Is the iPad the Correct Tool to Aid Learning in Education?

Many educators have asked me – “Is the iPad the correct tool to aid learning in education?” Having read several articles as well as witnessing first hand the implementation of iPad programs in several K12 educational establishments. I still don’t have a definitive answer, but I suppose it depends on the goals of your educational establishment and the age group of learners and what they need to achieve by using the iPad.

Therefore my own personal answers are Yes and No……..

No

If you are going to implement an iPad program then the pedagogical style of education in the classroom must change. There is no point in simply giving out iPads to every student and expecting everyone to use it as a tool for learning. I have seen this in action, where a private school gives each child an iPad as part of its admissions; the cost is included in the school fees. “What great marketing”, but no help with the actual learning of the child. The teachers had not been trained to use the iPad; the school infrastructure had not been designed to cope with 200 students using the iPad all at the same time. Parents were asked to purchase and download the apps at home, so loss of control from the school’s point of view, with parents who were not really trained correctly with technology use at home. No thought about the older students who need to type 5000 word projects on an iPad keyboard. No training given to teachers or students about Internet safety, correct usage in the classroom and digital citizenship.  No thought about storage of personal data or even transfer of data, no thought over the applications available on the iPad and whether they are suitable in the classroom.

Yes

If you have planned your implementation correctly, considered all the points mentioned above, then your iPad program is likely to be much more successful:

  • Supportive, designed, and managed wireless infrastructure
  • Teacher continuous training and support
  • Introduction of classroom IT Integrators/Innovators
  • Parental workshops to support home use of technology and understanding the use of technology in the classroom
  • Control, centralized and managed downloading of Apps by the school
  • IT pedagogy, how to use iPads to aid learning in the classroom (and at home)
  • A supportive and fully trained IT technical team
  • Data storage and data transfer
  • The correct Apps which will aid learning
  • The use of a LMS or VLE
  • The health and safety issues (how to look after and care for your iPad)

This list is not exhaustive and I am sure we can add several more important points to this list……..

Is the iPad suited for all ages?

This depends on what the iPad is going to be used for in education? I still believe at the moment it is more valuable as a learning tool for use in the Elementary/Primary school sector and that a laptop (MacBook or Notebook) would be more suitable to Middle/High school/ Secondary school, possibly if the budget allowed, an iPad would be useful as a supplementary learning tool. (I can see the benefits, the ease of carrying an iPad or any mobile device, the ease to make quick notes in a lecture theatre or classroom, the use of Science based Apps in 3D etc., the long battery life and the long list of other benefits mentioned in previous blog entries here). The processing power, storage capabilities, number of applications, software and of course a keyboard, simply make laptops currently a far more effective learning tool than the iPad. I have seen the separate keyboard that can be used with iPads as well as the overlay for the keyboard, this maybe a way forward for the future.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel the iPad is a fantastic educational tool, when used in a school environment that has been planned and where everyone fully supports the program. But if a school just gives an iPad to everyone and thinks the magic of learning will automatically take place, I feel that they may be proved sadly wrong.

Please comment and let me know your ideas and thoughts. Things that you have witnessed working well with 1:1 iPad implementation.

I have found this article by Mitchell A. Salerno, Michael Vonhof insightful for US state based implementation of the iPad in K12 education.

Written by Steven David Pearce 20/12/2011 and update 12/10/2014

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Discovery, Problem and Challenged Based Learning

It is my belief that educators must now consider how learning has changed  (if they haven’t done so already) and how they can adapt their pedagogies to facilitate the learning of our current and future student population.In the light of advances and changes in technology we need to consider how we can capture the minds of our youth and continue to inspire them to learn and develop as independent learners.

Our learners have now become producers and publishers and have moved on from the consumers of pure content. They have access to the Internet, which offers a variety of worldwide media. They have the ability to create inspiring content by using digital technologies and simple software applications that they can now publish to an eager and awaiting world-wide crowd.

