Thursday, March 31, 2011

tech thursday: iPads in school

Growing up, we'd always receive a list of school supplies that needed to be purchased. It included things like notebooks, folders, crayons, pencils. As I progressed through the school system, the list expanded to include calculators and then the oh-so-expensive graphing calculator. And I wasn't even good at math.

The iPad may be the next supply on your kids' school supply list.

Last month, Converge Magazine ran a piece on iPads in K12 schools -- examining various pilot projects. The article outlines uses, strengths and limitations of the tool as a learning device. Advantages? Touch screen, predictable user experience, long battery life, no cords needed and fabulous for browsing/book reading. Some of the disadvantages? It's not a tool that really can be shared simultaneously between students, and it's not a great tool for typing long documents.

{{Insert sarcasm: when did it EVER occur to someone that an iPad was an appropriate tool to type a long document?}}

Admittedly, some times new technology is purchased and integrated before we fully know how to harness it effectively -- and purposefully -- in the classroom. We oftentimes get tangled up in the "cool" factor. Or we try to adapt new tools to old methodologies (i.e. using the iPad to write long narratives).

This ed tech mom believes that we need to develop technology tools that engage our kids in deeper learning -- core content skills and knowledge with complex cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem solving.

We all have used our iPads or iPhones to entertain our kids (admit it, if you've got one - - you've done it!). Here are a few ways the iPad can engage our kids in deep learning:
  • iThoughts: Have you seen this fabulous little tool that allows you to concept map (or mind map) with your iPhone or iPad? Being able to organize and visualize thought processes is a critical strategic thinking skill. The iPad can bring that to life -- and allow our kids to save, store and digitally retrieve them.
  • Multimedia Creation/iMovie: No one disputes that the iPad is THE perfect browsing solution for digital video and photos. The iPad is a perfect way to create multimedia. I believe that multimedia creation is an excellent way to synthesize thoughts, which allows children (well, all of us actually!) to construct meaning and share that knowledge in an authentic context.
  • On-Demand Video Browser: If your child is interested in a certain topic, they can browse and view videos right from the device. Virtually anywhere.
  • E-Books/Interactive Books: The iPad allows for educational developers to create learning tools that are interactive. So rather than just reading a text book (I'm not a complete convert -- still love to crack open a book myself!), our children can be fully immersed in a learning environment that lets them click on hyperlinks to more information, access data in real time, manipulate 3D illustrations and more.
  • Tactile development: You all know I have a toddler at home. The iPad allows her to simulate activities like finger painting or letter tiles because of it's touch screen capabilities. I'm definitely NOT for giving up the messy art activities, but sometimes it's not always practical to have a painting free-for-all (which it inevitably ends up being). This is a great tool for those times!
So - - weigh in. Do you want your child bringing their iPad to and from school?

Technology Thursday is a joint project of Classic Play! and (cool) progeny. Each week, both blogs will be taking on a family-technology-related issue. We invite you to join the conversation!

Recent discussions in this series:

It's all in the Apps
Rules for Facebooking
How much is too much?
Do you take your coffee with a splash of Smart Phone?

... and more! Just search "tech thursday" on either blog!

Image Credit: Today's iPhone


Jen C said...

You know, my initial reaction is: I'm not pro ipad for schools. At least not for elementary aged kids.

First of all, they're expensive. I'd be happier with the schools investing in playground equipment or musical instruments or books for the library.

But I'm very interested to see where this goes!

Heather Weisse Walsh said...

Actually, if you look at overall budgetary expenses, iPads are more economical for schools. Not only are they less expensive than providing a laptop (or equivalent) for every child, e-text books are less expensive and provide more learner flexibility than their printed counterparts. So - - at a strictly budgetary level, iPads might make a whole lotta sense.

That said, do I want my hypothetical kindergartner playing on an iPad rather than learning a musical instrument or running around on the playground? Nope.

It all comes down to balance in my mind.

But we have to deal with realities too. Technology is changing the way our kids learn. Not just the methodology in how we teach them, but this physiological processes for how we (humans) process information. The iPad has some very sound and creative ways for engaging our kids in the deep learning -- and the accessing/synthesizing/processing of information for problem solving -- that I want my child to have.

Do I want this instead of a hands-on-science experiment? Nope.

It's all about balance. (Yeah, I know I'm repeating myself).

Anonymous said...

I'm such an apple groupie, the only respectable thing to do is abstain. Hard to find a downside that holds water past implementation.