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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Will the iPad and Similar Technology Revolutionize Learning?

Bob Lenz

Founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

I am writing this blog post on the new Apple iPad while on a plane returning from the Newschools Venture Fund Community of Practice and Summit in Washington DC. There, at the nation's capital, a gathering of education entrepreneurs from across the country explored the themes of technology and innovation.

We learned about strategies, about people, and about organizations that are trying to leverage the use of digital technology to improve learning outcomes for youth -- particularly those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. We learned about the approach of the School of One in New York that uses computer-based programs to customize learning for each student. We discussed the approach of hybrid schools where part of the learning is online. We learned about the High Tech High video chat system that they use to conduct teacher-sharing protocols with teachers in their network and around the world. We also used text message polls (like on an American Idol) created by Edmodo to stimulate discussion.

Milton Chen, Senior Fellow at the GLEF, encouraged us to think about developing new technologies that can assess deeper learning -- core content skills and knowledge with complex cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem solving. The meeting theme was very timely and provocative.

As I write this using an iPad, I find it interesting that we did not discuss the implications of the iPad and other tablet type devices on learning and school. I think this technology will revolutionize the way a student will access all types of information: media, academic research, and books (non-fiction, fiction, and textbooks). In addition, students can produce digital work, blog, chat, and email with peers and teachers -- all for a relatively low cost.

The iPad still has room for improvement but the technology will evolve and the cost will drop (currently, it's around $500). Look for many new applications to be built for the iPad that will serve as a course of study or a unit of instruction. Someday, teachers might just create apps for their students instead of handing out papers, or posting assignments on the Internet. I also wonder if this technology will allow access for students across the world that do not have access to schools or teachers.

At Envision Schools, we will be watching, experimenting, and learning how best to use -- or not use -- new digital technology to transform the lives of students.

What do you think? Are these and other new technology a possible silver bullet for learning? Are you using any of these or other new technologies to improve outcomes for students?

Comments (91)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Harry Keller's picture
Harry Keller
President at Smart Science Education Inc.

The iPad is already yesterday's technology. Watch for tablets specifically targeted to education coming as soon as next year and at prices well below iPad and even below the $300 region predicted for many iPad clones. The company that can put together the hardware, OS, and good educational software (not just periodic table references or silly ed-games) can make tons of money even if they sell the hardware at a loss.

Today, we're looking at a world-wide market that includes one of the most education-hungry countries that happens to have a population 1 billion population: India.

The Indian Institutes of Technology have already announced a $35 tablet for education. That's not a typo: $35.

Expect Android operating systems to own this space within a year. Apple will continue to sell plenty of iPad IIs to those who can afford them, but the bulk of the market will belong to consumer electronics manufactures, game developers (who have legions of software writers), and those who can build creative educational content.

By the end of this new decade, you may not recognize education any more.

Phyllis Brodsky's picture
Phyllis Brodsky
Program Coordinator, Project FOCUS, University of Arizona

This is great dialogue! I love hearing (reading) the diverse perspectives of colleagues and the impact that Apple mobile devices may or may not have on the population of students you serve. I represent learners with disabilities, specifically those with severe and multiple disabilities. I have been involved with assistive technology for 25 years and I can say unequivocally that the iPhone and iPad are game changers in my field. The app market is exploding with tools which relate to communication, behavior, organization, independence, stress management, literacy and social interactions. This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. For students to have something engaging, rather than ostracizing, in their possession that has the capacity for so many functions allowing greater success and independence is amazing. For that same device to have the power to bridge social gaps by defocusing peers from a student's disability by connecting through shared interests is nothing short of revolutionary. The iPad may be passe for some, but we are just getting started. Our world has profoundly changed in just 5 months and there is an endless sea rolling in.

Dr Rod Berger's picture

At RANDA Solutions we have developed an app for the iPad and Android for teacher observations. We are currently piloting our app in a number of schools and districts. We have already seen that observers are adapting to the iPad functionality. It is very exciting to impact education in a manner that assists administrators in the support of teachers. Check out more info with the link below.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/03/prweb3796624.htm

Tamisha Augustin's picture

I agree...technology is the future of the world and the students do stay engaged. I'm not sure of the Ipad only because students must be familiar with basic technology concepts before going to that step. Knowing how to use a computer and it's software first. I do think it reduces the work load, for instance laptop carts. However, it's important as the world is conforming to more and better technology that we must change the way we educate as well.

Harry Keller's picture
Harry Keller
President at Smart Science Education Inc.

The iPad costs too much right now for general educational use, especially in K-12 education. Things will change. The laptop may be replaced by the future eTablet. Get ready.

Momo Testerman - 26499's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Not that excited about the first gen android models, but I'm sure it won't be long before they're compelling.

kali1's picture

Not only for kids, but also for office employees and people related to technology field are landing in new technology. So, the technology is a basic need and currently we are using it in large numbers. In order to do our daily work software is required so disaster recovery software is also required to keep our future strong on this field. Software's not only reduces our time of work, but also make our daily work easier.

Tony C.'s picture
Tony C.
Educational Technology Integrator/Trainer

As an educational technologist, I know that there's so much more involved than any tool or piece of technology. The teaching has to come first. Technology can be used to replicate ineffective practices, and they'll still be ineffective practices. Tools like the iPad *can* be used in ways that will enhance education, but only if they're utilized properly.

Also, sorry to disagree (with many), but there's no such thing as a digital native. It's a myth that has been widely exposed. Kids today are no more or less predisposed to understand technology than kids of 10, 20, 50, 100 years ago. Kids in general have always been more inquisitive and willing to try new things than us old folk.

Peter Smyth's picture
Peter Smyth
Retired teacher and administrator

The power of the iPad (and to some extent the Macs) is that the technology no longer gets in the way. As a PC user, the issue seemed to be how to use and maintain the machines. With the iPad , I can think about the work I'm doing. It makes moving between searches, consuming media, creating, whatever, seamless. If this doesn't get it, then watching my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter use an iPad convinces me.

Peter Smyth's picture
Peter Smyth
Retired teacher and administrator

The power of the iPad (and to some extent the Macs) is that the technology no longer gets in the way. As a PC user, the issue seemed to be how to use and maintain the machines. With the iPad , I can think about the work I'm doing. It makes moving between searches, consuming media, creating, whatever, seamless. If this doesn't get it, then watching my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter use an iPad convinces me.

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