this is irreplaceable."

The electronic device cannot replace teachers or textbooks even if it has advantages as a digital teaching tool, he added.

In the meantime, scholars and parents also raised concerns that schools are rushing to invest in iPads before their educational value has been proven.

"There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines," Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education from Stanford University, was quoted by New York Times as saying.

"iPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning."