Fundamentally I believe that an iPad can neither be good or bad. All it can ever be is an iPad. I argue instead, that when used effectively and with specific goals in mind, iPads can have a positive impact on education. Seeing that schools are investing money on these devices, the perspective to adopt is not a combative one, but rather one that explores how to effectively integrate the devices. Whether a school is 1:1, or there is a shared iPad cart, the devices can be used effectively.
Time & Space:
iPad features related to time and space are incredibly important. Booting up a laptop and logging into a school network can take upwards of 3 minutes. The iPad is instant & the amount of time lost preparing the device for use is minimal. You can use the iPad for 10 minutes in class, slide it under your chair for a discussion and pull it back out to complete an assessment on Socrative. You can fit a book or piece of paper and an iPad on a desk, allowing students to combine the best of both worlds. The iPad doesn't block your view of someone's face, they can be used in discussion circles and they pose no distraction. Considering time constraints and battery life, if you plug them in the night before, they will last all day. As Justin Reich, my colleague at EdTechTeacher put it, "These things may seem trivial, but teaching is in many ways a battle against time, and tablets allow much more seamless transition between tech-on and tech-off activities."
The iPad is Not a Computer...
In my humble opinion, the reason why iPads have caught on is because while an iPad is not a computer, it offers enough of the computing feel to make them viable in classrooms. Yes, the keyboard is virtual, but it doesn't take long to get used to typing in either the traditional or text message style keyboard.
The device shouldn't be looked at as a computer, because it isn't...it is more than that. It is a:
- Mobile recording device (audio & video)
- Editing device (audio, video, images & text)
- Publishing platform (blogs, websites, video, audio and screencasts to YouTube)
- Digital Notebook
- Digital Research Platform
I have read the arguments that suggest the iPad is a consumption based, single user device and I no longer find the argument valid. With a shared iPad cart my students have:
- Published screencasts to YouTube (Explain Everything)
- Recorded, edited & published podcasts to SoundCloud (Garageband)
- Recorded, edited & published video to YouTube & Vimeo (iMovie)
- Published blog posts (Posterous via email)
- Bookmarked research material to a collaborative Diigo Group (Diigo Bookmarklet)
- Written papers (Pages)
- Exported documents to cloud storage accounts (Dropbox & SendtoDropbox)
Sports and social media: Sophie, Mariah, Brendan, Joey, drew by gkulowiec
(This podcast was created, edited and published from an iPad with Garageband)
One User Devices:
In an ideal world, iPads in schools would not be shared between students. A number of problems arise when these devices are shared. iMovie projects, GarageBand recordings, and papers written in Pages can be deleted by another student before they are finished. I can only speak to my experience, but I have yet to have students lose any work due to it being deleted by another user. Education, trust and training on proper use of these shared devices is the key. When I work with classes using the shared iPad cart, one of the first points I make is that these are shared devices and the way we use them responsibly is to not open, delete or share any work that isn't yours.
To expand on this point, shared iPads can introduce students to the concept of cloud storage. In working with a few classes I have seen how quickly students can adapt to the concept of working locally on an iPad while writing a paper in Pages, exporting the document to their cloud storage account ( we have used Dropbox & SendtoDropbox to export via email ), updating the document at home and then finally pulling the document down from the cloud to work locally again on any iPad from the cart. Research can also become cloud based and collaborative. In the movie trailer below (created on an iPad in @katrinakennett's English class conducting Paperless iPad Research Papers), students are conducting research and bookmarking their findings and notes to a collaborative Diigo group. The process of group research, tagging and collaboration are all fostered because of the use of shared iPads.
(this trailer was created on iMovie for the iPad...not to be taken too seriously...)
All in One:
Is everything easy to do on an iPad? Absolutely not. The device takes getting used to and all apps are not equal in terms of functionality and ease of use. However, watching students quickly switch between research, writing, social bookmarking, listening to podcasts, watching videos and then returning to their writing is impressive. Yet writing isn't the only type of content that can be produced. Watching students work in small groups huddled around an iPad as they record and edit their radio show, or watching them take to the hallway during class to shoot scenes of their movie, or watching individual students create collage like images that are then pulled into a screen casting app where they can verbally explain and justify their creation allows one to quickly realize that all of this simply could not be done this intuitively on a computer. The screencast below was created by one of my students in a Sports in American Society class. She created a collage using Visualize and then exported the image to ExplainEverything to narrate, explain and justify her choices.
The iPad will not save education. The iPad is neither good or bad, it is and only ever will be an iPad. It doesn't deserve a pedestal and will never take the place of fulfilling classroom discussion and human interaction. Yet, there is a place for this device in our schools.