Changing the iPads in Education Discussion

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 When that happens, I hope that students aren’t coming to school to use devices they know are outdated and inapplicable for the world they will grow up in.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.

For more information from the Alberta Education symposium, check out the Resource List and the twitter hashtag #abedipad.

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4 thoughts on “Changing the iPads in Education Discussion

  1. Great post, Rick. It seems we always get into these comparisons and often times miss the bigger questions. I’m glad you were able to participate and look forward to your feedback on the summary report. The potential of digital text has been vastly underutilized to date in education. Perhaps there’s an interesting opportunity on the horizon given the mandate of inclusion & iPads?

    • Thanks, Charmaine. I agree that the the stars are aligning with the mandate of inclusion, Universal Design for Learning, and tablet technology. We are going to need a few more variable to change before we unlock the opportunity, such as making it easier to install bulk apps, a willingness to create quality apps with public dollars that could be released for free, and a shift in pedagogy, just to name a few.

      • Having watched the way my daughter (she is 4) interacts with both hard copy books and our iPad I can see the huge potential of providing students with interactive texts that allow them to access information that was traditionally found in books in an interactive multimedia format. Not only does this reflect Universal Design For Learning but the “On demand” nature of today’s world. Lets hope that the roadblocks to this can be overcome in a timely manner.

      • I agree, Will. One of my colleagues, Nurit, has suggested the iPad be the predominant tech for Division 1 (K-3). Having witnessed the difficulty of managing Grade 1s with laptops, I think she is on to something here.

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