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Think Out Loud

Gadgets, Gizmos & Grey Matter

Pete Springer/OPB

From grade school to college, new technology is changing the way students communicate and learn. You can find Apple’s iPad and iPod Touch and Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader in many different schools. Are these just the latest shiny new toys that distract students from learning? Or effective tools to enhance learning and to improve test scores.

Here in Oregon, the Canby School District began using the iPod Touch in the classroom three years ago. Joseph Morelock is Canby’s Director of Technology and Innovation. He says they’ve seen a marked improvement in learning in one third grade classroom where students each received their own iPod Touch. Morelock says it is only when students each have their own device (as opposed to the classroom sharing one or two devices) that it is an effective learning tool.

Reed College has also experimented with both Kindles and iPads in a few of its classes. We’ll check in to hear the results of a pilot program back in 2009 to deploy Kindles to some Reed students.

It’s hard to argue that today’s shrinking computing devices and constant internet connections have made information access easier than ever. But some observers, like writer Nicholas Carr, are wondering if that’s changing the way we think and learn. Carr says that even as these new tools and the internet bring easy access to more information, they also introduce more distractions. “[The internet] makes us better at skimming and scanning,” Carr says, “but at the cost of our ability to pay attention and to think.” He worries that kids are experiencing “cognitive overload.”

Do you think there’s a place for technology in the classroom? Are gadgets like the Kindle or iPad effective teaching tools? Should schools invest in this kind of technology? Have today’s mobile devices and a constant connection to the internet affected your ability to think or concentrate?


Joseph Morelock: Director of Technology and Innovation for Canby School District

Trina Marmarelli: Instructional Technologist at Reed College

Bill Tucker: Managing Director at Education Sector

Nicholas Carr: author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

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