Why iPads

After yesterday’s evaluation, I thought I would try my hand at writing a more detailed response to the “Why iPads?” question. Below is the result of my preliminary brainstorming.

I would love to have your feedback- what do you think?

The part I would like to bulk up is the claim to student-driven learning. Not that I don’t believe it- I obviously do, but have only anecdotal evidence from my daughter and from the classes I see coming throughout the library. In my daughter’s case, she has spent a lot of time voluntarily perusing apps such as Starwalk and anything to do with astronomy. When the students are allowed to “play” with the iPads in our iLab, their first stop is always the frog dissection app. A grade seven parent told me the other day her daughter, who has always been interested in filming, spends her time making movies- recording her world and then putting it together on imovie.

I would also like to mention that a tool is only as effective as its user. And in order to use it effectively, both teachers and students need to learn how. It is unrealistic to think our transition to an ipad school will be without glitches, or that the tool is some miracle cure to student disengagement. It is not. However, it has the potential to engage each student in a unique way. As for distractions, it is up to us to emphasize  that they also have a personal responsibility to use the iPad wisely. This is not a lesson I expect to hit home right away- it will take a lot of time, nagging on our part and discipline on theirs to drum the message into their heads. But this discussion will be continued in my next post when I will be unveiling the Netiquette contract the Grade Sevens came up with, as well some of the interesting comments they made about teachers’ inappropriate use of tech (cough cough).

In the meantime- let me know what you think!

Why iPads? 

Mobility

Because it is lightweight, extremely portable and hardier than a laptop, the iPad is perfectly suited to the life of a high school student. It is small enough to be as mobile as a smart phone or an ipod yet with the functionality of a laptop.

As iPad expert Ian Wilson says, the iPad occupies the “agile” space:

[The iPad] occupies a new space in technology, one which is still undefined to some extent, yet which is likely to be significant over time. The space is between the mobile space occupied by phones and iPods, and the portable space which is where laptops and netbooks live. The new position in between these established areas is one I am naming the ‘agile’ space – as the iPad largely does what the other devices offer yet also offers so much more. Ian Wilson

Functionality

The interface is simple and intuitive. The tactile aspects of the iPad are also uniquely suited to younger students as they can pinch and zoom, swipe from one screen to the next and generally interact on a more physical level with their work.  As well, the iPad has a long battery life that can last throughout the day. The auto-save function ensures students will not lose their work. It is hardier than a laptop and can withstand the migration from class to class as well as the commute home better than a laptop. Its mobility and functionality allows the teacher to not only manage their classroom more efficiently but go beyond the traditional space of the classroom.

Versatility

Here are some of the ways an iPad can be used:

  • a word processor,
  • an e-reader,
  • a collaborative device,
  • a student response system,
  • a video and/or audio recorder,
  • a camera,
  • a movie or music editor,
  • a whiteboard,
  • a presentation creator,
  • a language/math/science lab
  • and many other uses.

This kind of versatility available in one device is unprecedented. The students need only bring one device to class and the majority of their needs are met. Here is an example of how the iPad helps teachers manage their classroom more efficiently: some teachers are using their iPads as a whiteboard, recording their lessons and sending their students the link as an additional study resource. All this with the aid of only one whiteboard app.

Collaboration

A 1:1 iPad program allows for amazing collaboration projects. For example, if a teacher does not feel the class is following a lesson, they can quickly give an online, interactive quiz to their class via an app such as Socrative or Clicker. They receive the results instantly, enabling them to see who is following and who is not. Students can share notes in real time, collaborate on documents, and work on presentations using their iPads.

21st Century Learner

Most importantly the iPad is a tool that supports many competencies essential for the successful 21st Century learner:

  • The ability for the teacher to record their lessons so that students can view them at home allows them to flip the classroom, liberating more class time for giving individual attention.
  • The students have the world at their fingertips- they do not to be in the library or the computer lab to access information, but can be on the bus home, or in the park.
  • Using the iPad for researching and creating develops essential media literacy skills.
  • With guidance from the school as well as the parents, an iPad can become a powerful training tool on their road to becoming digital citizens.
  • It supports student-driven learning. Exploring the different educational apps, using imovie, garageband and other creation apps to make something new, etc.
  • It supports different kinds of learners. The multi-meida aspect of the iPad allows students to consume their information in the format they are most easily likely to digest.
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