Once upon a time, humans learned from tinkering. To be human, you immersed yourself in the world, observed how things worked, engaged in trial and error and eventually made advancements. Over the past few centuries, education has turned into what I call a transmitter/receiver relationship. In the attempt at educating the masses, we’ve standardized an education model where we are told what to learn and when. To make matters worse, the few times students are allowed to write their thoughts in essay form, they are graded by a biased professor who is more interested in regurgitation of their opinions than having a classful of rebellious thinkers.
I feel the iPad and its inevitable tablet brethren are going to change a lot of how we view education. If every child had a tablet computer and the right software applications, teachers jobs could morph into “Proctors of knowledge” and give children assistance when they got stuck. In between however, children could fully immerse themselves in interactive learning that can be constantly measured to make sure everyone is on track and kids aren’t being left behind.
How did I come to this conclusion four days after the launch of the iPad? I visited Apple’s page dedicated to some of its more interesting apps available at launch. The three apps I immediately saw educational potential in were the Periodic Table (Elements) app, the Marvel comic app and the Scrabble app.
You’ll need to watch the videos to see what I mean. The Periodic Table app speaks for itself, I want to spend $500 on this device just so I can learn from this app in all it’s visual glory. The Marvel app caught my eye as well, you can now download comics to your iPad and flick through the story just like a normal comic book. Imagine a digital comic book about America’s Revolution with questions about the content trickled through the story. A child could devour historical content and be none the wiser that he was actually learning. Finally Scrabble brings a fundamentally fun and challenging game into the 21st century that children could circle around to learn vocabulary. Because the game is housed in a sleek brand spanking new Apple product, why wouldn’t kids want to play Scrabble on it?
It’s about time we realize that education like our other archaic institutions is overdue for a major overhaul. We should embrace these new form factors of computing and shape the next 300 years of education instead of being stuck in what USED to work.