Every new technological advancement comes with its own host of starry-eyed evangelists -- and the iPad is no exception. With the stumbling state of our current educational system, many are looking for a touch-screen savior. Some tech pundits herald the iPad as a harbinger of the fully digitized classroom; can they see the future, or are they looking for learning in all the wrong places? You'll hear about some of their reasons why tablet computing is just one small step toward the classrooms of the future. You'll also learn about the ways that classrooms already are using iPads, and some of the stumbling blocks these technological pioneers have encountered. When you finish this article, you may just be equipped to decide for yourself whether the device represents the future of classroom learning. First, read on to see what today's teachers and students are doing with one of the latest and greatest tech devices and its apps to enhance learning.
10. There's an App for That
Gone are the static textbooks of schoolrooms past; now developers and educators can work together to harness the latest knowledge and present it in a free-flowing, dynamic manner. Numerous flashcard apps are available to take students through their reading and spelling paces. The instructor interested in dipping his or her toe in foreign languages can try a "Wheels on the Bus" app that plays the song in multiple languages. Pocket Zoo, which streams live video of animals at zoos around the world, can give kids a virtual trip to the zoo with live action during zoology units in the curriculum.
There's even an app that simulates that old biology class standby: the frog dissection. What better way to let students who are either squeamish or who have strong objections to participating in live dissection on an animal still be a part of the lesson? Teachers of the arts are especially served by the iPad; in addition to the more advanced Garage Band app, teachers can use EasyBeats, an app that allows children to lay down simple four-bar rhythms. Students can even develop their own apps and go through the process of App Store submission -- a lesson in computer programming and entrepreneurship.
9. Save Your Lunch Money
The average laptop costs about $700 to $1,000 per student but a basic iPad will only cost a school around $500 each (not including sales tax) [source: Apple specs]. For schools ill-equipped to grow or upgrade their computer inventory, a small stock of iPads may be a more cost-effective option than trying to ensure one device for every student. Furthermore, the limited supply can help foster an environment of sharing.
Add a school-subsidized 3G data plan, and the benefits only grow. For schools already equipped with a fleet of classroom desktop computers, adding a stack of tablet devices may not be a logical first step. But for a school just starting its personal computing program, tablet computing may be just the ticket. Still, iPads and their apps likely will need updating too, just like any of the school's computer technology. But the savings per device could be put toward upgrades in the future.
And beyond the classroom, because it is slightly more affordable, an iPad may be a way to immerse a child in personal computing for the family who cannot afford a personal computer or laptop.
8. Hey, Teach!
With tablet computing, teachers may be able to say goodbye to dog-eared grade books and stacks of tests. During digital multiple-choice exams, a teacher can watch answers and results pour in via a live stream and track specific percentages for a question on a particularly difficult exam. Teachers could even track students' accuracy or test-taking speed by class, time of day or examination time elapsed. Instant, hand-held results would allow teachers to walk amongst their students, looking over their shoulders and providing encouragement to those struggling at any particular moment during the big exam. If that's too much pressure for the young scholars, the technology can handle simpler but time-consuming tasks. Teachers could wander throughout the classroom while instantly recording and uploading class attendance.
On the other side, students may enjoy (or dread) seeing their final grades almost immediately after finishing their tests. Students could also gather their annotations in digital textbooks or PDFs in a legible and easy-to-organize way -- simple for forwarding to their English teachers for feedback before beginning their big essays. And thanks to the free and open market for applications, this field of instant monitoring and feedback will only grow and evolve.
7. Beyond These Walls
We already know that the web offers countless opportunities to connect with those outside our homes, towns and nations. With iPads in classrooms, these connections could be at students' fingertips -- literally. And with the option for 3G service, the opportunity to connect can travel, with students, outside the classroom. Imagine students going on a field trip to the local art museum. With a couple of taps of their fingertips, students could access the entire catalog, the biography of a specific artist or an overview of a particular aesthetic movement. Instantly discovered information could enrich classroom discussion and pass hand to hand -- or device to device.
