iPads in Education

Innovating education with technology.

You Want iPads For Your School ... But Is That Enough?

Everywhere I turn schools seem to be buying iPads. Critics, even in this forum, question whether investment in a relatively new and untested technology can be justified, especially given the current economic climate. To some degree, I think their scepticism has merit.

Buying iPads for your school may not improve the standard of education.

Technology is a tool. The issue of greater consequence should be how you plan to use them. To be clear, this isn't a question of whether you should use this particular app or that app. Overall, I think the whole "iPad discussion" centers far too much on a review and critique of available apps. The particular app that you use for Math or the cloud app you use for collecting documents all have their purpose on a micro level. The macro question however is one of vision...

"How will I use new technology to change the fundamental practice of education?"

You see, without a clear vision your educational dollars may in fact be wasted.

If you want iPads so that you can distribute digital reading material to support a largely teacher driven, content based program ... it's not enough.

If you want iPads so that children can practice drills without any knowledge or context of how the skill being drilled has relevance to their daily life ... it's not enough.

If you want iPads so that you can develop and disseminate flash cards that help students cram for testing ... it's not enough.

If you want iPads because you envision them improving education by making existing processes more efficient ... it's not enough.

And of course, if you want iPads because they're cool and everyone else is buying them ... that's clearly not enough.

On the other hand...

Maybe you want iPads because they can enable students to access and evaluate vast pools of knowledge in order to help them resolve problems and form original opinions?

Maybe you want iPads because they provide an instant gateway for students to research themes that have intrinsic interest to them?

Maybe you want iPads because we live in a global society and iPads are an excellent way to communicate and collaborate with people around the world?

Maybe you want iPads because they have an integrated camera and microphone thereby allowing students to express themselves in a variety of media instead of purely text?

Maybe you want iPads because you see them as tools that may enable education that is both differentiated by abilities and interest?

Maybe you want iPads because you see that it might ignite student motivation to learn.

Maybe you want iPads because you recognize that they help students with less resources tap into their creative potential to develop music, art, photography and more.

Maybe you want iPads because you have a vision of how they might empower students to pursue their passions and take greater control over the path of their own education?

We're still talking about bringing education into the 21st century - yet we're already eleven years into it. Our society, culture and industry are all forging ahead at exponential speed leaving the practice of education in their wake. We could quote overused cliches such as, "it's not about the technology" but frankly finding ways to place technology in our schools is an important first step. However it's just a first step. Technology has become a core component of almost every facet of our daily lives but modernizing education requires significantly more commitment than simply providing students with access to technology.

Are you buying iPads or other technology because you see an urgent need for change in our aging, "business as usual" system of education? If not, then it's simply not enough ... and our kids are screaming for more.



Sam Gliksman
Email: samgliksman@gmail.com
Twitter: @samgliksman


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Comment by Vic D'Sims on July 23, 2013 at 3:57pm

Definitely a Tutorial on HOW to and ADVANTAGES, as well as "watch out " for...xyz

Battery running out during peak teaching time, and every now and then a broken glass from a drop, could be corrected, if we know about carts, cases and other options. Site like these, and great Youtube vids helped me get a start. Even if small. 

Comment by Stacy Harris on August 9, 2011 at 1:58pm
I am going solo at my school! I am the only classroom with an ipad-- and I have just one for now. I already feel that I am missing a community of teachers with whom I could collaborate, share ideas and best practices and push ourselves. I love hearing about how teachers use ipads in their classrooms-- do tell!
Comment by Sam Gliksman on July 1, 2011 at 8:58am
Great observation about the fact that having dedicated, continuous access to technology allows people to invent new and creative uses for it. Thanks.
Comment by Tim Cooper on July 1, 2011 at 8:52am
These are great conversations to have. I agree that too much of the discussion has been app centric. I would like to think that I do many of the things listed in your "other hand" (as do many others) without iPads. Flip cameras, Skype, GarageBand/audacity, Scratch, Google Apps and other apps and technologies let this happen. My want for an iPad is practical more than philosophical. The iPad enables you to do much with one package. It has the same capabilities as much of the stuff listed above, but with a simple but incredibly reliable and focused operating system. I hope to spend less time setting up and fixing stuff, and more time doing stuff with my students. I also think from the evidence that we have seen with one to one laptop programs is that if a tool is your constant companion, you will invent useful ways to use that tool.
I don't think a tool will make me change my educational philosophy and we should not think that it will change teachers mind about how to teach. The iPad may come and go, but how we teach should be driven by our aspirations for kids ( that are often not attainable when we start) not by the latest technology. I am moved by how much more open the teachers I work with are to technology usage/interact when they see how easy to use the iPad is. I think there were many who wanted this type of educational setting, but did not think it practical.
We need to bring some people in hook, line and sinker and others in by baby steps. I have some teacher who will do much of their class on the iPad and others who will test the waters with a flash card app or a note taking app. Some of the inroads made in the later group will be a huge change with the possibility of even more change over time. I think the iPad and probably other tablets that emerge will sell themselves with the simplicity and then when it is around all the time people will invent (or reinvent for themselves) new uses. I am excited about the everydayness of the iPad. To shoot a movie in a class is not earth shattering but being able to express yourself or document your experience with a movie at any time is.
Comment by Jean Watts on June 30, 2011 at 7:10pm
I want them in my class, but first I want to know how to use the one I have, with an idea to better help them later. I don't want to go into it blind and merely "fall back" on the old ways for lack of my own experience. Even though I love exploring it so much I often forget to eat. That's how I want them to feel.
Comment by Dave Brown on June 30, 2011 at 2:29pm
Thank you for the response, Sam. I want to comment on your point on arithmetic. If I were to make a list of the greatest uses for the iPad in education, flash cards for math probably wouldn't make the top 50. But I also don't think we need to shortchange the value of such applications. Children need to know their basic facts, and if they can have access to flash cards that engage them more than traditional pencil and paper methods while also providing them with instaneous feedback and their teachers with additional time to focus on more thoughtful endeavors than marking drill work, I think that's something pretty cool thing. That being said, there are developers who are working hard to develop mathematical applications for the iPad that do more than recreate drill work. I just notice that all the greatest potential applications of the iPad you mention seem to be right-brain oriented.

