(or: The iPad Cometh)
I was an unbeliever, a “gimmick”-sayer and laptop-steadfast, but then I met the iPad in person. Now, I am a total convert and I only saw it for half an hour. The interface was shockingly efficient. The on-screen typing was vastly easier than anything else I’ve worked with. The display of e-books was mesmerizing, clear and bright. As I played with it, ---exploring a digital, illustrated version of Alice in Wonderland, a two-player version of air hockey, and a program that controlled my laptop from afar--- I saw the future of educational technology flashing before my eyes. I saw paperless classrooms, digital textbooks, math e-manipulatives, science simulations, and authentic assessment, all wrapped up in one device.
Here's why the iPad is The Way for elementary edutech:
1 - It's simple. 90% of the time, elementary classrooms don't need 80 different applications. We need 5. We don’t need start menus, home folders, or logins. We need to turn the computer on in five seconds and be ready to run with it. Let’s have a computer lab for complicated specialty apps, like video editing or desktop publishing, but iPads for day-to-day use.
2 – It’s limited. Teachers are afraid to use tech because so much goes wrong. Pages don’t load, files are missing, shortcuts disappear, Flash is out of date. Further, everyone seems to go wrong in a different way. Kids get distracted or disoriented, can find minesweeper but can’t find the Quit key. The iPad’s menu interface is specific, focused and easy. One button to rule them all.
3 – It’s all in one. Mouse, screen, keyboard, computer. Everything inside a single, pound-and-a-half rectangle. No cables, bar the recharging cabinet. Combine with Google Docs and imagine all the tech support we won’t need.
4 – It’s e-books, really. Many have tried, no one has succeeded. The iPad has the brightness, the color, and the software look-and-feel to replicate book reading. Imagine the beautiful efficiency of a combined e-book library and Accelerated Reader iPad app. Imagine pressing a button and every student is back to the same page. Imagine never having to wait while a class brought this or that out of their desk. Be still my heart.
5 – It’s beyond paperless. The greatest draw, for me, of being paperless is actually that I could also be penciless, markerless, crayonless, highlighterless, and eraserless too. If I want my kids to take four-color notes, do arithmetic on whiteboards, to draw the water cycle, and to highlight different types of sentence, I need a dozen different “markers” per child. Or one iPad.
6 – It’s mobile. The first adopters of this tech should be teachers and principals. I’d wait until it’s totally ruggedized, inside and out, to put it in the hands of kids. But for us… I’ll buy one as soon as my wife will let me. Monitoring logs, record sheets and lesson plans, classroom observation tools and task lists, all accessible from one, easily held, simply used, mobile device. To have a similar degree of efficiency, I had to wheel my laptop around on a cart or be chained to my desk. Instead, with an iPad, I can carry my computer in my hand.