In a previous post, I tried to begin reflecting on what I have learned from a second iPad pilot this past year in my high school environmental science class. I was simply looking at the iPad as a tool, one that can replace other non-digital tools. Yeah, it IS pretty handy.
Since then, I’ve been wrestling with the harder question(s): Does using an iPad make for better teaching and learning?
I think I am indecisive because of several reasons:
1. Headline hype. Since its release, there has been much hype about the iPad as a transformative piece of technology. Do a quick Google search, and you will get articles like this one; Apple’s iPad Transforming Education. Catchy title, but if you read the short piece, what more do you learn than the “easy stuff” in my previous post. The focus is on the capabilities of the too to move paper resources to digital ones, not transforming learning. I see so many articles about the tool and few about teaching/learning, so it makes it hard to measure what I am doing with the tool. While I follow the Twitter hashtag #ipadchat, I find myself disappointed as the vast amount of tweets are about the next new app or worse, another massive list of THE BEST APPS for your classroom. More often than not, an app simply allows one to replace a pen/paper task with a digital one.
2. The difficulty of looking from outside back in. A colleague reminded me the other day that I spend my time sharing with and learning from a PLN (personal learning network) that is rather homogeneous. If I share what I am doing, they are not surprised (or impressed, I guess). I get little push back. I think it takes push back for me to justify why what I am doing is worthwhile, why it is beneficial to student learning. While I have gotten a few emails this year from teachers across the USA considering implementing iPads in their classrooms, they are looking for a roadmap to implementation-there is no push back.
So, where does that leave me? Still a bit cloudy. I guess one measurement could be student surveys…
When I asked my students about learning with iPad1 in Costa Rica, I got mixed feedback. With only 6 students on that trip, I had a pretty small sample size. While easy to carry, some students would rather have a laptop if they need to do a lot of typing. I had a hard time getting the students to describe whether or not the iPad enhanced the “learning experience.” Maybe the had a hard time because it didn’t?
This fall, after about six weeks with the iPads I gave my environmental science students this prompt in a survey: How have the iPads change the way you learn or complete course work? What were the positives and negatives of bringing in iPads instead of a traditional notebook during the second unit? Did they enhance your learning or provide too many sources of distraction? If you have trouble with these prompts, imagine this course without the iPads-think back to the first unit…
This class, now equipped with iPad2, and a wider selection of apps than my previous group, offered the following:
They are good for taking notes.
I think that the Ipads were really hard to use at first maybe it was just for me but I feel like I could have done that first project and lab a whole lot better on a regular computer.
it has made it a little confusing but a good tool. Sometimes i forget assignments because of it but i am starting to like it more and more.
Personally I am a rather unorganized person and the iPad allows me to keep my notes together in one place that is easy for me to find, also it has been very helpful in creating notes and power-points for my other classes. The only thing that struggled with was adjusting to the iPad during the first couple of weeks. I had never even held on before and it took me a good three weeks to become completely comfortable with them.
They have definitely helped with everything they make life a lot easier.
The iPads help so much! I use them in this class and both of my English’s. It is also helpful because I don’t have a laptop at home, so I can just pick this up and start writing. I also use dropbox in my other classes. I don’t mind not being able to download fun apps, because they would distract me. But I wish I could download some of my own music on the iPad to listen to when I’m writing a paper or doing homework.
everything is much more accessible. no matter what im doing, i can check hw and what not.
So, there seems to be a common theme here-organization and efficiency? Again, a small sample size. I did not even ask the same question at the end of the year. This class was mostly seniors, and by the end of the year the iPad might as well have been a paperweight. Once in college, they lost some of the motivation to work (or learn). I can’t tell you honestly that much magic was happening spring semester…
How about a larger sample size? We’ve been running other 1:1 iPad pilot classes at my school this year. When a wider group of students was surveyed (64), there were a few robust opinions. A majority of students reported benefits in terms of organization and ease of taking notes.
So, in conclusion…I guess I am still a bit unclear on what I’ve accomplished this year. I easily see the potential for the iPad to help students with efficiency, organization, communication. It does make running a blended classroom a bit easier-blogging tools are always in the students hands. But, again, I don’t think that is necessarily transformative.
What I don’t think I’ve taken advantage of yet is the creative potential of the device. As I was writing this post, I saw this tweet:
There is real potential for the device to a powerful portfolio for student work-or at least using the device to access sites to store student work. Maybe that is the next thing to explore…
I’d love to hear from anyone out there struggling with similar issues.