Thursday, February 24, 2011

My 2 cents worth about the iPad

My 2 cents literally (taken with my Nikon CoolPix)
In response to a colleague’s email about what the iPads might be used for, I had to write this little post.
“What prevents the students from chatting, playing games, etc.?” Nothing and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  Chatting in the “real” world is better known as collaboration and group work.  Yes, it needs to be directed, but who is to say we couldn’t do that?  Also, gaming and game theory are much more on the forefront of business and education than they used to be.  I am just starting a book, Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal  that is about why games make us better and can change the world. 
Okay, so I would agree that the iPad is not necessarily the ONLY option for educational use and that the article doesn’t say HOW they would use it, but I have found that the apps that are focused on educational and organizational objectives are pretty well-designed.  However, I am coming at this from more of a K-12 viewpoint than a higher education one.  Since I teach K-12 teachers, I see using it with them so that they would know how to incorporate it into their classroom.  Also, for more information about how the iPad could be used in schools, please check out the iPad curriculum pages from Palm Beach County Schools in Florida here and look at the Applications section. They have it divided up into apps for Elementary, Middle, and High School.  I would assume that these are the apps that all of the iPads would have on them. These apps have been selected by teachers who have reasons for needing them in class.
iPad :)photo © 2010 Rego Korosi | more info (via: Wylio)

I am still undecided about the usefulness of the iPad for production rather than consumption use. For example, I have downloaded and use Penultimate, a notebook app, but  I would still prefer to write on paper as my handwriting is never read very well by optical reader software.  And I type faster than I write in longhand anyway.  I would say at least 75% of the apps I have downloaded and would use in a classroom are focused on consumption, i.e. using the app to play a game or review course content. 

Personally, I don’t see me using the iPad to create word processing documents, presentations, or spreadsheets. I think the best tool for me is my desktop or laptop with the full Microsoft Office suite. I am also not able to use the iPad for many of the free Web 2.0 tools I use to teach my class because they are Flash-based and will not run on the iPad OS. I see that many technology tools are needed for me to be the best teacher I can be. And here is another author's take on the iPad. So take from these ideas what you will.

I don’t know that any one device will ever serve the needs of all of our higher education students and faculty. We may want to consider what our needs are and what device meets those needs the best.  I hear that HP has 3 different sizes of tablet computers coming out soon in 3 different sizes with e-reader software.  Perhaps e-textbooks is what we really want to use tablets like the iPad or Galaxy for instead of as a substitute for a robust computer like a laptop or desktop.

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