iPad, youPad, wePad

Grilled Cheese iPad

I mentioned the use of the iPad in my previous article about Evernote, a super app for students and teachers. The integration of iPads in classroom­, that is one for every student, is becoming more and more popular in language classes: the lucky teachers (whose affiliated school finances the integration of the iPad) who cannot imagine their class without it make all the poor others drool in front of this sleek, lightweight and bright technology. Nevertheless, before diving into a technology-oriented pedagogy, educators must know how to use it.

For teachers only, iPad can be a great everyday tool. The teacher I observe in my practicum, apart from using it as an agenda, uses his iPad to take attendance. Since the format is electronic, he can easily record the percentage of absenteism of every student or go back to any given class to know who missed an evaluation, an oral presentation, and so on. Another daily use of the iPad would be to make quick research. Instead of turning on the archaïc computer from the dark corner of the class and wait ten minutes to gain the information, the teacher can access the world* at the tip of his fingers. Students may do the same with their own iPad. Anne Laure Bazin, Assistant Head Teacher at Mounts Bay Academy in Cornwall, observed a great improvement in communication when using iPads in class. Indeed, the substitution of paper tasks with virtual tasks allows teachers to centralise information about students and to accelerate exchanges of materials with students, parents, and colleagues. Therefore, students must not wait too long before receiving feedback on their work, so they do not have time to forget what the work was about and may revise it more regularly.

Yet this mainly represents the augmentation level of Dr Ruben Puentedura’s model (SAMR), when web applications serve as a substitution for analogue tasks, and a functional change is observed. It is a bright move to use the iPad to replace all those time-consuming analogue tasks, but teachers must be aware of its infinitely creative potential as well. The Padagogy Weel keenly illustrates the multiple pedagogical possibilities of the iPad and its numerous applications. At the modification level, a significant functional improvement is accountable in the classroom: computer technology becomes necessary. For instance, using Taposé on their iPads, students could have to write an essay on a specific subject—doing research on the side—then be asked to record themselves reading it, and finally present their recording to an authentic audience (other groups or their parents). Here, the students learn similar writing skills, yet the use of technology becomes necessary to carry out the task (that is editing the text, recording the presentation, and receiving feedback). Still, a higher level is attainable, according to the SAMR model, that is redefinition. At this level, computer technology (in this case: the iPad) gives the opportunity to create new tasks that were initially inconceivable through analogue tools. In her article, Lisa Gernsey recounts her journey at Zurich International School, in which an iPad was given to every student from grade one to grade eight. At first unsure of how much of her observations of a private school with money could be beneficial to public schools in the United States, she then realised ZIS’s uncommon iPad philosophy: “The teachers cared most about how the devices could capture moments that told stories about their students’ experiences in school. Instead of focusing on what was coming out of the iPad, they were focused on what was going into it”. Gernsey then observed a redefinition task in which a girl—to assess her understanding of “systems”—chose to illustrate a type of system using Explain Everything, which allowed her to arrange images, tables, charts and so on, to support the concept chosen. The final step was to record her explanations over the images created on the iPad, something she did all by herself! This task is an example of how iPads should be used to support the students’ learning, to challenge their ease with technology, and to develop independence skills.

One concern identified by Anne Laure Bazin in the BBC Active article came from the parents who feared that their children would loose handwriting skills in a technology-centred classroom. The teacher at Mounts Bay Academy explained that the iPad was used as an extra tool that would not entirely replace textbooks and paper assignements, her colleagues not being ready to give up traditional teaching. I also believe that paper ressources—especially novels, magazines, comics, illustrated books, and other realia—should remain available in classes using iPads. For the purchase to be worth it, I would nevertheless suggest teachers in iPad classrooms to explore the potential of this tool as much as possible, remain creative at all times, and keep in mind the pedagogical value of the projects initiated in the classroom. (And for nature’s sake, to minimally use this technology to reduce paper consumption. Something that may force teachers to be even more creative!)

Here comes the downside of using iPads in classroom. In his article, Michael Oliveira mentions a survey (taken from this study) about the use of iPads in class, in which the majority of the Quebec students interrogated found the tool disturbing. Moreover, a third of them were honest on the fact that they played games during work time, and only a few students admitted finding the tool helpful in their learning. The results of the report indicated that providing an iPad to every student is a “worthwhile endeavor” for teachers who are ready for a monumental pedagogical change. This conclusion was nevertheless nuanced by one of the authors of this study, Therry Karsenti, who observed that, in numerous cases, teachers are in fact unprepared to the arrival of this new technology. I think this is by far the most unfortunate situation, and it was observed in the study: 70% of the teachers admitted that they had “never or very rarely” experimented with the iPad prior to its implementation in their classroom. Imagine the teacher and the students receiving their iPads on the same day: the kids-already familiar with the tool-log in on social networks or start gaming in about five minutes, while the teacher has a hard time figuring out how it works. No wonder the kids quickly loose interest in the task, for they are more knowledgeable than their instructor, who fails exploring the potential of the iPad.


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