I’ve been using my iPad for about a year, perhaps a tad longer. As a personal information and entertainment device, I have relied on it for just about everything. I always had a daily routine for professional development and relaxation, but it involved going to many sources, both analog and digital. Now virtually all of those sources are reproduced on my iPad. So, I can easily assess the role of the iPad in my personal/professional life because it has made it easier for me to manage my life and “touch” whatever my heart desires. As a teacher, however, the evaluation of the iPad appears, on on the surface, far more complex. I would like to argue that it is not. Here’s why:
- Size matters. Smaller than most laptops and larger than a Smartphone, the size of the iPad serves as a legitimate replacement for printed textbooks and other course materials / notebooks with the added benefit of interactivity.
- Interactivity matters. So say the learning theory folks backed by our own observations in the classroom. I can envision students interacting with me, their classmates, texts, notes, and supplementary materials on the iPad — and they will interact with the iPad more effectively than I.
- Education and entertainment overlap. It is often difficult to distinguish entertainment from education on the iPad. Most apps are fun to use, even if they have a serious intent. While some view this intersection of domains as problematic, I view it as a benefit. The iPad has removed the barriers created in the traditional computing world between serious apps created for business and fun apps for kids, with educational apps shoe-horned in the middle. The iPad will eliminates those barriers by using components of all, and make learning fun.
You will feel a compulsion to challenge any one of these claims based on a specific observation or experience, but I would argue that your challenge will be addressed by another of the three claims. What I like best about the iPad is that the above claims fit well with our approach to teaching and learning. A digital backpack that promotes interactivity and fun sounds like the perfect complement for what we do so well today.