From the Principal's Office: Is The iPad King? It Is For Us And That's All That Matters (For Now)

1/6/2013 12:00:00 AM
BHS students on their iPads

I have seen a few posts lately on the topic of which device is the best device for a school looking to go 1:1 and put a web-enabled device in the hands of each student.  One that caught my attention yesterday was  5 Reasons The iPad Will Stay King Of The Classroom which was posted on Edudemic.

The Edudemic post, written by Adam Webster, notes that the iPad has the following advantage over a laptop:

"The iPad, its workflow and its apps, allow for real change and makes it easy. Your students will create work that not only wasn’t possible before their innovative use of the technology, but that you as their teacher had never even thought of."

From my own experience in year two of an iPad 1:1 program here in Burlington, I agree wholeheartedly that the newness of this device and the necessity of creating new work flows leads to more innovative uses than we would see from a laptop.  However, this can only happen in schools and classrooms where students are allowed flexibility that is not common in many traditional classrooms.

My point is that neither the iPad nor any other new gadget or gizmo will allow students the type of discoveries that Adam describes in his post unless it is coupled with a mindset that is still atypical in most schools. This change I am talking about is one that does not lead students in step-by-step processes to complete the most rudimentary task, instead it is a learning environment where students have clear outcomes to achieve, but are left with many ways to achieve these outcomes.

So I guess I continue to worry about schools that gobble up iPads (or any other digital device) thinking that it alone will have a transformational effect on learning.  Greg Kuloweic made the point very well in answer to the question "Why iPad?" on the EdTechTecher Site.

"Fundamentally, I believe that an iPad can neither be good or bad. All it can ever be is an iPad. I argue instead, that when used effectively and with specific goals in mind, iPads can have a positive impact on education."

So after a long lead in to reiterating the fact that people change schools, not devices, I am at my second and larger concern.  This one revolves around our ability and the ability of our students to think outside of the platform that we have chosen.  Personally, I love Apple devices and have a an iPhone, iPad and MacBook to prove it. However, when it comes to the iPad, I do worry about creating a school full of iOS "app-dependent" students and staff. I worry that our choice of platform will limit the thinking of our students down the road and box them in.

Adrianna
Adrianna (Photo credit: patricklarkin1967)

While I believe that we have made the best decision for our school today, things change quickly and we need to create organizational and individual flexibility to adapt to these changes when they occur.  So for the immediate future I  believe we are on the right path, but there is no discounting the fact that there are forks in the road that we will need to anticipate.  No King rules forever...

cross-posted at www.patrickmlarkin.com

Patrick Larkin is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning of Burlington Public Schools in Burlington, MA and the former principal of Burlington High. He blogs about education at www.patrickmlarkin.com.

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