It’s a tool, it’s a tool, it’s a tool.
The iPad is not going to replace teachers or ‘fix’ education. There is a cost implication that must be taken into account and only an educator will know if it is right for their students. Indeed the cost-benefit analysis for an establishment must take into account a host of factors when considering iPad use in the classroom. However, if there are iPads in the classroom, there are a number of applications that can enhance learning and assist the educator in developing student skills. In fact, the iPad allows educators to build on existing styles and increase flexibility in their classroom whilst personalising learning.
Assessment for Learning
The most valuable weapon in an educators arsenal is feedback. The principles of assessment against a backdrop of grading have been discussed at length for many, many years. Regardless of the conclusion you come to, the iPad allows an educator to collect information to provide feedback much more efficiently than any other tool. Of course, the use of mini-whiteboards, hands up and questioning techniques have been and will continue to be useful. However, they don’t compare to individual responses to questioning that can be collated and reflected upon immediately.
Applications such as eclicker, Socrative and Nearpod have the ability to provide instant feedback for every child in the classroom. On their iPad a student can respond to any number of questions that are immediately available to the educator. Moreover, if an educator is unsure of progress, they can ask students to complete a task that will inform the next stage of the lesson. Having a device in your hand, that is collating work by students immediately for feedback, is a very powerful tool when assessing for learning.
Setting a collaborative task is a tried and tested technique to allow students to question each other in the pursuit of an answer. The staple tools for this have included A3 paper, colour pens and research material (if you are lucky in a computer room). We can now add to this the iPad that can be the research resource, the ideas board and the means to share completed results.
Every educator has been left with completed work and no easy means to ensure the student has a copy to refer to in the future. This has often been resolved with photocopying and/or pictures. With the iPad, any group work can be shared instantaneously with others. Different facets of a project can be brought together and/or dismissed with the touch of a finger. The reasoning behind a decision can be verbally recorded for future reference.
The point is an educator can now set tasks to enhance learning, safe in the knowledge the students have the tools to complete what is required. Don’t get me wrong theses tasks can be completed in other ways, however, the iPad allows the student to concentrate on the learning and not logistics.
These are a few of the applications that have been made a little easier by the use of an iPad
- Interactive whiteboard (Explain Everything) – with the ability to add images and audio
- Mind mapping tool (Popplet) – with the ability to share the map with others when required
- Highlighting student work – using Apple TV where any iPad screen can be shared with the rest of the class. Has the added benefit that students take pride in their work if they know it might be seen at any point.
- Visualiser – using the camera function any work can be displayed using existing projector set-up, not just paper.
- Instant feedback – via AfL applications
- Shared resources – via Dropbox linked to all students in class
Informing the Next Step
Perhaps the most significant impact of an iPad in a classroom is the information it can provide. For the students, the ability to define or research new concepts is a very powerful application, particularly when guided. For an educator, it is the ability to provide resources to enhance learning and tailor it for all abilities. Gone are the days of setting homework, collecting next lesson, assessing and then handing back the following lesson. This process can now occur between each lesson and inform planning. Platforms such as Edmodo and Schoology allow students to ‘turn in’ assignments and receive feedback before their next classroom time. This provides a wealth of information that directly informs an educator.
Every tool has a time and place it should be used. From a ruler to a calculator, they are fit for purpose and it would be strange to use them otherwise. However, the iPad can meet the requirements of a number of tools and offer an ease of use that removes some of the barriers to learning.
If you are thinking of using an iPad in the classroom I urge you to consider that the effort required to understand its implication is front-loaded. Getting to grips with the technology will allow you to make informed decisions about its use in your classroom.
I would be very interested to hear about experience with the iPad and am very happy to discuss its use in education.