When I went to high school, being caught in class with a Sony Walkman (the cassette playing version, as CDs were still a pretty uncommon indulgence only afforded to the rich kids who didn’t mingle with us public school peasants anyway) was punishable by detention. Now, kids have a wide assortment of technology that, depending on the policies of the school they attend, is either encouraged or suppressed accordingly.

Should the Apple iPad, for instance, be allowed free reign in the classroom? Gnomie Daniel Yount writes:

“I’d love for you to do a video on how much better education would be with technology. I am a junior in high school and have the opportunity to use my iPad in all my classes. It has, simply put, made my life a million times more organized and structured. From apps like Evernote to integrated services like iCloud, it’s not just having access to the tablet, it’s having access to all of my content wherever I am.

“If I’m in class and I don’t know what something means, a quick tap over to apps like Wikipanion or Wolfram Alpha gives me all the information I could ever want on the subject and it’s a method of learning that isn’t just flipping aimlessly through a text book. Plus, when I do need to read a book, I love reading the book on an iPad. No more heavy books or flipping through a dictionary. If you need to find something you just start typing what you remember from the selection and the page pops up. This is like a book on steroids — amazingly great!

Education and Technology: Can They Coexist?“I constantly set reminders for homework and absolutely adore them. I don’t know how I lived without them. It has taken the stress out of remembering little details and being able to focus on a more important task at hand.

“We need education to be more like this: fun, exciting, and interactive.

“Now obviously there are drawbacks to integrating technology in education. Namely, most students would rather play angry birds than listen to a lecture on what four plus four equals. Also, money is a large issue, but it seems more deep rooted than that. Like there is some kind of gene that just shoots up a red flag when you say “technology.”

“I think the challenge of education is for it to re-imagine itself. Once you step through the doors of any school it feels like you’re stepping from a world of unlimited possibilities and creativity to a world of one answer and unimaginative drilling of subjects.

“I hope you will consider this as a topic for a video as it is an extraordinarily interesting to me and to others. I just get so excited thinking what it would be like learning in a school where technology is welcomed rather than hidden and used secretively.”

In Daniel’s case, it seems like schools are still as averse to accepting new technology as they were back in my day. I’m picturing a campus of stark, brick, Soviet Bloc style buildings dominated by a gloomy, Kafkaesque administration and its pint-sized underlings being frisked on entry and waved through metal detectors to continue for further processing before the first bell of the day ushers the masses into their designated compartments for indoctrination. In what passes for science class, educational film strips from the ’50s are projected onto damp, cracked walls while the teacher droningly corrects the narrator’s assertion that man may someday walk on the Moon. Pencils strike paper to furiously scribble notes until the next bell rings to signal a switch to the next dreary session. And on and on.

Then there are the lucky students who attend schools that are more in tune with the 21st century. One school district in Maine recently bought all of its kindergartners (and teachers) their own iPads. Obviously, in the current climate of educational budget cuts and controversial spending habits, this particular example isn’t indicative of how most school districts can handle the introduction of new technology — and that’s a shame. But as iPads (and newer, cheaper tablet computers like the Amazon Kindle Fire) become more commonplace, district school boards and their financial handlers are going to have to weigh their costs against their benefits — eventually, the benefits will win out. As Chris says in the video below, “I don’t think it’s a possibility; I think it’s an inevitability.”

Comparing both scenarios, is it easy to pick out the one from which students will be better prepared to face the future?