Shifting Conversations: iPads in Education

I am quite amazed at the transition that is taking place in education. After attending the Florida Education Technology Conference, and reconnecting with many of the amazing educators I have had the pleasure of getting to know on Twitter and elsewhere, I have noticed the depth of conversations about the integration of technology and particularly iPads has shifted. While I am sure that there are many educators out there who still have not used iPads in education, the ones who now have a year or two of integrated use of these devices have shifted their analysis of the value that they bring to education. Generally, the initial conversations were theoretical and dealt with the surface level outcomes to be reached. As conversations have moved forward, there is more of a blend of pedagogy, curricular outcomes and real assessment of the learning processes that students are are engaged in. I have seen amazing lists of apps sorted into Bloom’s taxonomy, but going even further I have seen highly developed criteria for assessing the value of an app.

In my current school, we are looking at taking a significant number of apps off of the iPads, as they aren’t meeting our developing need to use these devices in a more focused and less ‘edutaining’ way. We are developing a committee and criteria to do this, a way to maintain the educational integrity of this technology and move the iPad fully from toy to tool in the classroom and move out of the ‘wow’ factor and solidify its position as a regularly accessible technology.

On the converse side, the concept of gamification of education is taking hold and maintaining traction in education. I don’t think that this is an either/or scenario. I really think that true gamification, the use of game design and immersive game-based learning is a far different thing than using edutainment to rehearse a concept as a worksheet might. Gamification is not about a device, but rather an environment, and is really quite distinct to using a tool like the ipad educationally. I will write more about both of these concepts soon, as I am completing more research on game-based learning, but in my research and mind, I see iPad implementation as significantly different, even as the depth of gamification increases as well.

I’m curious to know if others are seeing this shift as well, and whether you have seen your own conversations around iPads in education changing. If so, let me know what you think the key takeaways are, and how you are distinguishing the valuable apps from the ones that are less about learning, and more about entertainment.

Twitter in the Classroom – A Presentation

As my blog was lost to the great interweb in the sky after the shutdown of my previous site, I am going to spend a little time posting some of the resources I had listed on my previous site.  Today, the start of some presentations I gave last year at this time.  This one is about Using Twitter in the Classroom.

Please note that these are simply PDFs of the presentations with some basic notes. I am available to give this talk (updated of course) either in person or recorded asynchronously for those who would find it helpful.  Also, I would not advocate the use of Twitter below the age of 13, when students can legally have an account, and even then, only with close involvement from parents for educational use.

Click to access twitter-in-the-classroom-getca.pdf

Some of the keys in this presentation include links to Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, a coupling of the ISTE general standards to teaching students how to use Twitter effectively, and a basic overview (from Common Craft) of what Twitter is.  Hope you enjoy!

Why iPads are (Still) Great for Education

I don’t actually hear as many people asking the question, “Why iPads?” as much as I used to.  It seems that in the last year, the value of ‘the little tablet that did’ has been solidified, and there are fewer asking why.  What I do hear now are the questions of whether competitors or other technology could be as valuable to education. I believe that the iPad is a solid investment for schools and districts for many of the same reasons that prompted me to see them as viable initially, though there have been some developments I think few of us could have predicted at the onset of this technology.  So, here are my top five reasons that iPads are still relevant, and so far, the best option for educators looking to add technology to their education environments.

Ease of Use

The iPad is a simple device to use.  I have had them in the house throughout the entire life of my youngest son, and it is at times easier for him to use than many toys that were designed for his age group.  While I would never look to a device to replace physical toys, puzzles and the like, as these items have important developmental functions, the fact that a toddler can pick up an iPad, find an app and use it effectively speaks to the lack of ‘training’ these devices require.  As I will discuss further, the physical use of a computer should not be the limiting factor in being productive or learning with it, and laptops and certain other tablets still require an inherent knowledge of operating systems and processes to use.  iPads do not require this sort of training, and as such, an iPad loaded with quality content is accessible quickly and easily.

The Ecosystem

I read a great deal about the Apple ecosystem these days, and little of it is positive.  People don’t like being tied to a single hardware producer for accessing their content.  While I see the value of having the ability to move to other product distributors, I also see the immense benefit of knowing that what I purchase will always be there.  I know of few technology companies that have the ‘staying power’ of Apple.  I think of the money I spent in university on Palm device software that are now defunct, and it makes me thankful for an ecosystem like Apple’s.  I know software is vetted effectively, that it will continue to run on the hardware it was designed for, and that I have a managed process of accessing that software.  My Palm software years ago was purchased individually, and if a company stopped producing updates or distributing the product, you had no recourse save from the developer themselves.  Apple is really trying to make the system simple for users, and though it also comes across as controlling, it does have benefit to the consumer. So much benefit in fact that others have tried to emulate this ecosystem from its inception.

Device Management

I have spent many years around portable electronic devices, and I appreciate more than many the difficulties of large-scale deployment (or small scale deployment for that matter) of devices.  Apple has created tools and offers them freely to manage, mirror and distribute to devices for large scale deployment.  There is an interesting subset of companies now devoted to micro managing images and deployment that may be very useful in some situations, but Apple is willing to support through software, knowledge bases and even direct expert support, the use of its devices.  As consumers, it is easy to poke at the giant and say they are not doing enough, but Apple does offer for free many of the solutions that other companies leave to secondary companies.  That said, all of the setup and implementation I have done I have been able to do without Apple support directly, which again speaks to the simplicity of the Apple systems in setting up and managing their devices.

Cultural Relevance

I’ll be honest, I see many more Android devices in the wild than I used to, but I also think that it was only a matter of time until I did.  Some people have different needs than an iPad for their tablet use.  However, invariably when I see devices used in a professional setting, it is an iPad.  Culturally, the iPad is a device that is relevant and used.  Some will scoff at using cultural relevance as a reason to make a technology purchase, but I saw the same thing said as a reason not to purchase Macs when Microsoft Office was leading the pack.  If it is what business, media and the general public have embraced, we in education should at least be looking at the possibilities it holds as the tool our students may best prepare themselves with for the future.

Creative Tools

The iOS app store is the most active development environment on the planet right now, and there are literally new creations daily for educators to test and use in the classroom.  While other platforms can offer new apps daily as well, the sheer number of developers working in iOS makes it the standard today.  While this may not always be so, I want the newest and most varied selection of tools to use in my classroom, and iPads offer this.

This is not an exhaustive list, and I am encouraged that I have recently talked to who had reasons of their own about iPads in education.  What I am also encouraged by is the value of the iPad mini to the educational sphere, with its own list of interesting benefits, it offers a new form factor to the mix of iOS devices.  I see it as a welcome addition, particularly in the ability to run full-size iPad apps in a smaller device.

What do you think of iPads in education?  Has the technology peaked, or do you think there is still something ‘magical’ about this device that so changed the landscape for educators.