Friday, April 8, 2011

Can an iPad replace a laptop?

This is one of the many iPad-related questions I've heard around these parts and in online communities over the past several months. Without question, the iPad is a compelling device that is changing the paradigm of computing. I've enjoyed using the iPad as a platform to design, create and experiment. However, when I hear a question like, "How can I use an iPad and [insert app here] in my classroom?" or, "Can an iPad replace a laptop?" I wonder if we are destined to repeat many of the same 'cart before the horse' technology implementations that schools have been so famous for over the past two decades.

Think of the failures of Smart Board installations as a case in point. Often times IWBs were simply dumped in schools with very little thought given to learning goals/outcomes and priorities. In many cases, they go largely unused, serving as really expensive pull down screens and computer input devices. Are we destined to repeat the same mistakes with iPads? Or will we do the hard work of asking the prerequisite questions necessary to creating a fantastic learning environment for youth?

For me, the established learning goals and priorities of the school community should always drive the acquisition of technology tools. Before asking questions about iPads or any other technologies, it would be my hope that the school community takes time to develop and articulate the learning goals that they would like to achieve. After this process, the goals would then be prioritized into a plan for implementation.

Here are just a few examples of learning goals that I have for youth:

-foster cultural competencies and understandings.
-develop opportunities for youth to publish for varied audiences.
-create multimedia narratives as individuals and in teams. Publish these narratives for varied audiences.
-crunch, analyze and interpret complex piles of data..
-find, sort, filter and interrogate information from multiple locations and sources.
-integrate reflective learning across the curriculum as a way to develop meta-cognition.

Only after the hard work of setting goals, objectives and priorities is done should we move to the next step: selecting technologies that assist in supporting this vision for learning.

Anything else is cart before the horse.


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