Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Question about the iPad

Flickr CC photo by madichan
In the near future I am going to have an opportunity to be present for an iPad demonstration. I am looking forward to it very much.  My spouse and some of my very good friends have essentially replaced their laptops with iPads. Observing them invites me to think that students could benefit or even thrive with them as compared to equipping them with other devices. The possibilities are exciting, but of course putting one in every student's hands raises all kinds of instructional and technical issues, not to mention the kind of disruption such a major change naturally makes. 

But this post concerns one major question.  Hang in there with me as I explain:

Like many schools which have been in the vanguard of educational technology, we have selected powerful laptops and expensive software for classroom. We have then watched as only a portion of our staff and students really utilize more than the very basic features of the devices and applications. Growth has been gradual, but slow in terms of robust use of these powerful tools. Many teachers still profess a real need for more training with these tools.  From what I understand from my friends in other schools, this is common.

The iPad presents a very different challenge and role for the instructor.  The 140,000 apps that are available for the iPad are perhaps its most attractive feature. An astonishing number of these are useful or powerful tools for learning. Better yet, they are inexpensive and are relatively easy to master quickly.  Consequently, specific apps can be deployed for specific courses at specific times.  This allows the teacher more freedom to innovate and explore different ways to use the iPads. 

But will they?

On the one hand, it seems as though selecting apps for one's own course would be strong motivation for learning the technology.  Or would the range of choice and the dynamic nature of mixing and matching the apps actually work against tech integration?  If the teachers did not exploit the variety and nuances of the apps, one of the great advantages of the iPad would be lost. I personally don't like the "one size fits all" of expensive application suites. But at least training for the apps can be uniform too. 

I don't know how I can really know something like this before implementation. 


Lynn Waldsmith said...

An interesting question. Unfortunately teachers are overwhelmed by the demands of teaching classes while learning new technology at the same time, with far too little time. I suspect Ipads would be more appreciated by students than teachers, at least initially.

Larry Baker said...

I am inclined to agree with you. I think many teachers would have that reaction. The teachers playing with our two demo units are sharing tricks but those who want to play with them are more inclined to spend time exploring, anyway.

On the other hand, the receptivity on the students' part make a strong argument for putting them in their hands. (And perhaps leave the teachers with the more familiar devices).

Bobsophist said...

Why only use the iPad to have students USE apps to learn. Why not have them also CREATE apps to use on their iPods for their classes?

Larry Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Baker said...

Thanks, Bob. In fact when we were grilling our Apple rep about iPad, our Technology Director brought up this issue so we are mindful of it. During one of my Challenge Based Learning projects last year a project team designed an iPhone or Android app as their solution but they lacked the technical expertise to implement it. Perhaps our new networking tool might increase the likelihood of app development.

bobsophist said...

Also sounds like a great opportunity for cross discipline education. If Mercy really wants to be on the forefront of the tech revolution it might be time to expand the Tech class. Perhaps this class would "teach" students about tech development as well as tech consumption. Why not cross list a tech development class with the Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Media class. The students could learn how to create apps and then how to "sell" them. At the same time the apps they create might also be used for their science, art or English classes.

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