Needed: A focus on teaching and learning

The success of any 1-1 implementation lies less in the choice of computing device, but more in the difference that it can contribute to the overall teaching and learning that is taking place in the classroom. This is so important to remember, especially as more and more schools follow through with an “iPad initiative.”

While the selection of educational apps is vast (the Apple in Education website currently reads “Thousands of apps. Endless potential.”), I have come to understand that teachers shouldn’t focus only on the apps that can help with learning (intriguing as they may be). The key is to expand student thinking, not restrict it by working only within a choice selection of apps.

Appropriate instructional decisions are needed in order to take student learning to the next level. How are teachers challenging student thinking and inviting them to use their device in productive ways that will help them learn better? To what extent are students using the technology to curate their knowledge, collaborate with others, and create their own content? These are two important questions to keep in mind before deciding on an “app for that.”

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The Apple “Edu-Announcements”

Apple made big news yesterday with a number of education-related announcements. The first was the launch of iBooks 2.  iBooks 2 is an upgrade to their iBooks app that will now allow users to access electronic textbooks on an iPad. The app itself is free and Apple announced that all textbooks on its shelves would be priced at $14.99 or less. Interestingly, a number of publishers have already committed to producing e-textbooks for Apple and the iPad, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. These publishing companies alone have a significant stake in the textbook market.

For Apple, the future of textbooks is meant to be electronic and not a significant drain on the wallet, either. No longer will students and schools need to pay expensive prices for books and their special add-ons, especially since these e-textbooks will have interactive features built into them. It is expected that these elements will include features such as videos, diagrams, active links, photo galleries, questionnaires, quizzes, 3-D diagram models, etc. Another benefit for students will be the ability to highlight, add notes and search definitions and terms electronically on the text.

As one who has been involved in the textbook adoption process in higher education, I can agree with others who note that Apple is trying to change the paradigm in terms of textbook use in the classroom. Some even suggest that Apple is “reinventing the textbook market” or that this will “kill the sale of paper textbooks.” It will be interesting to follow what happens to textbook production and sales, especially for those who are preferring to use their iPads. With over 1.5 million iPads being used in k-12 schools and more than 20,000 educational apps for the iPad alone so far, this may have a significant impact.

The second initiative with this announcement was the release of iBooks author which is a free tool that allows people (teachers) to become authors of their own (text) books. While this app is not workable on an iPad, it does allow those with operating a Macintosh computer to create e-books for the iPad in a streamlined manner. It includes basic templates, the ability to add multimedia including 3-D objects and HTML, and ease of use to import text from common word processing formats. Of course, there is also the ability to export to iBookstore for publication.

Even though I don’t currently use a Mac, I am interested in learning more about iAuthor textbook development process for teachers. Imagine being able to develop highly personalized textbooks for my students that would  focus on the specific material we prefer to use in the classroom. Imagine, too, being able to integrate interactive video and links to outside sources. We wouldn’t need to sort through the excess information that doesn’t necessarily apply to my course which often appears in larger texts.

The announcements are based on the assumption that all students either own or will have access to a mobile device using Apple products. Indeed, this could have a big impact in a 1:1 initiative for a school. The impact may be less certain if students do not have 24-hr access to a computing device or if schools are choosing to use Windows operating systems. Other issues, such as textbook use policies, may need to be reconsidered in k-12 settings where the school typically owns the books, rather than the students who may own the iPads. Still, as it has been noted “For now, it’s an exciting step in moving education further into the 21st century.”

References:

Biggs, J. (2012, Jan. 19). Sea Change: Apple Guts Textbook Publishing.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 19, 2012). Apple Schools Education Market with iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 20, 2012). Hands On with iBooks 2 and iTunes U.

Khan, J. ( Jan. 20, 2012). McGraw Hill CEO gives credit for iBooks textbook vision to Steve Jobs.

NPR staff. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple pushes interactive textbooks on iPads.

Provenzano, N. (2012, Jan. 20). What Apple’s Edu-Announcement Could Mean To You.

Sohn, T., & Nagel, D. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple Launches iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Takahashi, P. (2012, Jan. 19). New iPad app for digital textbooks excites Clark County schools.

Acknowledging certain limitations of the iPad in the classroom

Here are two articles written by the same author attempting to answer the questions: Will iPads replace backpacks? and Will the iPad replace the simplicity and convenience of paper products for higher-level learning tasks?

I like how Ledesma addresses both questions and highlights numerous advantages in using an iPad. For example:

  • An iPad is great tool for research on the Internet and other consumption of web-based media.
  • Most desktop computing can be completed using an iPad.
  • It is possible to access and/or synchronize your files through the iPad.
  • Real-time communication (chat, email, voice) is possible with the iPad.

However, he does acknowledge that there are limitations in screen size and in the ability to access multiple sources easily when using the iPad for certain work.

“Unfortunately, higher-level work, which requires deeper analysis and simultaneous access between multiple sources, may be more than what a single device and small screen can handle.” (2010)

“Technology should make the learning process easier, not harder or more complicated.” (2011)

So, it may seem that students will continue to use their backpacks as they carry around their books, pens and paper which will still be needed for the more academic, higher-order learning tasks.

“Enjoy the iPads for what they are best at, and let’s stop trying to force them to replace tools that they shouldn’t.” (2011)

Reference:

Ledesma, P. (2010, Sept. 14). Schooled on my iPad. Accessed through Education Week Teacher, Nov. 15, 2011.

Ledesma, P. (2011, Nov. 14). iPads in schools: Replacing backpacks? Accessed through Education Week Teacher, Nov. 15, 2011.

Some ideas on teaching with an iPad

In this Edutopia blog post, the Johnson (2011) muses over what he would do if he had 30 iPads in his classroom. He focuses on two important aspects: using the iPad to engage kinesthetic learners and helping students connect beyond the classroom (access the Internet anywhere, share and collaborate with others, challenge students in creative ways, etc.).

He highlights the potential of an iPad in that it may be a tool that will transform instructional practice. He does warn, though,  “without good software, the Ipad is an expensive door stop, paper weight or frisbee. Fortunately, a dilligent person can find a lot of free stuff to get started.”

What is particularly helpful are the series of moderated comments by other teachers and how they are using iPads and various apps in their teaching. There are a lot of good ideas to consider.

Reference:

Johnson, B. (2011, Oct. 31) Teaching and learning: Using iPads in the classroom. Accessed Nov. 1, 2011 through Edutopia.