I have to admit right up front that I am not disinterested in seeing the very positive aspects of teaching students with mobile technology - and iPads in particular. My role as an Education Technology Manager in an iPad Project needs me to be an advocate for the investment in time, money and resources so far expended. But before I took on this role, I was teaching Literature to nine different tutorial groups of English language learners a week, and I used my iPad in almost every class - sometimes frequently, other times not at all. If you are interested in reading more about this pilot, look at the blog, and the recent report on the six month pilot, here.
My use of the iPad in the classroom has been wholly dependent on the learning task I have designed. It is never just about using the technology, and any good teacher will tell you that about any learning technology. The number of times I have read negative comments from people on blogs, and in response to positive articles about iPads in classrooms, arguing that the iPad is just a shiny toy deployed by Apple to take over the world, are not comments from teachers who have actually made a good effort to teach with one.
Here are five of the top reasons I love teaching with the iPad, and just a note, we have a reliable dedicated WiFi network for the iPads at our college.
1. It is a fantastic creation tool. This blog post is being written in a garden, while I am lying on a daybed. No cords, no keyboard or mouse, just me and the iPad - music is playing through the iPod app. I have gotten used to the virtual keyboard, and can produce long pieces of work with it. After I've posted this blog, I'm going to review and refine the Keynote presentation for my poetry classes for this week.
2. The display out feature on to TV screens and projectors enables me to work with and annotate text with a stylus in real time, with apps like GoodReader and AirSketch. I can make it all visible to students on the classroom screen. I can also invite students to do annotations to text. This would work well in the Maths and science classroom as well - inviting student groups to collaborate to solve problems in front of the class, or design their own problems for other students to solve. We should enable our students to be teachers too.
3. The ability to show offline videos within apps and browsers,
prevents the buffering problem of online viewing. This saves time, fuss and anxiety. If I know I can show the part of the video I want offline, I can be more relaxed, and be a happier teacher. Moving images - not solely the moving mouth of the teacher - keep students engaged.
4. The iPad works well on Wireless networks. I can go online and show real-time news and events. I can demonstrate Internet research skills, and pass the iPad around to groups so they can look up resources to complete their learning activities. If the wireless becomes problematic, my 3G network will take over and the class can continue. Try doing that easily with a Netbook!! I pay for my own 3G, but a hotspot could also be a solution.
5. Everything I need is at my fingertips. Dropbox to transfer files, emails, class handouts, the Moodle LMS, articles I've saved to plan activities, photos, videos, music. The ease with which I can extend a discussion which eventuates by finding some images to help with visualizing concepts, means class time can be dynamic; responsive to where the students are at, and not chained to a set and structured timetable driven entirely by me.
"BUT," I hear the negative voices already saying, "we can do all that with a laptop". My answer is, "but why would you choose a laptop when you can use an iPad?" They're cheaper to buy, easier to maintain, require less IT intervention, no virus software to update, and have a 3G option. I haven't even mentioned the huge added dimension of the 1:1 iPad classroom. These top five teaching benefits apply just to a teacher with a first generation iPad - imagine how much more dynamic it can be in a 1:1 environment, and with a second or third generation iPad. I'll let you know.
My interests at the moment are concerned with enabling and supporting over seventy teachers to exploit the iPad's features, and enhance the learning experiences of their students. But the benefits for a teacher who actively looks for ways to streamline his or her work practices, administration tasks, and personal learning strategies are reason enough.
We have chosen to go with iPads, for reasons laid out in our report. However a Galaxy Tab or equivalent Android based tablet might well do all these things too. I'd be interested to hear from teachers using these devices in the classroom.
Photo: Trinity College, University of Melbourne.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad