Sunday, June 24, 2012

Revisiting iPads in the Reading Center

I am spending another summer in our Reading Center. Graduate and undergraduate students are working with a wonderful group of striving readers and writers trying to get a leg up on the next schools year. This is the first summer that we are incorporating our own set of iPad 2 (last year we did iPad 1).

We are trying to study this year, how, exactly the iPads are being used. Anecdotal data collection already shows four patterns.
1. iPads for teacher use- teachers are using the iPads to record student work for assessment, track their own interaction, store lesson plans, and record student assessment and teaching notes.
2. iPad games as a reward/brain break- 60 sec of angry birds can motivate students for quite a while. While this is useful we are trying to steer everyone to focus on games and apps that have literacy related educational value.
3. iPad for student use in Reading/writing apps- using specific apps to practice a skill or strategy (e.g. using iCardsort for word sorts).
4. Co-use: Finally students and tutors use the iPad together to get more information about content. They are using dictionary.com, Google search for pictures to illustrate the meanings of new words etc.

As I am trying to negotiate a tablet policy in our program. One of the administrators asked me if it has to be an iPad. My answer is both no and yes. I have no special allegiance to Apple, Steve Jobs is not my personal savior, and I am writing this blog on my Dell (last in a long line of laptops). I think tablets are the present (not the future- they are here) and are making a daily impact on education as well as every other aspect of life in the US. So the NO boils down to: I am open to other options since I believe that it not not really based on a specific device but a concept.

At the same time I cannot with a straight face say there is any other serious option outside the iPad and its iOS ecosystem. For example when looking at the web traffic on our own website about 20% was on mobile devices last month. Out of that 20% over 95% were from iOS devices. Clearly our mobile clientele has voted as have most k12 schools entering the tablet era.
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