Using Apple’s (ACOT2) Report as reference, I have looked at a variety of different learning methodologies that encapsulate 21st Century Learning, (Discovery based learning, Problem based learning and Challenged based learning) these methodologies link together to form a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning for today’s classroom and learning environments.

(ACOT2Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow – Today –  is a collaborative project to help high schools get closer to creating the kind of learning environment this generation of students needs, wants, and expects so they will stay in school.”

This report identifies 6 Key principles that assist in developing the learning environment for learners of today and the future, these principles are illustrated in the diagram below:

6 Principles for Learning in 21st Century Schools 

There are 3 key learning methodologies that I believe enhance and aid 21st Century classrooms and learning; they include all the 6 principles as shown above. These are briefly outlined here:

Learning Methodologies:

  1. Discovery based learning:  is an inquiry-based, constructivist learning theory that takes place in problem solving situations where the learner draws on his or her own past experience and existing knowledge to discover facts and relationships and new truths to be learned. Learners interact with the world by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments. As a result, learners may be more likely to remember concepts and knowledge discovered on their own.
  2.  Problem based learning:  is a learner-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject in the context of complex, multifaceted, and realistic problems. Working in groups, or individually, students identify what they already know, what they need to know, and how and where to access new information that may lead to resolution of the problem. The role of the educator is to ask probing questions, provide appropriate resources, and lead class discussions, as well as designing student assessments.
  3. Challenged based learning: is an engaging multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems. Challenge Based Learning is collaborative and hands-on, asking students to work with other students, their teachers, and experts in their communities and around the world to develop deeper knowledge of the subjects students are studying, accept and solve challenges, take action, share their experience, and enter into a global discussion about important issues. Here is a link to an excellent document produced by Apple to assist educators with Challenged Based Learning. Challenged based learning is based on the following framework:

Recently, the teaching and learning at the Republic Polytechnic of Singapore inspired me, with their use of Problem Based learning. By using (PBL) their key objective is to add value to each student’s intellectual make-up in terms of problem-solving process skills, life-long learning attitude and ready-to-use knowledge. They believe graduates will be knowledgeable team players who have acquired skills necessary to handle situations, tackle problems and complete tasks in a knowledge-driven environment.

Although none of these concepts (learning methodologies) are new and have been used in education with varying degrees of uptake for several years, I believe that now they have become even more prominent and important pedagogies, especially with the increasing number of 1:1 Laptop Schools. Using Challenged based learning (or any of the methodologies mentioned above) provides:

• A multiple entry point strategy and varied and multiple possible solutions

• A focus on universal challenges with local solutions

• An authentic connection with multiple disciplines

• An opportunity to develop 21st century skills

• The purposeful use of Web 2.0 tools for organizing, collaborating, and publishing

• The opportunity for students to do something rather than just learn about something

• The documentation of the learning experience from challenge to solution

• 24/7 access to up-to-date technology tools and resources so students can do their work

All the methods of learning help to engage learners, provide them with valuable 21st Century skills, which span the divide between formal and informal learning, and embrace a student’s digital life. I encourage you to look further at some of the links here in this Blog to find out further information of how these pedagogical methods can aid and develop learning in your schools as they have done so in mine. (www.nexus.edu.my)

Written by Steven David Pearce 20/4/2011



Benefits of a 1:1 Laptop Scheme

Recently, our school board asked me  – how can I provide evidence that having a 1:1 scheme benefits our learners and school. If any of you already have a 1:1 laptop scheme running in your school you will realize that this is quite a difficult question to answer.

Some of the benefits listed here are unique to my school (a private profit making international school), which has totally different funding, structure, mission and aims to a state owned school.  Although, our primary mission is to ensure that all our students receive the best possible education and learning environment, which is hopefully the aim of all schools.