Perhaps the greatest enhancement the iPad affords is its potential to shift the focus of education to become more student-centered. In my experience, one of the most frustrating things about not having iPads in my classroom is the deference of learning that occurs when my students get excited about a particular topic and then we need to research it "later" because we are disconnected. It really is a limitation when you can't pounce on that excitement immediately.
Comment by Sam Gliksman on June 30, 2011 at 2:24pm
Not at all Zach. Thanks for the contribution and I hope you find a fulfilling position soon.
Comment by Zack Ziaja on June 30, 2011 at 1:45pm

I agree with Dave--I hope I am not putting words in your mouth Dave--that the cart system is not a proper integration of the iPad's usefulness. I personally would like to see a 1:1 iPad integration, if we use them at all.

On my own rant, I love the iPad. I love what it can do. I love its seamless ease of use, but I am still iffy on the idea that iPads are a viable expenditure in this (American) education climate. I have never felt like a witch in Salem more than I do as an educator in America right now. I am a young teacher so I have been cut due to budget restrictions both of the 2 years I have taught full time. I would love to have iPads for each of my students so we can venture into the uncharted waters of the iPad in an English classroom together, but I feel that the programs and integration strategies are not yet set up in a way that I could use the iPad to its full potential.

I feel that the full potential of an iPad can't be realized with the restriction and rigidity that present school technology contracts or agreements (or whatever it is that your particular school uses to insure "safety" on the schools internet) entail. I think, as I believe Sam references, that the student must be free to create free of the restrictions of one app or limit, and should be free to discover his or her own path to learning. The iPad is so innovative and powerful a device, that it has rendered many a laptop lonely and forgotten save for the occasional sync or charge. I would love to let my students create songs for the Canterbury Tales on headphone in the back of the room or google during my lecture to find specific information, but I don't know that an administrator would look favorably on that practice during an evaluation or "drop-in visit" because one or two students may abuse the freedom by playing games or surfing unrelated topics. However, I feel the way education is headed, especially with the implementation of the iPad, is to a more student driven learning, requiring constant imput and interaction on the student's part to make the system work. Is the education system ready for that kind of shift right now? I tend to think—at least from my perspective--that it is not.

I don't know if I have answered any part of the question you have posed Sam, but, as a long time reader having never posted, I feel that my ranted needed to happen. I apologize to any I have offended or belabored in my rambling post.



Comment by Leah Lacrosse on June 30, 2011 at 12:21pm
From the perspective of using the iPads with my students on a daily basis in science, I have observed my use follow some of these themes. I was SUPER concerned with this app or that. I wanted to force the iPad into every single activity with a surface level of real integration potential. I found through many failed experiences that this integration of technology has a 'learning coaster' with many ups and downs. The best use came when I opened up the use to more creative possibilities, letting my students use the devices to showcase their ideas, imagination, and learning. We moved from simple consumption to more involved creation.

I think this is the path educators tend to take in using new tech. I don't think I'm the only one that had to ride the roller coaster of success and failures before it started to click! The key is in being observant, patient, and reflective. Watch the students. Listen to them. I have 115 minds working with me in 5th grade science!

And, it's ok to start out at the lower levels. If you stay there, that is unfortunate for the students.
Comment by Sam Gliksman on June 30, 2011 at 11:22am
Dave, I take your point. There does need to be easy access and seamless integration of iPad use. My concern however is that we're overly occupied with "integration" of iPads into existing curriculum and classroom practice. Instead I think we should be exploring how to reinvent what we do in school - utilizing some of the tremendous potential that exists in iPads. Children now have easy access to taking photos and movies, creating music, telling multimedia stories, connecting and communicating with authors, experts, artists, other schools and more. If the iPad is just a faster and better way to drill arithmetic problems then have we really improved our standard of education? What use is it placing these fantastic tools for creating visual imagery and music in the hands of kids if they continue to be asked to type a 3 paragraph essay summarizing a book they read?


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