Light Offerings

Are iPads sufficient for school 1:1 approaches?

Posted by jturner56 on April 14, 2013

This week a conjunction of three thought on 1:1 possibilities with iPads:

  1. Responsible Use discussions with teachers on the school provided laptop and how they view it as a personalized device. In my mind it is provided for three purposes. Firstly as a tool for curriculum development, delivery and interaction; secondly as a tool for administrative purposes; but thirdly also as a personal learning device with implications for developing a digital learning relationship. It is in part a personal learning and working device (which the teachers prefer to an iPad)
  2. Gary Stager’s succinct offering to a debate on Laptop v Tablet, where he decried the iPad for its lack of programming, robotics and advance film making capabilities against the functionality and construction potential afforded by a laptop.
  3. Planning for the next stage of the iPad use within a school which had 1:1 laptops from Grade 5 onwards. Over the past two years we have gradually been introducing iPads as part of a differentiated approach to learning (including laptops and physical materials) in lower grade levels. In support of this we feel iPads have potential for development of literacy and numeracy in young students (how young may change as we move forward) and in support of connected global learning and information literacy as identified in Mishra and Koehler’s paper as keys for effective learning in the digital age. We have built up a four leveled approach – exploration, trial, project, team – and are starting to contemplate 1:1 (in lower levels).

Also taken into consideration were several contentions, including those who feel school “aren’t ready for iPads“, and unfortunately an example when iPads have been used as testing tool or reward system. Finally mindful of the Apple intention for the iPad as a personal and personalized device.

Let me start by saying I support Gary’s assertion that the laptop is still the better personal construction for learning device. However, the iPad can also be useful for supporting and enhancing many learning objectives. This includes support for inquiry learning and cloud-related digital literacies. To me it is not an either-or debate.

For teachers, and from a certain student level, the relationship between laptops as iBook creators and iPads as iBook reader / interactor is demanding careful consideration. At our school a Grade 8 Science project, where students use laptops to create for publishing on the iBooks store, and Mathematics considering creating Mathematics iBooks for learning, are promising examples of constructed, constructive, connected, curriculum learning. There is still much work to be done in this area.

My concerns are that once again we are debating the technology, when we should be clear first what learning we want to value, and in what ways. I too remain concerned about the lack of programming value in school curriculum, and in the minds of school leaders. I see too often 1:1 defined in terms of resourcing and/or curriculum addition only. But I also remain hopeful that with the right digital tools teachers and schools can keep moving forward. While laptops have a unrealized potential in many areas, iPads too have potential if we are clear in what learning we value. It does not have to be purely a consumption device. Cost, access, choice v control, and personalization are all practical considerations to this end.

It’s sometimes easy to slay dragons by putting up one clearly defined dragon. School learning is more complex than that, and in fast changing times unified sense of purpose should be what supports forward thinking learning communities. Unfortunately Gary’s statement that “there are pronouncements of how iPads will revolutionize or transform education, without a coherent vision of what that might look like or a single example rooted in practice” has been apt for too many technologies from PCs onwards from too  any people (many in powerful decision-making positions). Let’s not just move the same debate to the next technology. Let’s look deeper, and Gary’s always consistent extolling of laptop learning potential is an adroit consideration.


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