Schools could organize pen pal programs that come with a monthly video chat with students across the country or the world. The Internet is literally in the hands of enterprising learners. And for teachers, the ability to have the myriad resources of the Internet at the ready would be invaluable; no longer would an educator need to leave a question unanswered because of a missing textbook or slow-to-boot desktop computer.
6. A Paperless Classroom?
Picture the number of papers you or your children have accumulated during a single week at school: the permission slips, the homework, the handouts? Talk about a lot of trees! And aside from a few prized art pieces, they're mostly stacked on your mail and junk pile or "filed away" (ahem). Compared to all those reams of paper, the iPad is pretty environmentally friendly. Teachers and school administrators could replace some or all of the usual load of homework, syllabi and fliers with PDFs or web forms accessible via the iPad. In the classroom, teachers could replace visual aids or presentation handouts with documents accessible on each student's iPad. If other institutions, such as hospitals, banks and companies, have goals of going paperless, why can't schools? Isn't it possible that the savings could offset some of the technology costs -- maybe it could even pay for some of those tablet computers?
Many of the great classics, such as "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," are free through iBooks or Kindle, thanks to public domain status. Highlighting and creating legible notes in these books isn't too difficult, either. In fact, it may be easier for students and teachers to access their notes through these full-featured reading applications rather than relying on smudged pencil marks or messily applied sticky notes.
And because the iPad is powered by a long-lasting battery, it doesn't consume electrical power as much as a conventional desktop or laptop computer might. Apple says that it manufactured the tablet computer to meet the company's continuing commitment to environmental responsibility; according to the company, the device contains no arsenic, PVC or mercury, and is recyclable [Apple].
5. A Hand-held Media Center
Hundreds of news sources, such as CNN, The New York Times, the British Telegraph and many local newspapers and TV channels, have created robust and informative apps for public consumption. Discussions of news or assignments related to current events would take on new meaning if students could access these expansive stores of knowledge anywhere, anytime. The same goes for the hours of video accessible through sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. Educators could pull up controversial advertisements to prompt a critical discussion, archival footage to augment a history lesson or a notable scene from a novel's film adaptation.
Add a cable adapter for use with a projector or television, and instructors can broadcast those videos to a packed lecture hall. The same goes for music. Stream classical music from a site like YouTube or tune in to a live concert using a WiFi or 3G connection. With the help of a dock or headphone jack adapter for a stereo or speaker system, blow the whole classroom away.
4. Group Projects Made Easy
Instead of crowding around a desktop screen to see an article or image, students could pass around the iPad -- or in the best of worlds -- each look at their own. Class-wide collaborations could be easier, too; elementary school teachers could begin a pass-around short story during silent reading time, with each student quietly adding his or her own additions. Higher-level students could add edits to a group presentation or essay on the fly; there would be no need to jockey for access to the keyboard. Although it seems that having the media in students' hands instead of at the front of the room takes away collaboration, creative teachers are finding ways to make it work. For example, small groups can view different news clips on a current event, then present various points or sides to the class.
The storage capacity of tablet computers allows students to save important source documents, notes and past drafts for easy access, and apps like DropBox can be used to easily transfer and download files stored remotely or on another student's device. Because an iPad can be used anywhere, group project participants can tote a work in progress to the library, the museum, the coffee shop or to a student's house for overnight revisions. In short, they can study and work together just about anywhere.
3. Equal Opportunity
All too often, new technology emerges without much regard for those with disabilities or access issues. Thanks to an open market for apps and an intuitive touch-screen interface, tablet computing has distinguished itself as a great tool for those students who may otherwise be left in the dust. The iPad comes standard with closed captioning, a voice-over reader, full-screen zoom and support for nine languages.
Additionally, numerous apps have come up for release in the Apple App Store that are meant to assist those who may struggle at times in the typical classroom environment. The software development community has seized upon the highly visual iPad as a language and behavior-related stepping stone for children and adults with cognitive and learning disabilities. For instance, Dragon Dictation helps those who cannot type to dictate their papers or assignments, and Grace Picture Exchange lets nonverbal students communicate by constructing phrases using a selection of images. Thanks to the iPad's blank slate and a community of inventive software developers, the playing field in the classroom may get just a bit more level.
