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Why iPads? Reasons for educational use

We’ve got about 150 people in our office today for our third iPad conference of the year. Lots of buzz, lots of learning going on. It’s always fun watching people getting excited about how new tools can help their kids learn more.

Jann, Brandi, and Abe share ways of using Apple TV to integrate iPads into their high school classrooms

But there’s a problem.

I’ve seen it. Apple reps have seen it. Teachers and administrators who are currently using iPads in creative ways have seen it.

Here’s the problem.

Bandwagon jumping.

I love mobile devices. I love how mobile devices like iPads can be used for learning. I’ve seen them in classrooms and am absolutely convinced that when used appropriately, iPads make a difference.

But without a plan, without thinking about the process, spending money on iPads can be a disaster. Too many people are jumping into this without asking two very important questions – Why and How.

Schools and districts need to spend some quality time discussing whether or not iPads make sense in their situation. Who’s gonna use them? Who can download apps? What will they be used for? What professional development will happen with both admin types and teachers?

If you’ve started the process of asking these questions, Greg Kulowiec’s recent post is a must read. He’s got the Why covered. You need to head over and get the full story (he’s included some awesome student products that you really have to see) but here’s a quick synopsis:

  • Time & Space
    Greg quotes a colleague – “These things may seem trivial, but teaching is in many ways a battle against time, and tablets allow much more seamless transition between tech-on and tech-off activities.”
  • The iPad is Not a Computer
    The device shouldn’t be looked at as a computer, because it isn’t . . . it is more than that. I have read the arguments that suggest the iPad is a consumption based, single user device and I no longer find the argument valid. Take all of the above and throw it together into a device that doesn’t need a manual and can be figured out by nearly any student in a matter of minutes and it clearly becomes a viable device for 1:1 schools.
  • One User Device vs. Shared Device
    In an ideal world, iPads in schools would not be shared between students. (But) shared iPads can introduce students to the concept of cloud storage. Research can also become cloud based and collaborative. The process of group research, tagging and collaboration are all fostered because of the use of shared iPads.
  • All in One
    Is everything easy to do on an iPad? Absolutely not. The device takes getting used to and all apps are not equal in terms of functionality and ease of use. However, watching students quickly switch between research, writing, social bookmarking, listening to podcasts, watching videos, recording / editing a radio show, shooting a movie, or creating collage-like images allows one to quickly realize that all of this simply could not be done this intuitively on a computer.

We’ll cover the How later this week.

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