April 12, 2012

Why iPad? – thoughts from the EdTechTeacher team
Greg Kulowiec iPad CartThe question of Why iPads? has been circulating a lot lately, and that is certainly the case even at EdTechTeacher. Last week, we addressed this question: "What is your opinion is about why the iPad has taken the lead as the education tablet of choice?… Some would say that the iPad is hardly more capable than a plain old Netbook, and more expensive, when it comes to schools." Given the article Why I'm Returning my new iPad and Buying a Kindle Fire as well as the recent post by James McConville (@jmcconville1000) on Why the iPad is Bad for Education, asking Why iPads is a valid point. Here are some thoughts from the team. From Beth I think the first thing that we stress to everyone is that the iPad isn't a computer, nor does it try to be. On the other hand, an iPad can truly be anything that you choose to make it: a reader, creator, consumer, organizer, response system, musical instrument... I've been telling teachers to think of it like an empty cardboard box. It can be a box, or a castle, or a rocketship, or a cave, or.... However, the true power of the iPad lies in its mobility, touch screen, cameras, accelerometer/orientation capabilities, and geo-location services. When thinking about implementation and transformation, keeping those items in mind helps to frame new ways of approaching student interaction with content, capabilities, and the world around them. Additionally, because of the ability to create and manage digital content with and for the iPad, the role of the teacher has the potential to change. Schools are starting to see these devices as change agents simply because they provide educators with an easy tool through which they can attempt to transform their classes. With iPads, it's possible to re-invision the role of the teacher to be less of a coach and more of a curator of information. Teachers can provide a set of learning objects that are individualized to each student, allowing them to interact with content through a variety of modalities and means that were not previously possible. While this could happen in a laptop program, the iPad makes it easier - especially with regard to then taking notes and annotating information in order to demonstrate understanding. As a straight up reader or consumer of basic media, a Nook or Kindle may be a more cost effective tool. However, as an educational device, the iPad is definitely on top. Plus, an iPad can read all ePub formats: Kindle, Nook, ePub, iBook….. From Justin I would add that some of the features related to time and space are incredibly important. Booting up a laptop and logging in can take 3 minutes on lousy school computers... The iPad is instant. You can use the iPad for 10 minutes in class, slide it under your chair for a discussion, pop it back open again. You can fit a book or piece of paper and an IPad on a desk. It doesn't block your view of someone's face. If you plug them in the night before, they will last all day. 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. From Greg My thoughts are as follows:
  1. Apple made the first and best tablet product on the market, and did a masterful job of selling it to the education market even though they made little effort to accomodate the implementation of iPads in education.
  2. That being said, the reason why they 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.
  3. The device shouldn't be looked at as a computer, because it isn't...it is way more than that. It is a mobile recording device (audio & video), editing device (audio, video, images & text) and publishing platform (blogs, wikis, websites, video to YouTube, Audio to YouTube / SoundCloud).
Take all of the above and throw it together into a device that doesn't need a manual and can be figured out by nearly any student in a matter of minutes, and it clearly becomes the front runner for mobile devices in schools. Add to itApple's new pricing platform for iPad 2s ($100 markdown due to the New iPad), and their new Apple protection plan ($99 covers devices even for accidental damage), and the pot becomes even richer. Also, as schools go to iPads, they become the device that can be pointed to and referenced by other schools that are thinking about making a 1:1 decision. It has almost reached a tipping point, where other devices are no longer considered when a school has a 1:1 pilot or plan for the future. Greg further elaborated on this with his blog post Why go 1:1 iPads?
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… 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)
Take all of the above and throw it together into a device that doesn't need a manual and can be figured out by nearly any student in a matter of minutes and it clearly becomes a viable device for 1:1 schools. While consumption may be the primary and initial function of the iPad, with a growing list of apps that allow for content creation that can be published to the web, the consumption argument falls short. 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…. 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.
You can read the full version of Greg's article on his blog. Thoughts or comments? Please let us know your ideas.