Will the iPad and Similar Technology Revolutionize Learning? | Edutopia
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Will the iPad and Similar Technology Revolutionize Learning?

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
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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

Holly's picture

I am actually reading this (and posting) from an iPad. As a "reading/writing person" I will say I came to technology hesitantly. However, after seeing what my students can do with it, I was sold. Buying an iPad came after watching my students with eBooks, creating video with digital cameras, watching them research with cell phones... From being able to read on it (free apps with the classics) to research related content to use educational content (touring the Louve, for example) to create word documents and print (via cloud technology), there are endless applications for all content areas. Each student having one of these would save tremendously (in my district we just spent millions on archaic textbook workbooks, and hundreds lost their jobs). It's time education stepped into the 21st century.

Harvey Howard's picture

Well you are right about the century we should be in but it is only going to arrive one teacher and one district at a time. Who could I contact regarding the use of iPad in your school and district?

David Thornburg's picture

It seems to me that since you can buy a real computer (e.g., netbook) for under $300, that the iPad is just a piece of eye candy for the richy rich. It doesn't run any existing software (e.g., Geogebra) that kids should access. iPad apps are like iPhone apps. How will kids download apps? You can't use the iTunes store for free products without having a credit card on file. At best, the iPad becomes a cool tool to keep the textbook publishers happy - to the detriment of the kinds of transformation Edutopia documents all the time!

Color me unconvinced.

Ronald P. Walker's picture

I am very excited about the new technology. However, to make it more efficient, the costs need to be around $250 or $300. Otherwise it will take about three years to recoup your cost. I am interested in piloting I-Pads is at least one school though. I wonder if anyone else has done that or is thinking about doing it.

Carl Bosworth's picture

No silver bullets!! I rather like Dr. Marzano's reference to silver BB's rather than silver bullets. The whole one size fits all concept has serious limits even when it comes to bathrobes.

Rob's picture
High School Economics Teacher

I can't wait for the day when technology in education catches up to the type of technology our students are exposed to on a daily basis. I beleive technology will enhance education in such a way that it will be an extremely valuable tool for both educators and students. WHile the smartboards and powerpoints are an extrmemly useful way to treach students and help peak their interest, I think we have only scratched the surface regarding what can be accomplished in education when it comes to technology. Our students are exposed to hi tech gadgets all the time and they shouldn't have to check their tech savvy at the door when they come to school. I'm fortunate to have an administrator at my school who wants to see technology incorporated into lessons whenever possible. I'm thinking of using this topic in my dissertation when I begin working on my EdD.

Barbara Peterson's picture

Wow, folks - let's just get there. The kids that can afford these technologies use them constantly. There is a social justice issue to ensuring every kid can get to these technologies -- the costs, subsidized or real, needs to be around the price of a pair of athletic shoes...we know that this is a price point for many. Then we have to intersect where kids are, connecting them to the excitement (and providing the excitement)of learning. These devices have to be allowed to be a social tool (because for rich kids, it is already) that is also a learning tool, a research tool, an exploration tool, an imagination tool and a communications tool. Educators have to find a way into the student's media-rich environment, not segment education into a boring, rules-laden obligation for our students. When kids vote with their feet to leave a learning opportunity we think would be good for them, or we can't keep their attention in a learning situation, we have to pay attention to that. Learning can be compelling, but too often it isn't. We too often ask students (especially those farthest behind) to endure boring, dry, uninteresting content, and blame them if they don't learn. We as educators have to have to guts and the imagination to bring compelling learning to students, because we are competing with other engaging media. Kids want to be amazed, want to be smart, and if engaged, want to learn. As others have said, technology alone won't do it, but we're crazy if we don't notice that technology is the way to get on students' radar.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Came across this article via ASCD and thought it was really interesting.

"A Washington state middle-school teacher has secured a $3,000 grant to provide six iPad devices for his students in the fall -- it's technology that Roger Mills says could help engage his students in lessons. Mills believes the device's portability and low cost when compared with laptops make it a useful classroom tool." Read more >

Holly's picture

[quote]Well you are right about the century we should be in but it is only going to arrive one teacher and one district at a time. Who could I contact regarding the use of iPad in your school and district?[/quote]

Right now so much of the tech I am using in my classroom, I am buying myself. I've got 2 Kindles, 5 digital cameras, 3 Flip cameras, 2 iPod touches, and now 1 iPad (with a hope to get at least another by the end of summer). I'm going broke, but the few things I've purchased have made a huge difference in my teaching, and better, my students' ability to learn. I am hoping some grants surface for iPad in the classroom soon, as our district (one of the largest in Illinois) has none.

tutray@comcast.net's picture

I think that portable devices are / could be incredibly useful in a classroom. Imagine children taking this on a field trip & using it as a log, blogging about it as they go! (Even better if the device had the capability to video & photograph.) Yet, it needs to be made affordable for schools. To pay a monthly fee is unreasonable to ask of any school / district. Requiring a fee will only widen the achievement gap. The possibilities are endless of the types of collaboration that can be done in a classroom so lets make it possible for schools to obtain & sustain a purchase as vital as this!

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