iPad hype vs hope
Posted November 5, 2010on:
Not too long ago I reflected on the hype over hope surrounding the iPad in education. I’m revisiting that theme because of what I experienced at our TE21 summit session on Tuesday.
I heard from three very different groups here in NIE about their interest in the iPad. Two staff members wondered if I had anything to do with the mass email that circulated some time back asking staff members if they wanted iPads. (That was some other party and shame on them for not getting back to us. And shame on Apple for not being more proactive in taking advantage of this opportunity!)
As we had visitors from schools, I learnt that there might be yet another iPad initiative in a local secondary school. I had previously consulted for another secondary school that was thinking of doing the same thing.
To all parties I say this: Don’t fall into the cool tool trap.
Do I love my iPad? Yes. Would I recommend it as a ubiquitous computing device in schools? Not necessarily.
Schools need to first have in place a reliable and wide ranging wireless Internet access. If they are thinking of a school-owned model for iPads, then they need to build up device storage and syncing capacity. Far better that they go for the user-owned model. The “problems” in the latter model (e.g., non-standard content) are opportunities to bring about change.
As they do this, they must simultaneously examine ways that the mobile technology will be use to transform teaching and learning. If they are going to do the same thing with new tools, then I suggest they save their time, effort and money.
The iPads are good for user consumption and self-directed learning. They are not quite there yet for various forms of user-generated content and meaningful collaborative work (e.g., shared Google Docs and wikis). Netbooks and laptops are far better options. However, they could be very powerful in the areas of art and music with the appropriate apps.
I think that adopting iPads because others are doing so without first examining context, capability and capacity to change will do more harm than good. The experiment is more likely to fail or be frowned upon. If this happens, subsequent ventures are less likely to be supported.
So it is my hope that educators avoid the cool tool trap and start by understanding their learners and designing learning experiences first. Then only should they think about how they might teach and what they might use to teach with. Or if they need to teach at all…