Monday, April 12, 2010

Open Blog: What Device is it that Students and Teachers are Looking For?

So, the Google Tablet is imminent.

And so it's time to open up the bloglines to some reader opinion and comments.

For you iPad-wielding folks, based on your experience so far, what's needed to make these types of devices more applicable for students and teachers? Or is the 'right' device something entirely different?

Can/Would education benefit from a ubiquitous device? And let's just talk devices for a moment.

What do we teachers 'need' in terms of a device? What do our students need? What exactly is it that we 'need' to get to -- and use -- all our stuff out there on the Web?

Lot's of questions. Let's hear what you've got to say.


  1. Well, I got my iPad and I've been playing around with it. I envision a device such as this loaded with interactive textbooks (click on a picture and a video plays, click a timeline and it expands with hyperlinks...) and links to my class blog, resources, etc. Students can type into it and save their information to the cloud. I see students without the gigantic, heavy backpacks full of books and papers. I see students arrive in class with only their iPad (or similar tablet device). I see the very beginning of a move away from all that I've known in education, towards something more engaging and relevant.

  2. I think the iPad is the first device in a cascade effect that's going to begin rippling through schools — first wealthy suburbs, then wealthy urban neighborhoods, and then (I hope) into not-so-wealthy urban and suburban districts. There will be other devices in the cascade, but I think there's going to be tremendous diversity in the ecosystem of such devices in a few years.

    I think eventually we'll see a shakeout of physical capabilities built-in: audio and video recording, and editing; word processing; spreadsheeting; presentation software; book reading (likely with a semi-standard library of classics, poetry, and literary greats, including a Bible, a Quran, and most of English literature, perhaps a good selection of world lit too); support for mathematics and graphing and geometry; drawing (Dave Gray's semigram!); blog access; cloud computing access; local database; calendar; to-do; credit-card/debit-card swipe/pay; games; news aggregators.

    Maybe FableVision can develop animation software for these devices.

    I see the textbook companies as on the way out, though. makes timelines; wikipedia and wikibooks have or will have better secondary and tertiary support for a lot of areas of study; social media exists through other realms that don't involve textbooks; Creative Commons is building a vast library of free images that don't have to be paid for. We're going to build textbooks for each district, not buy them, and the publishing companies are going to collapse under the weight of too many centralized, Texas-pandering education decisions.

  3. @tshreve

    Since going 1:1 several years back, we've seen a downturn in the number of books carried around school. In fact, two years ago we banned backpacks during the schoolday; the response has been much more mature planning on the part of the students as well as more exploitation of the usefulness of the laptops.

    I'd even argue beyond "building textbooks" for each district and getting at treating teachers / hiring teachers as content providers. That's going to require manifestly new thinking in terms of teacher prep.


  4. @Shelly I agree with giving teachers the resources to build their own curricula, which is something I think good teachers do anyway. I would argue that there be better curation of this production however, especially for younger teachers who need people/resources to work with out of the gate.

    As for the iPad, I have already made a few initial comments on my blog: I've been discussing the pitfalls of the iPad with @irasocol on twitter, mostly which relate to lack of openness with regards to user interface, developer choice, and publishing. I think that because a tablet is so personal and mobile, it could really change the way we access, process, and produce information. In just the two weeks since I've had it, my own habits have changed fairly dramatically. I could see the same happening for students. So far, laptops have conformed the way students interact physically in a classroom, but I think the coming tablet transformation allow for more personal applications of learning through tech.

    Lastly, as edtechers, we need to start thinking about how we are going to plan for this new paradigm. I don't think we've done a good enough job bringing together information in any systematic way, tailoring this for the sort of interactions tablets will offer. If developers get moving when a new SDK (apple's application development platform) is released, why don't we start designing in a similar manner?

  5. @everyone I got an IPAD even though I hate everything proprietary. It is magical. I guess I finally got "jobbed".

    All any teacher should need to build curricula is access to the internet. @shelly maybe you should have banned textbooks rather than the bags to carry them...can't remember who said it but "all education is self-education!!"..curriculum for everyone should be what you want to know?

    @obama and the Congress ACCESS ACCESS ACCESS is the key to everything....Free Broadband everywhere should be the only national is where the 21st century jobs are hiding....

  6. The one thing I don't like about implementing a device such as the iPad in the classroom is that we are advertising a commercial product to kids. If students use an iPad in their classroom for a few years, then they're getting used to Apple's way of doing things and more likely to buy Apple products in the future.

    Coming the the university sector, I see this all the time with software companies offering free/discounted software to students not to allow them to learn better but to make them learn their software so that when they need to buy software for their business, they'll turn to them.

    I would like to think that if the Google tablet and the iPad are comparable, schools would select the Google tablet because of the openness of Android versus the proprietary Apple software.

  7. @Norman,

    Interesting in what you say: you dislike proprietary, but like the iPad. What is is that works for you? And is it the idea/reality of a touch screen tablet, or is it something more inherent in the specifics of the iPad itself?


  8. @mrsenorhill

    You say the tablet is "personal and mobile". How is it different then from an iPhone or a small laptop? I'm especially interested in the idea that it creates a new sense of the "personal".


  9. @Francois,

    But isn't that exactly what Google is doing by making Apps for Ed free? People wonder in amazement how they are able to offer a free service, and why they would do it. But it seems obvious: they are planning to create a generation of students raised on Google who will then go out and buy Google phones and tablets and cars and whathaveyou.


  10. @Shelley I"m wondering about the role of educators in making our students aware of the embedded advertising in apps, and the branding objectives of big companies such as Apple and Google. Is it our role to pick a device we are bedazzled with and evangelize it's prowess? Or should we be modeling a more objective approach to our consumer choices? In terms of what device is right for me, well I wonder what the message is to my students when I chose one device or another. My choice needs to be tempered with an objective perspective of what I've bought that is shared with my students, otherwise I become an extension of company B's branding strategy, rather than an educator instilling critical thinking and responsible use of a resource.

  11. We have really reached a point where digital content and educational apps blow textbooks out of the water.
    As far as what device to use, there are plenty of schools that are PC and plenty that are mac based. That decision will be up to the school administrators (it always has been), and they will (or should) base their decision on what the teachers want and can use. It's also a good bet that whatever device gets put in the hands of the students today will be replaced with something better in 5 years time. The marketers have to understand this and sell their products accordingly. Administrators will be much more likely to buy into a 1:1 computing deal if there is a replacement/ upgrade timeline included in the deal.

  12. @ Patrick

    I think that's a major concern. Personally, I prefer using whatever device/app is most effective and at the same time explaining the commercial realities of big business in tech and on the web.

    So the students and I use Twitter and Google Docs in our daily work, but we also talk about the realities of what it means to depend on a "product" to get things done.

    I sort of liken it to name-brand sports equipment used by our athletic teams. You've got to weigh the pros and cons, but in the end some baseball bats are just better than others.

    In a way, the fact that the students (and we) are living in this environment should make us aware of the impact of these companies on our lives. Better we are aware than blissfully ignorant. That said, it's still all a matter of educating the kids -- and 'Educating' with a capital 'E'.


  13. @B

    You say that the decision has always been up to the admins. But what if the school could supply a minimum tech access and then allow students and their families to make decisions to augment that however they like -- tablets, smartphones, netbooks, laptops, whatever?

    Why should hardware decisions be centralized? It's not like that at all in the "real world".



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