Possible Benefits of a 1:1 laptop scheme:

1.     My (Number 1) key benefit is the access to a digital resource at any time 24/7. Learners can take their laptop home, on holiday, use at home when they are sick. For example we have had both students and teachers join lessons and meetings from home via Skype. The student connected to the teacher’s laptop and took part in the class discussions, was able to answer and ask questions from home. In our monthly staff meeting, a teacher who had a broken leg was able to join in the meeting in the same way. If a school has a VLE (virtual learning environment) students can access this learning area from anywhere at any time and complete assignments, answer questions, complete reflections and use pre-chosen teaching resources. The VLE can also be used to improve school communication, not only with students and teachers, but also with parents. Parents can access the VLE, look at their child’s work, add motivating comments, look at their report card and contact the teacher.

2.     The motivation of students, student centered learning, inquiry learning and interactive teaching.  Students want to use digital resources in the classroom; they enjoy the opportunity to have the freedom to carry out their own research, write their own assignments and to be creative using their own laptop. They can choose which application they want to use to complete their assignments, rather than using pen and paper. They can produce a presentation, record a movie, make an animation, record a speech, and design a poster. The key here is for the teacher to suggest a task, but allow the student to choose the application for completing the task (students define their own success criteria). For example if a learner has to create a presentation, they could choose to do it through Prezi.com, Key notes, PowerPoint, a movie, a radio speech, or an animation to name but a few examples. Many schools are also moving to each learner having their own Blog, this can be very motivating for the learner, when other people comment on the learners blog, they are encouraged to write more and develop their blog further.

3.     Differentiation for the student. Linked to the previous 2 benefits, learners can have access to differentiated resources and complete tasks at their own learning speed and level. For example if a VLE has been constructed properly, it should allow learners to select tasks and resources at their own level and ability. They can complete the tasks, which they feel capable of completing and at their own speed. They can refer back to their tasks at home and revisit the class information at anytime and anywhere. Allow the students to be creative, some learners will be motivated to create an essay written in Word, some would prefer to record the information in a movie or design a poster with Photoshop. As long as the learner covers the success criteria for the lesson, how they complete the task should be their own choice.

4.     Collaboration, the sharing of ideas and information. Collaboration and the sharing of ideas is the key to success of any organisation and a skill required by all our learners today. The use of Messenger, iChat, Skype, Twitter and Facebook all have a role in sharing and disseminating information. Our students already know how to use these applications and on a daily basis share a vast amount of information. Having a 1:1 laptop scheme enables the student to use these communication tools in the classroom. Some good examples of digital collaboration and sharing ideas include in a humanities lesson the ability to connect with another school on the other side of the world through Skype to share cultural ideals and beliefs. Collaboration in the classroom by using Prezi-Meeting, where learners can form a group and create online presentations, by sharing ideas and resources.

(Now for the non-learning benefits) Many of you may criticize me for mentioning these benefits, but they are factual and true.

5.     Marketing and school market differentiation, we are an Apple school and in our market we are seen as offering something that is unique, exciting and innovative compared to our competitors. Each learner from Year 6 through to Year 10 (grade 5 to 9) is part of the 1:1 Macbook Pro Laptop Scheme. The school uses this fact in its marketing, in local and international press and is a key factor to attracting learners to our school. We have had several students move from other local schools to our school because of the 1:1 Laptop scheme and the style of teaching that is linked to the scheme.

6.     No more Computer Labs. All our learners are required to purchase their own laptop, the school provides the wireless network structure for the laptops to connect to, but this cost in the long run is lower than paying for several computer labs in a school. The 1:1 laptops are covered by a 3-year warranty included in the package and fees that the learner has to pay for. The school provides a help desk and support to maintain the laptops, it also provides training for the teachers, all of this can be covered by the fee for the 1:1 laptop scheme, taking the capital and expense costs away from the school. I appreciate that this may not be so easy to achieve for a state run and funded school.

If your administrators, governors, directors are asking will a 1:1 scheme increase academic achievement, test results, exam passes, then maybe they are asking the wrong questions and have little understanding of our learners and the world today. It is hoped that by providing effective learning and the digital resources to aid learning that academic achievement and passing tests with naturally occur. However, tests and exam results are only one important part of the educational system and that other factors should be considered by providing a creative and stimulating environment where our students can learn the skills required to be life long learners.

written by Steven David Pearce 4/12/2010