Using the iPad in the classroom

I’ve been asked in a number of school visits recently about the ways an iPad may be used in the classroom, so here are a couple of interesting resources I’ve come across. One is a Google slideshow titled 23 interesting ways to use an iPad in the classroom, and the other is a wiki called Making the most of your iPad. An interesting thing about both resources is that they have been created in a public online space, and released under a creative commons license – a sign of where innovation and the development of ideas is taking place.

In terms of the ideas shared in these resources, despite the impression that these resources may contain information of pedagogical value, the information provided is more of a list of applications that can be used, or the “top-of-head” ideas like “use it for web searching”, or “for sending emails”. It’s probably an indication of the relative “new-ness” of the technology. I guess we’ll have to wait a while before we see cool ideas emerge that demonstrate the real potential of these devices beyond simply ‘doing on a cool-looking portable device the things we used to do on our laptops and desktops.” I know that the touch interface changes that experience – but I’ve yet to see the well-thought through evidence of exactly how this is providing pedagogical advantage. Don’t get me wrong – I’m optimistic that it will emerge, just saying that what we have now is probably indicative of the fact that we’re still at the ‘fascination with the tool’ stage, and not quite at the ‘appropriation and innovative use’ stage.

It should also be noted that while we still seem to be in the early stages of discovering the pedagogical value of these devices, the technology itself is still also in early stage of development, as commentators such as Jeff Utecht and the team at Ed Galaxy point out.

A recent article in the TES titled The iPad and the Academy is a move down the right path I feel, with an examination of the features of the device in the context of how they might impact on classroom teaching and learning (in this case, tertiary). The rather philosophical comment at the conclusion of the article could provide the catalyst for some interesting staffroom or workshop discussion:

Obsolescence is a necessary part of capitalist exchange. As sociologist Thorstein Veblen described in his thesis of “conspicuous consumption”, wastefulness confirms class and status. If a shopper can waste money on extravagant goods and services, they “perform” affluence. The iPad is an object of desire and opportunity: it is also an example of waste.

But for academics, the platform enhances daily teaching and research. In an age when universities’ core functions are under threat, the gadget offers a vision disconnected from the crumbling teaching and learning experiences in our libraries and classrooms.

8 thoughts on “Using the iPad in the classroom

  1. Hi Derek
    I heard a rather interesting ipad possibility last night. One of my husband’s staff has a young adult autistic son who is non-communicative except for limited signing. They are looking at using an ipad with him to help with his communication skills (it is clear he understands a lot more than he can currently communicate). The rationale includes the highly responsive touch screen, plus portability and size.

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    1. Thanks for this example Sonja – it’s the sort of thing we ought to be exploring and developing ideas around. The key is what sort of pedagogical difference are we seeing, how might its use transform learning, rather than simply more of the same.

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  2. Thanks Derek,
    For the past several months I have followed your blog as part of a assignment. I will admit that I have learned many helpful hints and ideas to incorporate into my teaching duties at a university accelerated nuring program. I subscribe to a feed that keeps me updated. You are doing a stellar job of providing a venue for educational knowledge advancement. Thanks again

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  3. I like the idea of using iPads in the classroom if there is real educational value. My experience being secondary education – and as an iPad owner, I’ve yet to see the educational value over a net book that is half the cost? I still see it as more of a consumption tool compared to a creation tool. It may be my lack of creativity acting as a barrier. I suppose as a replacement of textbooks it works (which is how I use it – as a reader for blogs, news, magazines, books). I just get the impression that we are expecting more from them. I’d love to hear of ways that iPads are being used to support learning in ways that a net book or cheaper e-reader could not (critical thinking not recall).

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    1. I’m in full agreement here, Jaclyn. We need those good examples to demonstrate what is possible – not simply lists of apps that have potential appeal. I to would love to see and hear of some of these examples.

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  4. Hi Derek

    Trouble with the ipad is that in small hands it can hardly be called a ‘handheld’ . Handheld learning is of course heralded in many quarters and I for one will be trying to put some ipod touches into the classrooms to see how they sit in different areas within my establishment. The trouble with all the touch devices is that they require a fundamental shift in how things are taught of course. I could see the ipad and ipod touch format being extremely useful when pulling resources together(photos, links etc), chatroom collaboration when doing something over extended range with teams where portability is the key. Hardware keyboards simply get in the way in many situations when you need a hand free for something else.

    The ipod touch especially (and ipad v2) will be useful in PE for immediate feedback from videoing e.g. athletics but better than a video cam for example as you can pull down resources straight away to help you e.g. youtube vid of professional athlete, google searches for physio arguments, apps for recording improvements etc and even being able to drag stuff immediately into e-portfolio e.g. my first basketball dunk!

    However, have to agree that the ipad by itself is probably not been investigated far enough to improve pedagogy. That said, I’m not sure that if I were to introduce iPads into my school that I would do it without the capability to attach peripherals such as keyboard and ipad mount so that it could be used in multiple situations.

    One of the biggest concerns from a senior school level is that you cannot create accts on the ipad. It is a personal device so there will be a level of teaching in how not to change settings to suit yourself (as another user will need next) and where/how to save work etc

    Interesting acct at http://www.handheldlearning.co.uk/content/view/64/ although still nothing sweeping in terms of pedagogical improvements. Interesting bit is “It’s not specifically the iPad that is the silver bullet here but the era of new style of invisible, matter of fact, computing that it arrives with it. Any manufacturer that doesn’t have an iPad like device by end of 2011 will be out of the game at least where end-users / consumers are concerned. The impact that this new style of computing will have will need to be reflected in the way we integrate technology into our teaching practice. ”

    Great blogs BTW!

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