Educational Tool or Toy? – Week 9 Discussion #2

Prior to the start of the school year, and this MET course, I attended a workshop in my school district which asked a question similar to the one above, whether the iPad will provide useful educational content for teachers and students, or if it will be used for games and other distractions.  The principal who led the workshop was optimistic about the positive effect already seen at his elementary school’s pilot program, a grade 4/5 split class with only 5 iPads to share amongst 25+ students.  The most important tips he provided: never to give out the iTunes account password, and to download apps afterschool, as there is about 12 minutes once you enter the password that account stays open, allowing anyone to download any app they want, which could get expensive for the school.

Flat Stanley app a hit with grade 3's

While the workshop was mostly about app management, I was really happy to see two teachers from my practicum school, with their school’s two iPads.  The workshop mentioned how obviously delicate these devices are, and preferred to keep them locked away in the classroom.  When I went to visit the grade three classroom at my practicum school, I was pleased to see that their iPads remained out in the open.  As I visited this class during the teacher’s non-instructional time, to discuss how eBooks could be used in the guided reading program, I could tell that students were making good use of the two devices.  It was also a relief to hear of the teacher’s attitude: “if one of them breaks, the students know the class will be down to one iPad.”  Perhaps it would be a different story if there were 25 iPads, but the limited number ensures that more care is taken while handling the iPads.

Out of the toybox

Back at the pilot school, I had a chance to talk with the grade 4/5 teacher, who this year has grade 4’s only.  Some of them are a bit wild, and she is keeping the iPads locked away until she become more familiar with this year’s students.  It would be exciting to work with her on social studies, making use of GPS and other apps for the Explorers and Fur Trade units, especially if the student can take their learning outside (provided there are a few sunny day this year!).  The first hurdle for this classroom is to get these iPads out of the locked cupboard and into more students hands.  In order to make them less of a high-maintenance toy, and more of an educational tool, there should be more smudgy fingerprints, bumps and scratches on them.

Posted in: Week 09: iPad Apps