Monday, May 2, 2011

iPads Increase Learners Motivation in Education

Written by Greg Swanson @ AppsinEducation

iPads are cool, they are sexy to look at, they feel great in your hands and they are fun to use. Why is it that so many people in the education community do not want to acknowledge this, when if fact they should be taking advantage of their student's intrinsic motivation to utilise these devices.

iPads are a piece of genius, not because of the design aspects per se but because of the 'all consuming' nature of the iPad package - the marketing, the hype, the anticipation, the carefully targeted demographic users.  I am not saying we should buy into the whole commercial aspect of what is 'Apple' but these iPads are an extremely good product.  At the moment there are very few mobile devices that are viable alternatives and that offer the same universal coverage. If we know that every child with access to a television has been swayed by the slickness of the Apple machine then why not take advanatge of this fact and harness this enthusiasm for learning. Let learning be fun!

iPads are Intuitive:
By their very design iPads are intuitive to use. Give an iPad to any three year old and watch them navigate the device like they have owned one for ever. They have been exposed to the 'slide to access' concept from a very early age. We are all able to negotiate the pinch and squeeze of the touch screen, most people can zoom in on an image. People can work out the iPad environment with ease and with minimal instruction, there is no extra up-skilling required. People are actually looking for ways use them.

Mobility of the iPad:
The size and weight of the iPad make this an ideal mobile device. The connectivity of the top models allow students to be in the classroom, in the schoolyard or even in the field. This means that often students can go into the real world and not just open a limited window into it for education purposes. Thus putting education into context.

The mobility of the iPad also extends the school day. It allows students to have access to resources, research and revision 24/7. The beauty of this is that this extended learning environment does not need to impinge on the non teaching time of the teachers. Students can search, add to favourites, bookmark, or email each other about topic or concepts initially discussed in class without direct teacher intervention. Learning becomes a co-operative exercise.

Ipads are Collaborative:
The large screen of the iPad actually encourages collaboration and sharing with other people. The iPods were just too small. They, in fact did isolate individuals as the screen was of such a size that it became an individual portal only. The iPad screen is big enough that it allows for the sharing of images, photographs and videos with small groups. This sharing needs to becomes the imperative 'educational' moment. How we as teachers direct this interaction directs the quality and depth of the learning that takes place.

The iPad 2 camera or two cameras also becomes a collaborative tool. Face Time allows for a return to the social skills that have been somewhat lost by the use of email. It will only be a matter of time before a new start-up company develops a Face Time App for Conference Calling on the iPad 2. Student group projects just got a lot easier. Everyone can participate from geographically diverse locations.

There has been a psychological barrier for good quality laptops. Anything under a particular price and it was considered inferior quality. This has changed only slightly in the last couple of years. We do need to remember that the iPad is not an either or option with a laptop. It is a totally new type of device with different strengths and limitations. But, having said this, they do start at under $500.

This is one of the biggest considerations for iPad uers, especially school groups. Now that we are starting to acknowledge that the iPad can be just as powerful as a creation tool, we can have another type of device that allows more people into the mobile market. If we also acknowledge the vigour with which the youth market are adopting the iPad we would be silly not to embrace this technology for the advancement of education. If we had any other tool that was as ubiquitous and pervasive as the iPad we would have done so already.

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