Sunday, February 10, 2013

From Fun to Necessary: Breeding Student iPad Users

This video confirmed my recurring views on iPads in the classroom. I categorize iPad educational capabilities into two groups: A) touch/respond apps best suited for elementary and B) innovating old-school materials for faster access to knowledge. 

The beginning of the video focused on the former category. Elementary aged students respond positively to the instant gratification of answering correctly, spelling with their fingers, or completing word searches. However, the charm of touch/response wains as students advance in years which is where the second category comes into play.

As students lose interest in a firework display for answering a math problem correctly (touch/response), the iPad better serves as an expedient means to traditional ends. Considering current students are digital natives, maneuvering apps is second nature and preferable to interacting with traditional materials (i.e. paper books, maps, calculators, etc.). The second half of the video shows students viewing maps and reading text with iPad apps. While a student could just as easily search in a hardcopy atlas or read the paperback version of a book, supplemental information has greater accessibility on the iPad. 

Digital natives find it cumbersome and antiquated to search out supplemental information when using physical copies of text. This reluctance will often lead to inaction. Will they put their novel down and flip through a dictionary for each word they don’t understand? No. Will they actively search out a modern roadmap overlay for the topographical maps in a paper atlas? No. iPad versions provide immediate access to this information, matching the cultural expectations of the digital native. 

While their reluctance to put in the research time is concerning on certain levels, educators must understand the inertia of the technology movement cannot be slowed or stopped. True, proper research skills that include the use of multiple resources, tables of content, indexes, etc. is necessary to a certain extent, their traditional methods of use are themselves antiquated and have taken on new meaning and usability. A table of contents is no longer a place to find page numbers, but a chapter list for which to click immediately to necessary information. Further, even these uses become overshadowed by the “search text” bar at the top of iBooks and similar materials.

The video focuses on the consumer and research side of iPad use but does not show the creation aspects. Using document sharing, blogging/vlogging, and infographic creation apps allows for high quality student products in short time periods. Further, iPads allow for these creations to be collaborative and published just as quickly. This is of greater benefit to the classroom than the consumption aspects because, for the time being, traditional hardcopy materials can suffice as the information is still available. However, it is more difficult to recreate the collaborative and publishing capabilities if student products are limited to pen and paper or word processing. Thankfully, iPads allow for both. 

The video is evidence of how digital native students are conditioned from an early age to utilize technology for expediency. In kindergarten they can know immediately if they picked the correct shape by way of touch/response apps. This learned expectation manifests itself as the need for immediate definitions and access to information in the older grades. Because of these reasons, in the coming years, more iPads or similar tablet devices will replace traditional materials within the classroom. 

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