2. Hold It, Mister
If you've ever held an iPad, you know that it's lightweight but sturdy; at 1.5 pounds for the WiFi version, the device offers a manageable size and heft for the average student on the go [THE Journal]. Despite the relatively small size of the gadget, the dimensions of its bright and crisp screen allow for easy presentation. Because there's no need to angle a laptop hinge to just the right viewing position, showing off an image or presentation just got a lot easier. Educators shouldn't write off the touch screen as a flash-in-the-pan novelty, either. As many students engage more readily with an increasingly hands-on approach to learning, so too might the touch-screen interface provide a compelling learning environment for young scholars.
Even one of the weaknesses of the iPad may end up being a strength for some students; a laptop or desktop can show many windows open at once, but the iPad can only display one application at a time, lending some extra focus to tasks like reading an article or writing a paper.
1. Netiquette 101
Many school-age children struggle with netiquette or effective communication via e-mail or other web-based messaging services. Even some adults have serious trouble with the ins and outs of relating to others over the Internet. Additionally, students may struggle with word processing, spreadsheet construction or creating compelling presentations. Exposing students to digital communication with their teachers or fellow students early in their education experiences will help them learn to write clear and polite correspondence. Chances are students will enjoy learning these skills more with technological tools at the ready and with ever-inventive apps to spark their imaginations.
If you think about how much computer gaming has advanced in a short time, it's easy to see just how far instructional and software designers can take tablet computing apps; we're just getting started. In a competitive technological environment, mastery of these skills will become more and more essential. Whether to provide this tutelage to students through use of the iPad is up to each teacher and school to decide.
Lots More Information
- 10 Amazing Intellectual Achievements
- Top 5 Mad Geniuses
- 10 Myths About Intelligence
- Geniuses Pictures
- Human Intelligence Puzzles
Other Related Links
Apple. "Technical Specifications." (March 20, 2011). http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/
Apple. "Select Your iPad." (March 20, 2011). http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_ipad/family/ipad/select?mco=MjE0OTI0MDI
Autism Speaks. "Autism Apps." (March 22, 2011). http://www.autismspeaks.org/community/resources/apps.php
Dwyer, Liz. "Apple's Genius Idea: Donating Your Old iPad to Teach for America Classrooms." (March 25, 2011). http://www.good.is/post/apple-s-genius-idea-donating-your-old-ipad-to-teach-for-america-classrooms/
Harrison, Denise. "Ushering iPad into the Classroom." THE Journal. October 13, 2010. (March 21, 2011). http://thejournal.com/Articles/2010/10/13/Ushering-iPad-Into-the-Classroom.aspx?Page=1
Meece, Mickey. "Kickball, Tennis and App Writing." New York Times. March 16, 2011. (March 20, 2011). http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/technology/personaltech/17basics.html
Metz, Katelynn. "iPads Debut in Minnetonka Classrooms." Minnetonka Patch. January 19, 2011. (March 19, 2011). http://minnetonka.patch.com/articles/ipads-debut-in-minnetonka-classrooms
Provenzano, Nicholas. "Using My iPad In the Classroom This Year." The Nerdy Teacher. August 27, 2010. (March 22, 2011). http://www.thenerdyteacher.com/2010/08/using-my-ipad-in-classroom-this-year.html
Ritchtel, Matt. "Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction." The New York Times. November 21, 2010. (March 21, 2011). http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.html?ref=yourbrainoncomputers
Sketchley, Martin. "The iPad in the EFL Classroom." Voxy. March 8, 2011. (March 21, 2011). http://voxy.com/blog/2011/03/ipad-efl-classroom/
Speirs, Fraser. "An iPad for Every Child." Macworld. January 10, 2011. (March 20, 2011). http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/216368/an_ipad_for_every_child.html