iPads in the Classroom – Yea, Nay, or Meh?

Flipboard

I’ve recently been tuned into FlipBoard.  FlipBoard is a social network aggregation – a site that compiles “magazines” of topics in which you’ve indicated an interest.  I’m following Blended Learning, ESL, Innovation, Teaching with Tech, etc.  Flipboard then sends out its internet minions to scour blogs, news-sites, etc. for anything tagged with the interests I’ve noted, and then arranges the articles in multiple magazine tabs.  It’s cool. Also, it’s overcoming Twitter as my first morning go-to app over coffee.

So, Flipboard finds the articles, and makes a magazine.  The articles are pulled from any number of sites, which would account for an, er, interesting layout.  On the front page of my “blended learning” magazine was an article from TIME magazine denouncing the use of iPads in the classroom.  Well, maybe “denounce” isn’t the right word; cautioning might be better.  The title of the article is “Why We Need to Keep Ipads Out of the Classroom.”   Opposite this story, which I read immediately, was this one: “Glued to the Screen: A Third Grade Class where Kids Spend 75% of the Day on an iPad”.   The two stories were on opposite ends of the tech-in-the-classroom spectrum.  Both stories had good arguments.

And then there’s this one: They’re Not Paperweights: An iPad Program that Works.  I have an iPad; I’ve had it for over a year. I can imagine how I would use iPads with my learners.  The apps we could use!  The ease of research… being able to access the LMS right in the class instead of the lab.  Even as a proclaimed “techie”, I much prefer the classroom over the sterile computer lab.  My walls are full of old-school student-produced collages, brainstorming activities, collections of work over the term, etc.

I’ve been working on how to improve learners’ digital literacy for some time now.  The adult learners in my SLT program range in their digital competencies and confidence levels.  We have group projects where the learners can gain the skills they’ve identified that they would like to work on; some would be happy learning how to navigate the web, using browsers and search engines while others want more and are equally happy to take on the the daunting task of website creation via www.wix.com or animated presentations throughwww.powtoon.com.

Half the time, I’m learning the skills along with the students.  For instance, an advanced learner came across some challenges with her website page; the mobile app wouldn’t display text in the right alignment as the webpage.

I’m thrilled when these problems present themselves during a task.  My first point of direction is to ask the learner to check the help menu.  She scans it for her particular problem.  If that doesn’t work, we take it to a Google search engine – which is not as easy as you’d think, because you have to make sure you’re phrasing the question or query accurately enough to get the right hits.  Usually, the answer presents itself in some forum, video or document somewhere on the web.  Very few tech problems are unique; somewhere someone out there has stumbled on the same problem as you have.  And they’ve sought help in the great http://www. 

I‘ve said it before, but tech tools are just that – tools.  iPads, apps, or software can take a lesson to new levels, or they can bog you down.  In the end, it’s about the task and the learning.  If a paper and pen are the better modality for the task, then use paper and pen.  It’s not just about using tech.  Tech for tech’s sake doesn’t work. It’s about how learning can be augmented, improved, and redesigned using tech…

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