The use of Apple’s iPad in learning environments is a topic that is already eating column inches. Yet pinning down why something new might be worth testing or investing in is often difficult.
So it is with much anticipation that I watch two groups of teachers pushing the boat out.
iPad tests by BLENNZ excites
Firstly in Wellington, two teachers from the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ) have begun to document the use of an iPad with students who have low vision. They are at the “toes in the water” stage and have only facilitated taster sessions (the iPads are personally owned by the teachers) but the initial footage is raising enough excitement that the documentation was shared across the whole school. From chatting to the teachers, it is one of those scenario’s that when you know the student, and you see the level of attention and engagement, it makes your heart sing.
iPad research in literacy skills
At the other end of the country, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the the Blind (RNZFB) is in the initial stages of a partnership project with BLENNZ where they are purchasing four iPads as a resource for an action research project around access to literacy skills. Again it’s a punt, the technology is relatively new, and there is no research base from which to draw evidence with any longevity.
But just as Toni Twiss committed her eFellowship to investigating “the use of mobile phones in classrooms“, someone has to break the ground, and the more that do, the more variables we can bring together.
The iPad is a big step forward to the school environment
My own first impression on handling an iPad is that it is sleek, light and will fit neatly wedged behind a lunch box in a school bag. These may sound like flippant observations, but in the land of assistive technology, such attributes are a good start.
For those of us who spend much of our day trying to support the adaption of learning spaces, the advent of technology that is flexible, functional, and good looking is enough to make us cheer.
For so long, technology solutions have been clunky, weighed a ton, and often the learner had to sit apart from their peers because they needed an extra desk to set up all their gear. Plus, assistive technology is notoriously “specialist” and uncollaborative because no-one, other than the learner, knows how to operate it, and by default it becomes the exclusive domain of the learner with the disability, a great model for inclusion!
What other stories and thoughts out there?
So to anyone out there reading this, I’d love to hear if you are using an iPad in the classroom as a tool for you, and/or with your students, or if you have stumbled on interesting stories from colleagues or from reading around.
One of my current favorites, covered by the New York Times describes the the introduction of an iPad into the world of a young boy called Owen Cain. What I love about it, is that it demonstrates how if the adults alongside learners are bold and prepared to take a bit of a punt, all sorts of unexpected learning opportunities can happen – check out the video and see what you think.