Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Why I Gave Back the MacBooks and Asked for iPads

Yes - I gave back the MacBooks! Why? I have always been interested in the 'What if?'. When I first began to use iPads in classrooms (just after they had been released), I always wondered what it would be like to use iPads in a 1:1 environment instead of MacBooks.

I had only ever used iPads as an extra tool not as the 'go to' tool. I had always run back to using the MacBooks because that was how I knew how to do things. I wondered - what would it be like to just use iPads only?

I got the chance to do this for a couple months about 2 years ago. I did a small 1:1 program with K2 students. At that time I was the Technology Coach and only worked in that classroom once a week. The program ran for only 3 months and just as we were getting into it, the school year ended.

This year I am back in the classroom full time as the homeroom teacher. I felt that this was my chance to really put the iPads through their paces and see what could be done.

Many of my colleagues were skeptical - many doubted that I could make it work ...

I am writing this after about 3 weeks of using iPads in my class. Yes, there are things that work and things that don't work. There is good and bad. So many teachers expect technology to be able to 'do it all'. I'm not one of those people. I have no problem accepting that there are things that I cannot do.

The difference here is there are so many MORE things that I can do BETTER with iPads.

#1 Differentiation

Ok, I have a typical class. There are the high achievers, the middle and the strugglers. iPads can help me differentiate so well. It's easy to put different apps on different machines to cater to the learner.

#2 Instant-ness

Ok, maybe this is not really a word, but the iPads work a little like using instant noodles - or IndoMie as we call it in Indonesia. It looks up the word, it speaks the word all in the same screen just by a simple tap. In most apps you can take photos right inside the app. I particularly like the WP Blog app and being able to photograph and post 'on the fly'. Oh - and if you want to undo your typing - just shake the iPad.

#3 No Multi-tasking

Yes, our students love to multi-task but that can compromise their concentration on the task at hand. On an iPad, you can only really do one thing at a time. This is a good thing for younger learners.

#5 Apps

The range of apps are fantastic! I can customize the learning as needed with apps that are right on target. Many apps that I use are even free ones. On a MacBook I am limited to the image put on by school. That image generally doesn't change for the whole year.

#6 Portability - Better for Younger Learners

iPads are light and easy to carry. They can be taken to wherever the learning is.

#7 Long Lasting Charge

I can use the iPads on one full charge for a few days. Not bad considering that I use the iPads a lot!!

#8 Front and Back Camera

Wow - this makes capturing photos or film so easy!

#9 Accessibility

If you have learners that require the iPad to speak in different languages - you can customize it just to do that. The iPad can read books in iBooks in 36 different languages. Wow - just wow!

Ok, so what doesn't it do? Yes, transferring work can get sticky - especially videos. Of course there are 'work arounds' and you do need to be a little more organized to get the job done. It's essential to have a setup where students can easily push their work to somewhere else. In my class we use blogs which helps with that. Some of the work is pushed to a dropbox too. That's fine - a small price to pay.

I know that a lot of you reading this post will be thinking of things that iPads can't do. The reality is that some schools don't have the funds to opt into MacBooks. In Indonesia many schools are seriously considering opting into iPads. I want to encourage that. The more we can make the student learning experience more personalized the better!!