I was fortunate to attend the Alberta Education symposium titled iPads: What are We Learning? It was an excellent day with educators from districts all around Alberta sharing the advantages and challenges of using iPad in education. I think this is a timely discussion, and one that needs to be elevated and accelerated in education circles around the Province. Particularly considering the recent news that Best Buy and FutureShop are hiring a combined 6,000 employees to deal with their predicted Christmas rush for mobile devices. I am sure we will see more of them make their way into our classrooms whether we are prepared for them or not.
One of the issues raised during the discussions was framed around laptops vs. iPads. I am not convinced this is the proper arguement. When we apply the ways we use laptops in the classroom to tablets, we greatly limit our options and undervalue the potential of the device. Perhaps we could alter the discussion into two different arguments – laptop vs. desktop and tablet vs. binder/textbook/library. I realize that adding library to the list could be seen as a heresy. I am in no way devaluing books. Rather, I am questioning the medium of the paperback. We can do so much more for our students with text that is not bound to type on paper. Textbooks could link to current and updated information. Notes could be stored in the cloud and easily shared and accessed from a variety of devices.
It is conceivable that we will one day look back at the laptop with the same regard we had for the cell phones of the 1980s; clunky, limited function, and awkward to use. When that happens, I hope that students aren’t coming to school to use devices they know are outdated and inapplicable for the world they will grow up in. Rather, my hope is that we have thoughtfully explored how tablets/iPads can enhance our teaching practice and foster inquiry in our classes.