George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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?

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David Malpica's picture
David Malpica
3D Artist and Designer (Aspiring Educator)

Thanks for bringing this topic up. I see that it has generated a lot of feedback.

At the risk of overlapping, here are a few comments:

Tablets will definitely have an impact on education, but it will be the apps and their designers who will deserve the glory.

I don't think it is wise to reduce the teacher to student ratio any further. Students still need supervision, direction, and interaction with a real (and hopefully capable) human being (no AI or app will be able to replace the feedback from a capable instructor) If anything technology will assist teachers at doing a better job, keeping student progress in check, letting them focus on problem areas and struggling students, as well as freeing themselves from some of the more encumbering tasks of teaching (such as constant lecture preparation). True, some students who go through mediocre schools/teachers may be better suited with a good set of apps and a private tutor or a dedicated parent.

The best tablets and apps may be turn out to be just as (or more) expensive as books and other supplies. Students in countries abroad which are less fortunate might face the problem of paying for hardware and software at first-world prices, and possibly expensive data plans, if wifi is not widespread or available. New iPads coming out every year also makes me question the business model. Somehow, I don't see Apple selling iPads for educational purposes with a more lenient and more forgiving replacement policy in case of "accidental" damage.

Corey Pressman's picture
Corey Pressman
President of Exprima Media

In response to David Malpica's post, we've recently had an excellent experience implementing educational content on the iPad in a developing-nation context. Our iPad app for educating coffee farmers follows in a long line of international successes in leveraging mobile technology for educational purposes; MIT, the Grameen Foundation, and The BBC have all implemented useful education programs for mobile devices in a global scale.

We wrote more about this in our article in UX magazine this month.

Edutopia's picture
Edutopia Team

I think Corey's response really reinforces David Malpica's post about how its the designers who will make or break the iPad, or any device really. I really got fired up reading the UX article ( and hope we can hear more about how Sustainable Harvest's app evolution!

Corey Pressman's picture
Corey Pressman
President of Exprima Media

Glad you find our work encouraging, Geoff! I agree that design, and interaction design in particular, is the key. The hardware is nearly ubiquitous, but without progressive and intentional user-centered design, it is nearly useless.

There will be a lot more public demonstrations surrounding the Sustainable Harvest app in the near future. Stay tuned to our site ( or twitter (@exprima) to stay in the loop!

Cathy Greene's picture
Cathy Greene
Early childhood and college educator, Bay Area, CA

Tools like the iPad can only offer a platform for the apps created for them and the teachers who give them context. Technology can offer new arrangements of information that highlights relationship. Take the new offering from Libroid for the iPad. It's an e- book but so much more. Their first offering is a current travel and history book on the work of Darwin. Layered under that is Darwin's Origin of the Species and the two books are connected via content so students can go back and forth between the present and the past. Readers can make use of links to photos, video, and websites. It offers a portal to related information yet orients you back to the original text. It will be interesting to see how the possibilities this format offers influence education

Rae Wilson's picture

I would like to know where the funding for having these in class would come from? I would love the use of technology in my classes but we have zero funding for them.

Mark L. Miller, Ph.D.'s picture
Mark L. Miller, Ph.D.
Executive Director, The Miller Institute for Learning with Technology

Rae Wilson writes, "I would like to know where the funding for having these in class would come from? I would love the use of technology in my classes but we have zero funding for them."

Good question, of cousre.

Budget is always a huge challenge, especially in these difficult times. However, let us not forget that, back in the early days of computers in education, many scoffed at the very idea of technology for K-12, because computers then cost in the 7-figures of U.S. dollars. Seymour Papert inspired many of us, yet was ridiculed by others for his slogan that "once every student has a computer, the cost of computers will be low enough for every student to have one." Now there is more power and potential to revolutionize learning in devices costing $500 and less than there ever was in those early 7-figure systems.

One example of a way to fund an iPad project is that projects such as CK-12 have made interactive, customizable textbooks freely available in electronic form, ideally suited for iPads. In many states, textbook funds can be used for this type of technology, provided that the goal is still accomplished (ensuring that every student has access to approved textbooks for core content).

This is not easy, but never give up. There is no panacea for "fixing" education but technology is surely part of the solution.

Sincerely, Mark

Mark L. Miller, Ph.D., President and Executive Director
The Miller Institute for Learning with Technology
A 501(c)(3) California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation

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

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Where do I find your blog?

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