I just reviewed a videocast session at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2011 conference in Philadelphia called The iPad Revolution: Innovative Learning in the Classroom. Woah am I blown away! Camilla Gagliolo of Arlington Public Schools showed many examples of students ranging from Kindergarten through elementary school and special needs students using IPad’s in the classroom. She gave the talk with such enthusiasm that made me eager to pay attention throughout the entire one hour lecture. The iPads gave these students the ability to think differently and think deeper about a subject matter that their teacher had just presented. It was amazing and exciting to watch video footage of the students in action. My own school is just getting on the iPad bandwagon. We are so close in getting a mobile cart of 20 machines for our teachers to share. I know it’s not enough but it’s better than nothing! From the video, it seems that the most obvious reason for mobile devices in the classroom is the ease of implementing differentiated instruction. Every single student can be using a different app to cater to their specific interest or need. Apps can also be used by small groups of students who can then discuss what they learned as well as collaborate on a task together. For example, in a Language Arts lesson, one group can be using an app for spelling (Spell it Rite), a word scrambler (scrambler 2) or a third app called Word Work. Then they can all switch! The final result is that each students builds their spelling and vocabulary skills in a fun interactive way without getting bored or frustrated.
The most fascinating concept that I went away with is that students showed a very small learning curve when using the iPad for the very first time as evident by the adorable and intelligent special needs child shown just learning to use the device. In the first iPad lesson, the little boy was enamored by the device, touching every icon and sliding this way and that. It was thrilling to see the excitement he had for the new toy. Only 2 weeks later, you saw the same boy totally focussed and answering every question on the interactive game correctly. You should have seen the smile on his face beaming with confidence. That smile is worth 1,000 iPads!
With the boom of ebooks and curriculum textbook companies rushing to create ebooks from their paper books for use on mobile devices, I can see huge financial benefits to iPads. At this rate, between ItunesU, iBooks and other ebook apps, it’s going to be possible for students not to have to carry a backpack to school any longer! Schools will also be able to keep up with their textbook purchases and updates. In addition to textbook information, applications like TED Talks and Kahn Academy will allow students easy access to other resources beyond standard books. They will have access to podcasts, videos etc. that will enhance their learning and make them deeper learners. One TED talk showed a lecture by an ebook author who published an ebook with text, photos, video and voice, all interactive within one book. Amazing progress! To take it one step further, students on the video were able to create ebooks of their very own to publish and share with classmates and their parents. We can create a generation of writers and better communicators than the generation before us.
There are so many wonderful advantages to using mobile devices including iPads in the classroom that I think it trumps any disadvantages. Of course, the number one obstacle is expense. iPads are an expensive investment for a small school like mine but it seems that the only way to educate digital students is to join the digital revolution that is going on right before our eyes.