Touching the future
Tablets create new ways to educate, writes Rod Chester
SCHOOL technology is no longer limited to communal computer labs and a laptop lugged in every backpack.
Just as tablets, iPods and other handheld devices are changing the way we do things at work and play, they’re changing the way students learn . . . and not always in the manner makers intended.
A year ago Apple amped up its iPad push into the education market with the launch of iBooks 2. Apple’s worldwide marketing vice-president Phil Schiller described education as ‘‘ deep in our DNA’’.
Schiller’s pitch was for iPads to become a replacement for textbooks. But while iPads are replacing some books, the technology is also branching off in other directions, with tablets seen as creative tools by educators rather than something passive.
A recent look at 18 different studies into the use of tablets in education found the use of iPads could increase students’ test scores, improve engagement and increase students’ ability to work independently.
The tablet revolution in education is not limited to schools. The University of Western Sydney this year is providing 11,000 iPads to students and staff..
Jonathan Nalder is the Queensland-based co-founder of Slide2Learn, a national mobile learning support
Wemainly use them as a creative tool
group for educators.
Nalder says much of the focus now is on tablets but teachers had been discovering creative ways to use earlier handheld devices.
Nalder lists four factors that define the impact handheld touchscreen devices have in the classroom: portability, simplicity, personalisation and connectivity.
Nalder says the first step for many educators is to think of the devices as substitutes but, with experience, educators are working their way up the steps of ‘‘ augmenting’’ (for instance, highlighting text on a tablet and linking it to information), ‘‘ modification’’ (sharing those notes and collaborating) and reaching the top level of ‘‘ redefinition’’ (creating your own content).
‘‘ All of those different uses are happening in schools,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s been such a short FIVE APPS TO BOOST A CHILD’S CREATIVITY Explain Everything: A tool that lets you annotate and animate the explanations of what you’re doing on an iPad. Perfect for presentations. GarageBand: Turns your iPad into a recording studio, with pianos, organs, guitars, drums and basses. time frame. Maybe in another two-and-a-half years people will have been able to think through it a bit more to move into the higher-order kind of uses.’’
While teachers are embracing touchscreen devices in learning, they still see a need for other technology to be in the classroom.
Jenny Ashby, acting principal at Epsom Primary School in Victoria and Slide2Learn member, says students in her school have a choice, with each having access to a desktop, a laptop, an iPad, an iPod Touch and a netbook.
The Epsom students have been using iPads for two years, and iPod Touches before that.
‘‘ We don’t use them as a replacement for textbooks at all because we don’t use textbooks in primary schools,’’ Ashby says. ‘‘ We mainly use them as a creative tool for kids. There’s a multitude of apps that makes it really easy to share what they’ve been learning about.’’ iMovie: A great one for kids, whether they’re turning their video footage into a movie or movie trailer. Book Creator: If making a movie isn’t your cup of tea, with this simple app you can make your own book. Epic Citadel: Designed as a fantasy setting for a game, you can navigate this fantasy town and make your own story to go with it. Tech-savvy: Students play with an iPad in the classroom