Lately I’ve been considering the effects of my using an iPad in the classroom. Specifically, I’m curious about whether it’s developmentally appropriate, and how its use is perceived by students and educators. I inherited a first generation iPad about a year ago, and although I was reluctant at first, it quickly became one of my most resourceful tools. I have seen firsthand how it’s usability has revolutionized the classroom - especially classrooms of students with special needs. The first time I saw a child pinch to zoom in on Kandinsky’s Composition VII I just about squealed with excitement.
Sesame Workshop’s Joan Ganz Cooney Center recently released a study on how preschool-age children and parents read e-books together and the children’s literacy development. The interactivity of the device puts a positive association with literacy, but many of the enhanced e-books have so many bells and whistles that the kids aren’t retaining the information.
The issues of tablet use aren’t limited to e-book information retention. In the past, I have encountered students that recognize the device clutched in my hands as a desirable toy that many families can’t afford. I want to make learning as accessible as possible to my students, and to make it easy on families to continue learning at home. I was excited to find that One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) recently developed a tablet. OLPC does not sell their products directly to individuals. They do, however, suggest a few options for those interested. The organization is working with OLPC pilot schools, giving hope to the idea that the tablet may become a common tool in the classroom.
Ultimately, I recognize the tablet’s abilities to enhance learning, and I hope that with time it will become a more equitable product. My iPad has particularly come in handy on those instances when resources on specific artists just don’t exist at the “picture book level”. In moments of desperation, I’ve managed to scrape together a few key images that I pair with a short (child appropriate) song about the artists life. I’m really excited about tools like Apple’s iBook Textbooks and TEDed’s customizable videos. I look forward to seeing how educators will use these, and the shape of technology in education over the next few years.