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Posts Tagged ‘ipad

We were honoured to have Dr Seah-Tay Hui Yong of Nanyang Girls High School (NYGH) to present a short keynote and share at a concurrent session at e-Fiesta 2012.

NYGH is one of several schools in Singapore that have adopted the iPad as a learning tool. It is one of very few (or perhaps the only one) that has a long term pedagogical plan and vision where the iPads are concerned.

I think that the plan stems from two underlying beliefs. First, to paraphrase what Hui Yong shared: We are trying to educate 21st century learners with 20th century teachers in 19th century classrooms. Outdated strategies constrained by outdated environments do not make for progressive and relevant education.

That is why she shared the vision of what the classroom might look like.


Video source

The second belief is that teachers need to question how and why they teach. Hui Yong mentioned that she wanted to create an environment where the teacher did not know where to stand. A classroom where there is no single central focus is one way to do that.

I would take that statement a bit further. I would create conditions where the teacher would not even know what to do at first. The teacher would then have to be a learner or co-learner. The teacher would have to relearn how to teach or how NOT to teach in order that students learn.

AAAARRRGGGHHH by Evil Erin, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Evil Erin 

Warning: Rant ahead.

The dust around River Valley High School’s adoption of the iPad might have settled among the layfolk. But the dust is still swirling in the school.

Parents questioned the necessity of the iPad citing reasons like high cost, questionable value add, potential distraction and security risks.

My first reaction was, “Yawn!” This sort of reaction has played out in other school systems in other parts of the world. The objections are the same. The reasons for the unhappiness are similar: Unclear or mishandled communication from schools and an overly conservative view of parents.

The other reason for my yawn was the fact that the original article was written for a tabloid. Sensationalism was the news. The facts were secondary.

My second reaction was, “Have we asked the learners for their inputs?” A few students were interviewed, but that is not the same as designing the iPad implementation with them front and centre. Are we just playing lip service to the claim that we teach “in the service of learners”?

No, instead much of the attention seemed to be about the cost of each device. (Just like lo hei during the Lunar New Year is mostly about wealth. Really, translate what gets recited and you will see what I mean.)

If financial cost is the burden to bear, then I suggest that parents add to the balance the cost of textbooks and tuition. Then they should factor in the cost of not teaching responsible use of technologies like the iPad now.

Our Asian neighbours are not waiting. Last year, the Koreans announced how they would adopt e-books by 2015 [archived ST article]. Earlier this week we learnt that the Thais will be getting tablets for 900,000 students [archived version]. The Thais do not have reliable wireless Internet access but they are still going ahead.

The quote from the news article that takes the cake is comes from a parent who:

… was told at the briefing that in school, cyber wellness was the teachers’ responsibility. But at home, it would be the parents’.

He asked: “Why is the school giving me additional things to do?”

If parents do not know how to teach and model good tech-related habits and values, the schools will have to lead the way and parents will just have to follow. They should step out of the way of progress and focus on what both the school and parents care about most: Good grades. Oh, wait, I meant their kids.

One of my favourite tools for the Mac, Skitch, now has a version for the iPad!


Video source

Here is Lifehacker’s description of the app:

Skitch not only brings its fancy arrows and other drawing powers to the iPad, but with it brings a built-in camera for quick snapshots, the ability to detect recent screenshots, a built-in web browser for marking up web pages, a built-in map for drawing out directions for your friends, and more. And, it all integrates with Evernote, so you can share a note with your friends or send it straight to your notebook for quick reference later

It can be downloaded for free at the app store and I think it will bring more value to screen captures on an iPad than most whiteboarding apps.

I said I think, not I know because, like one commenter at Lifehacker, I am not able to see the app on my iPad even after downloading it. Boo! (Update: My iPad2 is jailbroken and running iOS 4.3.3 whereas the app is created for iOS 5 and above.)

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Recently, a blogger shared what he thought were the top five security settings for iOS. I think there should be at least two more.

You should deactivate the ability to change accounts and the untoggle the change location settings.

Once you have entered all email and iCloud account information, you should prevent the settings from being deleted or changed. Likewise, to prevent Find My iPhone from being deactivated, you should lock down location settings.

You start by tapping on Settings -> General -> Restrictions. I am making use of the new WordPress photo carousel feature to illustrate the other steps.

This video of a baby trying to interact with a paper-based magazine as if were an iPad went viral recently. The person who created the video claimed that the iPad rewired the baby’s operating system.


Video source

Not everyone was convinced. Some might have thought that the baby was just practicing her fine motor skills. But it is not difficult to see that she was pinching, zooming, swiping and tapping.

This response by Wired writer Daniel Donahoo counters the technological determinism. The iPad is not rewiring the child. Instead, the iPad takes advantage of a normal human’s natural fine motor skills.

But there is a much simpler message: Kids are growing up with these device and their expectations are different from ours.

That baby expected the magazine to change when she swiped, tapped or pinched on content. The fine motor skill has not been rewired by the iPad, but the rewiring of expectations of how to interact with and learn from it have already started.

Kids will see no other way of doing reading, searching or creating. When my wife told my seven-year-old son that she did not have iPods and iPads when she was his age, he looked aghast and went, “Really?” Roughly translated, he meant “How did you do anything in that dark age?”

What is the moral of story? I can put it no better than Eric Hoffer:

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

I am all for passing on some good old fashioned values. But anyone who discounts or disregards that baby’s experiences does so at their own peril. We need to show our kids how to learn with progressive tools and strategies. In the process, all of us learn. To do otherwise is to be ill-equipped and left behind.

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Chris Dawson’s latest opinion piece at ZDnet was about the use of iPads in school.

He had good things to say about what was reported in the press (USA Today) but had some valid concerns as well. He said:

The problem with too many iPad deployments… is that schools end up doing the same thing they were before the new technology rolled out…

And later:

We’ve basically arrived in terms of tech. Where we haven’t arrived is in terms of pedagogy.

The same could be said of the adoption of social media tools in education only for them to be relegated serve as CMS or LMS. The latest Learning Solutions article sheds some light on this.

But back to Dawson’s article. If you follow his work, you know that he is singing the same tune he usually does, but with good reason. Some folks still think of technology as a panacea for educational ills or fall into the cool tech trap.

We should know better now. But why are some schools jumping on the iPad bandwagon and sharing what they do only for folks like Dawson (and me) to pour cold water on the implementations?

Maybe the school authorities need to justify the purchase of so many iPads and so it becomes a public relations exercise. Or if the devices belong to the students and teachers, schools still need to justify the changes in Internet access, reference materials and curricula to stakeholders.

Perhaps the slow-evolving animal that is pedagogy is just playing catch up. After all, we are still trying to escape the cold clutches of Industrial Age teaching and trying to focus on creating opportunities for meaningful learning. So forgive us as we tinker with our toys and tools as we bid to reshape teaching and learning.


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