Leading education expert says tablet computers are rewriting the way we work and learn

Education is quickly changing as more and more tablets and mobile devices are incorporated into the classroom environment. Recently, MetaMoJi staff were honored to have a discussion about tablet apps in the classroom with leading educator Dr. Steve Perry. He is a frequent commentator on education issues for CNN and he speaks at education conferences across the United States. The high school he founded and leads was named by US News and World Report as one of “America’s Best High Schools.” Capital Preparatory Magnet School is a year round college preparatory school that sends 100% of its graduates to 4 year colleges. Dr. Perry shared with MetaMoJi staff his thoughts on the way that mobile computing is quickly transforming the way teachers teach and the way students learn. See here an excerpt from the interview:


MetaMoJi: Do you think that technology can make students more productive?
Dr. Perry: Technology is another tool that can improve access to talented educators and can be a platform for effective technology teaching platforms themselves. So anything that expands opportunity is vital to the education conversation. 

MetaMoJi: What do you believe of the role tablets can play in lifelong learning?
Dr. Perry: One of the challenges of traditional education is that it requires that you be a traditional student – that you be able to spend your entire day or night in a classroom. The problem is that what we know of to be tradition has changed and continues to change with every passing moment. There are people who are rewriting the way that we work. More and more families have at least one or two people that work from home. So, there is a new strategy that we have for communicating information, whether it be for work or learning. And tablets in particular, and mobile devices in general, provide the opportunity for individuals to learn at their leisure or at within the time that is most appropriate. So a parent may currently have a job where she commutes via train or bus 4o minutes each way. She doesn’t want to stare at the window or read a trashy novel. She wants to improve her skills. So some of the things that we offer, is the school leadership. So she would be able to log on from her mobile devices, whether it is a tablet computer or her mobile phone, and engage herself in learning what she wants to learn when she wants to learn it. 

Tablet Apps Encourage Collaborative Learning

MetaMoJi: Do you believe that these devices can help increase interactive learning?
Dr. Perry: Absolutely! One of the challenges that we see even in traditional education is that we are all limited by the people who live in the area. So if you don’t have access to teachers who are willing to drive 20-30-40 minutes to get to your school, your school’s effectiveness is determined by those individuals who for whatever reason happen to be living in the area. But there are great educators all over the world. So even within a traditional learning setting, you can learn from someone in Istanbul who does a very good job teaching algebra, or at least a component of algebra. And you can pull together individuals from all over the world who can bring educational opportunities to communities and individuals for whom education opportunities are a rarity. If they were food, they would be a delicacy! 

MetaMoJi: What do you believe technology’s role is in term of collaborative learning?
Dr. Perry: Tablets give us a window to the world. It is the information super highway and these portals feed information in our direction in ways that we have never seen before. The generation that follows could be the smartest we have ever seen, if we could give them the basic skills they need to consume the information. But they have the intuition to do it. You give any child a computing device and he or she knows their way around. It is almost as if they were born with it attached to their fingers. 

MetaMoJi: What do you think about the idea of students being more computer literate than adults?
Dr. Perry: Yes the technology is typically wasted on those who come behind us. The people who created it are the older generation. People forget that the most cutting edge technology that we see has been created by the generation before. But the consumers will be the ones that follow. So, a lot of times, the kids don’t even understand what they have in their hands. For them it is just a goofy game, just something to play more games on, Angry Birds or whatever their favorite game is. But for adults, we are looking to use it to solve age old problems. You can have two scientists in different parts of the earth studying the same chemicals, to bring those chemicals together to produce a vaccine to cure a disease in another part of the world that neither one of them are in. Both of them can do it in their living-room in their shorts. 

Pulls Kids Out of the Back of the Class with Mobile Apps

MetaMoJi: What do you think would encourage more productivity for teachers in the mobile computing learning environment?  
Dr. Perry: Apps are interesting because they are typically organic because there is a democratization of the world through apps, because anyone can do it. And even children are putting them together. So I think, I mentioned to you earlier about the teacher that uses QR codes to check her student’s answers on the smart board. Now everyone knows who got the right and wrong answers. Similar to the way in which the kids used to raise their hands. So this was an app that my teacher found on Pinterest, it is a free app. So she uses it to engage the kids. And the kids love it. They like putting their answers up. What it also does is pull the kid out of the back of the class who would sit quietly before. Before only a couple kids would raise their hands and they would be the one with the biggest personality. Now, the teacher says, “Ok, put your cards up” and every kid puts their card in front of their face. All she does is take this app and scan the classroom and within seconds, literally a second, she takes a picture of the class and every single child’s answer is on the board. Every single child. And so she as the teacher can now, instead of checking all the answers, she has every single kid’s answer. Now, she has data that she can use. So in this particular science classroom, at the beginning of the year, out of 22 kids in the classroom, 19 were below level. 19 kids that they sent us from other schools. In the most recent assessment that we did, only 8. Over 50% increase in performance for children. Because she is able to use tools like the app. Now in another classroom if you don’t do something with the information it ends up not meaning anything. You just took a snapshot and showed the kid he got the wrong answer. If you don’t make an adjustment, then you haven’t improved the learning. So she has been able to improve the learning, has increased her efficiency because she doesn’t have to go around to every single child and say “what was your answer? Tell me your answer?” Now she can just focus on the 6 kids who got the answer wrong to that particular question. She can go over and talk to them. And the other kids can go to the next question. 

Expert Advice to Teachers: Don’t be Afraid of Technology

MetaMoJi: You are an advisor to a lot of teachers. What do you recommend to other schools to incorporate technology to make them better teachers?
Dr. Perry: First, they have to be comfortable with it. Many people are afraid of technology. They always have been. Technology freaks people out. If you look at all the early depiction of technology in films, it was always robots taking over! Always machines taking over, even the book 1984 was about technology taking over. Every time technology comes out there is a certain apprehension that people have to it. And one of the worst groups of people when it comes to technology, I have found, are teachers. Because so many are so used to teaching the way they learned which is always at least 1-2 generations behind. Many of them were children could be 30- 40 years ago literally! And if you look at the technology that we used 40 years ago, just look at 10 years ago! I remember, we were the first in our housing project to have a microwave! And kids would come over and they would say “do the butter thing, do the butter thing!” So we would put the butter in there and melt the butter! And the folks would gather around and be terrified of each other as if we had discovered Uranus or something! That was technology back then! I remember being of the first to have an Atari. Or Pong before that! And now the video games that we see, the technology that we are seeing is like a movie. To watch a video game is to watch a movie! 

MetaMoJi: What are your recommendations to teachers when it comes to overcoming the technology gaps?
Dr. Perry: Don’t be scared. Don’t be afraid of this thing. Give it a shot. Don’t teach to the young “you”, teach to your children. 

Find out more about the great work of Dr. Steve Perry

Dr. Steve Perry
“America’s Most Trusted Educator” Dr. Steve Perry, MSW is a revered education expert and best-selling author of “Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve – Even If It Means Picking a Fight” among other titles. 
Dr. Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, CT, is also the host of “Save My Son,” TVONE’s #1 docudrama. He may be reached online at www.tdjakesleadership.com.

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