I've benefited greatly from taking the role of a learner with technology over these last couple of years and as a result, I have first hand knowledge of what it feels like to learn with technology. The most important lesson I've learned over this period is that the device does matter! If we want to help teachers and students learn how to harness the endless possibilities for learning available on the web, we need to utilize a tool like the iPad. And since there isn't really another tool like the iPad in versatility, reliability and flexibility, the iPad is the tool. In my last article I made the argument for every school to consider a 1:1 program and the intent of this article is to lay out 7- additional reasons why every school should ensure that the iPad is the tool of choice for their 1:1 program.
Natural User Interface- There has never been another piece of technology with both the power of an iPad and the functionality to allow for such a wide range of users. We have all seen and heard many tremendous examples of children at the age of 1- being amazingly fluent on an iPad. We have also seen examples of those 100 years and beyond learning how to stay in contact with loved ones, learning and entertaining themselves with ease on their iPad. Today's schools represent an incredibly diverse set of users with very different needs. They need a tool that anyone with any range of skills and intellect can pick up and use naturally. There has never been a tool as capable as the iPad for providing meaningful, engaging content to that wide a range of users.
Instant On/All Day Battery Life/Ability to Personalize- Okay, technically these are 3- reasons, but I think they are better all linked together because they all signify incredible time savers to classroom teachers. This is important, because one of the biggest hurdles to using technology on a regular basis in schools is that it hasn't traditionally been an exercise that allows the teacher to save valuable instructional time. Unfortunately, most teacher's attempts at incorporating technology into their lessons involved spending endless amounts of time getting the computer to turn on, logging in to the students' accounts and troubleshooting a tremendous number of "technical difficulties." The result of this frustration and drain on class time is that most teachers, even those with the best intentions, were forced back into more of a traditional instructional model. No teacher has that kind of class time to donate to these types of frustrations. The iPad turns on instantly, begins with whatever task you were using last, and stays powered up all day long. The fact that each student has a device that they can personalize to the degree they can an iPad removes most of the technical difficulties associated with using more traditional computing tools. Students aren't chained to a charging cord and consequently a static location all day. The result of all of this is that this is the first tool available to classroom teachers that will actually allow them to utilize technology to maximize learning time and provide greater ability for students to learn both individually and collaboratively.
iCloud- I've written on the benefits of the iCloud before, but when thinking about which device a school should choose, the iCloud is an important factor for many reasons. Not only does it make storage of student creations effortless,the iCloud also presents the opportunity for significant cost savings for a school district. The fact that school districts would no longer have to provide for copious amounts of storage space should allow schools to experience significant costs savings not only in network space, but also network support. Many schools are looking into cloud based solutions to provide these cost savings. The iPad comes complete with this solution and the ease of use means that little time is spent teaching students how to save and find their material. The iCloud is a tremendous tool which Apple understands and is dedicated to making as strong as possible.
iTunes U- Speaking of tools with a tremendous amount of potential for schools, iTunes U is probably the tool with the most potential. iTunes U allows educators to create and share a wide variety of educational content. If there's anything teachers like to do, it's create and share. Earlier examples of this would include the incredible networks that have been established among SMART and Promethean interactive white board users. With the strong gathering currently being developed around the flipped learning network, the availability of resources, and the sheer number of iPads being deployed in schools around the nation, iTunes U is going to be a location full of tremendous tools for use in any school with iPads.
Apple TV Mirroring- The ability for staff and students alike to use the iPad as a presentation tool is a real asset to schools. Never have teachers been able to present engaging learning material as easily as they can through the mirroring capabilities provided through the use of an iPad, $99 Apple TV unit and a digital projector. This functionality provides a wireless method for displaying content with students and the flexibility to switch between student devices and a teacher device effortlessly. No time is wasted trying to plug in cords and you aren't bound by the location of the cord. What I've observed in classrooms with this technology are levels of sharing and collaboration never seen before. In fact, what I've heard from teachers utilizing this technology is that their interactive white board is no longer needed. Not only is the interactive white board not needed, but the document cameras aren't needed either. With the aide of a device to hold the iPad, the camera functionality serves as a wonderful document camera. Simply turn on the camera app, and whatever is placed under the iPad is displayed for all to see just as a document camera would have traditionally done. The iPad gives teachers one tool that accomplishes everything that a table full of tools were needed to do before.
Iconic Status- Let's face it, the iPad and Apple for that matter are at an iconic status. All of us traditional PC users can continue to turn a blind eye to this fact, but this new generation of tech users can't and won't turn a blind eye. They don't have the same old preconceived notions getting in their way that we do. They simply want the most powerful tool with the greatest functionality available for their needs and in most cases, Apple makes this device. Just look around, most youth and anyone who is anyone is using an Apple device. You can like that fact or not, but it's still true. I can't remember a time when schools could provide all students with a learning tool that they REALLY want.
The device does matter if you really want to transform teaching and learning. If you only want to implement technology for technology's sake, buy any technology you want. However if your want to implement technology for the purpose of changing the way that teachers teach and the way students learn, then the iPad is the tool that will give your teachers and students alike the best opportunity to be successful with this goal. Please check out great classroom examples that showcase the possibilities of student success with the iPad at www.ipadpd.com
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI
Picture Attribution: www.ipadpd.com