Making the Case for iPads in Every Classroom

A young girl in a special education classroom reads a worksheet on an iPad in 2011.

A young girl in a special education classroom reads a worksheet on an iPad in 2011. Jim Mone/AP file photo

Front Row Education makes an adaptive math learning iPad app for K-5 students.

Over the last few weeks, my startup conducted pilots of our adaptive math iPad app in 12 different classrooms across the country. Many of our hypotheses were confirmed and many were unraveled, but no conclusion was as strong as this: adaptive learning—where each student learns at their own pace—is the most important innovation that technology will bring to the classroom.

Students spent their time with the Front Row Classroom app developing and applying their knowledge to fractions under the new Common Core standards. While the students practiced, the teachers monitored a dashboard, like the following:

Above is a typical fourth grade classroom—there’s a lot of diversity regarding what concept each student is learning. Seven students  are still working on third grade math, 15 are working on fourth grade math, and four students are a grade level ahead.

In all, there are 18 different concepts that the students are working on, but there is only one teacher in the class. If you were a teacher lecturing to the class—what do you lecture? Do you lecture on concept 8, recognizing equivalent fractions—and bore 80% of the class that already knows that content? Or do you lecture on concept 11, generating equivalent fractions, and confuse 20% of the class while boring another 60%. Or do you go with the curriculum and teach concept 18, multiplying fractions—ignoring the fact 60% of your class isn’t ready for that yet?

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