Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Some Facts & Myths Regarding Classroom iPads
by Michael Grzelak
I first wanted to say hello to everyone who follows this blog and thank Shelly for the opportunity to contribute to this awesome blog. A few months I was sitting around a conference table discussing a school grant opportunity. The grant itself dealt with technology and at the end of the meeting, my principal stated she was going to purchase a new laptop lab for the school. The others in the room were excited, but my mind was thinking about other types of technology. The night before, I was in a class that Shelly taught called The Paperless Classroom. We had just talked about iPads and wrote a fake letter about the type of technology we wished existed in our school. I had wished that every classroom had a set of iPads, but this is simply not feasible for a city high school in Baltimore. However, I wanted to voice my opinions about this new purchase.
I spoke up and suggested that we look into iPads; this gathered some strange looks from others in the room who did not necessary understand the power of these devices, but I continued and made a sales pitch for the iPad. Some of the things I mentioned included how they were more cost effective, how they can be used for product creation, and the engaging apps (many of which are free). My principal, who loves technology, was more than willing to purchase two school IPad labs instead of the one laptop lab (the total amount spent was the same). To my surprise, one of the new iPad labs was for me to teach a World History course. I did not believe these words at first and to be honest, I had limited experience with an iPad. To my excitement, one was purchased quickly for me to play around with and in our third trimester I will be teaching a nearly paperless class with iPads.
Before my teaching iPad arrived, I wanted to conduct extra research about the device and I placed a survey link on Twitter to #edchat and #edtech asking individuals to state if they would rather have a laptop class set or an iPad class set. The results were surprising; I was not shocked that most teachers would prefer laptops, but I was taken aback by the misunderstanding of the power of iPads. This brings me to the point of this blog entry, to start to debunk some of the myths currently existing about iPad features and capabilities.
1) Fact or Myth – you cannot create documents on iPads, you can only engage with apps.
MYTH: this was the most surprising data gathered from my poll of educators; the iPad is a fully functional creation device. There are many apps, some are free and some cost a little bit of money, that enable you to create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, flyers, graphs, etc.
If you want professional quality documents, two of the most popular apps for creation are Pages (for word processing documents) and Numbers (for spreadsheets). These apps each cost about $10, but the cost is due to the professional quality it gives such documents. If you do not want to purchase these, no problem; there are MANY other apps (many are free) that will allow you or your students to create products on the iPad.
2) 2) Fact or Myth – iPads will not allow students to save their work.
MYTH – On a laptop you can save a lot of different documents, pictures, videos, etc. on the hard drive. However, the selling point of the iPad is the cloud effect. We live in a digital world that no longer requires use to be bound to hard drives, flash drives, external drives, etc. We can use the cloud (the vast digital space of the internet) to save files directly. Students are not limited by this feature; in fact it is for their benefit as the cloud can be accessed from any device that connects to the internet. We have to start moving away from thinking that we can only save our information on one machine; we can save on the cloud and access our “stuff” anywhere in the world.
Some iPad users have said that Google Docs does not work with the iPad, but in my experience I have had no problems creating word documents or spreadsheets in Google Docs. The best thing about Google Docs is obviously the fact that it saves to its own cloud network. Not a fan of Google Docs, once again this is not a problem. Use Dropbox (there is an app for this to make it easier) which is an online cloud tool that you can sync to backup your files or simply drop your files manually into the digital box.
3) 3) Fact or Myth – the iPad is too difficult to type on; our students need to know how to type on a normal key board.
Myth – Yes, the iPad does take some time to become familiar with the shorter keyboard layout, but it is not impossible. Do you remember typing your first text message on a cell phone; did you instantly type that message perfectly, without any errors or difficultly finding the appropriate keys? I know I had trouble. Once you explore with the iPad, you will get the hang of the keyboard. Your students will adapt too. In fact one response on the poll was that iPads provide a typing disservice to students, but this is a flawed way of thinking.
Think right now about how many different kinds of typing devices we have – there are thousands of different ways to input and interact with a device. I agree that our students need to understand how to use the conventional computer keyboard, but we live in a world where a new device is thought of and created. Some of these devices have different types of keyboards, thus we need to expose our students to different typing devices.
4) 4) Fact or Myth – iPads cannot function with Flash.
Fact (FOR NOW) – It is only a matter of time (months, if that) before this is turned into a myth. Many sites on the internet do have flash components and currently these do not display on the iPad, but there have been recent attempts (nearly successful) by a few companies (one is called Skyfire) to create an app for the iPad and iPhone to allow flash content to show. Skyfire released this almost two months ago, but it was so popular that it nearly crashed their servers with an overload of demand for the app and they had to remove it. They have placed a different version in the app store, but it is still being developed. There are rumors that Adobe will be creating an app (they have always wanted too, but something was in disagreement with Adobe and Apple); it is only a matter of time before the iPad will be able to run Flash!
Hopefully this provided a little more insight to the iPad. These fact/myth comments came directly from the poll I created and I think teachers need to understand the iPad functions and capabilities a little more before they write it off. In future posts, I will focus on some awesome apps and ways to use the iPad in a classroom setting. Thanks for reading.