Gender : male

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Like many of you, I am a huge fan of the ipad. I bought one right away and have used it to help organize my life by syncing it with my calendar, using toodledo to manage an online to do list, and using hootsuite to organize my twitter account. I have used it with my daughter for learning games, nature videos, and science podcasts. I love my ipad and would never want to do without it. However, is the ipad going to be a life-changer in the field of education?

At first, I believed it would. However, I have come to the conclusion that the ipad won’t be any more of a game-changer than any other technological advice until we change the way we operate in schools. It doesn’t matter what technological devise we use if we are only using it in minimal ways. For example, Smartboards were all the rage a few years back. Can a Smartboard make a classroom truly interactive? Absolutely. However, most teachers use it as a glorified television to watch videos on, a glorifed movie theater to put powerpoints on, or a glorified chalkboard for the teacher to write notes on. We all know the smartboard can be so much more.

We live in a world where our average student will have more than 10 jobs by the time he/she is in his 40s. Employers say that schools need to be preparing students for complex communication, problem-solving, collaboration, etc. Since the amount of information is said to double every 18 months, are schools teaching kids how to choose which information to believe or how to synethesize multiple pieces of information. I’m not bashing teachers; I was a teacher (and still am at heart). However, the public school system is not changing with the times.

So, now there is one more device out there (the ipad) that is supposed to change the way we function. Here is a simple assignment that many teachers give at the end of a unit. “Write 5 facts about ____________________ (anything from horses to Bolivia to complex variables to Shakespeare). Many teachers believe that they are teaching 21st century skills because kids can jump on a laptop, a phone, or an ipad and google the subject. They can then write down the first five facts they see, and they have the assignment done. Is this an example of 21st century skills? Absolutely not. Now, in this same scenario if the teacher were able to brainstorm with the student about how to achieve those facts in an authentic way, the ipad or any other technological device could be truly transformative. For example, students could tweet to find experts on the subject or people who live in the country or do some blogging about the assigment. From hooking up with these “experts,” they could Skype or text and have an authentic conversation. Then, their job might be to put all this information together in the most logical form to match the way they collected information. If that was a blog they could use Voki to narrate a powerpoint of screenshots. They could record themselves on Skype having a conversation and do some video editing to select the most important parts. They could create comics. They could post all of these items on a class wiki that the teacher and students could view from home. The possibilities here are endless. They would be excited to explore and create and do so in new ways. They might even go further than what the original assignment was. Empowering them with tools to individually express themselves in new ways is key, whether it’s a visual display like wordle or a virtual poster like glogster, or an animated video.

Do I believe that a device you can carry with one hand and do everything a laptop can do plus read books, take videos, etc. can do this? You bet I do. But only with a shift in the entire educational process.